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December 31,1999 - JAN 1, 2000 - 23 Tebet 5760

Pop Quiz: By what 3 names is Moshe's father-in-law referred to in this perashah?

Rabbi Reuven Semah

"Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh?" (Shemot 3:11)

Our perashah introduces us to Moshe Rabenu. This man goes down in history as the greatest man that ever lived. Hashem notifies Moshe that he has been chosen to lead the Jews out of Egypt. Moshe refuses to take the job. First, "Who am I?" Hashem answers, "I will be with you." Next, "They will ask Your Name." Hashem gives him His Name. Next, "They won't believe you appeared to me." Hashem gives him two signs. Next, "I am not a smooth speaker." Hashem answers, "I give the power to speak and to hear. Don't worry!" Next, "Hashem, send who You usually send" (referring to his brother, Aharon). But now Hashem gets angry. "Don't worry about Aharon. He is coming to greet you with a happy heart." At this point the discussion ends. Moshe takes the job and the rest is history.

Rabbi M. Kamenetzky asks: Why the sudden anger of Hashem? Up until that point everything was a calm discussion. He tells a story: There was a large corporation which had poor earnings and poor low-level management. The board decided to fire its CEO of many years. The new replacement came to the departing executive, who clearly was a man of wisdom and experience, for some advice. He told him he can't advise him too much, but he will give him a gift. He handed him two envelopes, one marked #1 and the other marked #2. He told him, "When a crisis occurs and your job is on the line, open up envelope #1. If things don't calm down, open envelope #2."

Sure enough, not too much later, a major crisis erupted and his job was in jeopardy. He locked himself in his office and opened #1. In small but clear typewritten words it said, "Blame your predecessor." It helped for a while, and things calmed down. Soon, another more desperate situation arose, and he saw it was time for #2. He locked himself in his office and opened #2. It read, "Prepare two envelopes..."!

As long as Moshe Rabenu argued with Hashem citing his own shortcomings, Hashem answered him patiently. But when he hinted to Hashem to send Aharon, not offering a shortcoming of his own, but instead, shifting the responsibility to someone else, that triggered Hashem's anger. When we are given a job by Hashem to do, that means there is no one more suited than us. Don't pass the buck to someone else. Shabbat Shalom.

Rabbi Shmuel Choueka

As we begin the book of Shemot, Exodus, we can see right away why this is called the Book of Redemption, for it talks about the exile into Egypt, the bondage and servitude under the Egyptians, and the ultimate redemption thereof. Why, however, are the portions dealing with the Mishkan, the Tabernacle, placed in the book of Shemot? What do they have to do with the Redemption?

The Ramban tells us that the redemption was not complete until the Jews came back to the level of the forefathers, and that was when we had the Mishkan with the Divine Presence in it. This was a replica of the homes of our Patriarchs and Matriarchs, who also had the Divine Presence completely among them and which was manifested by the Clouds of Glory on their tent, the Eternal Lamp shining inside and the dough constantly fresh, just like in the Mishkan. This is truly a remarkable statement.

The Mishkan was only a replica of the tents of our forefathers. How foolish are those who speak against our ancestors as if they were from our generation, ascribing to them our own faults and frailties, when in reality they were like angels on this earth. We have no concept of the holiness and greatness of these individuals and anyone who thinks they can understand them with our own limited vision is really revealing flaws in his own character, rather than in those he may be speaking about. As the Gemara sums it up, if the earlier generations are like angels in our eyes, then we are compared to human beings, but if we think they are humans, we are only like donkeys, and not even like the donkey of Rabbi Pinhas ben Yair! Let us take this lesson of Ramban to heart and realize how awesome and elevated are our ancestors so that we may learn even the slightest amount from them. Shabbat Shalom.


"The Children of Israel were fruitful and increased abundantly...and the land became filled with them" (Shemot 1:7)

The Midrash relates that Rabbi Yehudah Hanasi, once while delivering a lecture, noticed that the congregation had become drowsy. In order to rouse them he said, "One woman in Egypt brought forth six hundred thousand children in one birth." A disciple named Rabbi Yishmael son of Rabbi Yose said to him, "Who can that have been?' He replied, "This was Yochebed, who bore Moshe, who was counted as equal to six hundred thousand of Israel."

Is it not audacious for the students to drowse off during their Rabbi's lecture? Also, why did he use this particular unbelievable story to awaken them?

The episode related in the Midrash may be a metaphor for a period of Jewish history. The destruction of the second Bet Hamikdash took place in the year 3828, and Rabbi Yehudah Hanasi was born approximately 50 years afterwards. He was the leader of the fourth generation after the destruction. The Roman government oppressed the Jews bitterly, and unfortunately the Jews were losing hope of the coming of the Mashiah and the ultimate redemption. Rabbi Yehudah Hanasi noticed that while he as propagating Torah, the community was "falling asleep," thinking that there will never, G-d forbid, be a redemption, and that the galut is eternal.

In an effort to distract them from such a train of though, he told them that in Egypt a woman gave birth to 600,000 children. The message to his generation was, "Do not despair! Our forefathers in Egypt thought they were doomed to be slaves forever and there was no hope to be redeemed. Suddenly, Yochebed gave birth to Moshe, who ultimately took out all the 600,000 enslaved Jews from Egypt and brought them to Sinai for the giving of the Torah - the greatest event in Jewish history. Likewise, never give up hope. The salvation of G-d is like the wink of an eye - which can come immediately and unexpectedly." (Vedibarta Bam)

Answer to Pop Quiz: Yitro, Yeter and Re'uel.

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