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JANUARY 16-17, 2003 23 TEBET 5764

Pop Quiz: What were the names of the two midwives who defied Pharaoh's orders?


"Moses thought, 'I will turn aside and look at this great sight - why will the bush not be burned?' " (Shemot 3:3)

As Moses is tending the flock of his father-in-law, Yitro, he sees an amazing sight. He sees a lowly bush aflame. But that wasn't so amazing. What was so interesting was the fact that the dry bush continued to burn on and on and didn't get consumed by the fire. When he saw this he went to see why this was so. At that point Hashem spoke to Moses from the bush, commanding him to return to Egypt and take the Jews out from their slavery. It is interesting to note what it was that caused Moses to approach the bush and merit to speak to Hashem. It was the fact that the bush wouldn't burn up. This aroused the curiosity of Moses.

Rabbi Nisan Alpert writes that the Jewish people throughout history have been persecuted. Pogroms, crematoriums and inquisitions were items invented to destroy us. But the bush, the Jewish nation is not consumed. The Jewish nation lives on. Especially in our time, when six million of our brothers and sisters were murdered, the phenomenon of our nation still living in Israel and throughout the world is a testimony of the burning bush. The troubling part of this scenario, besides the loss of so many Jews, is the fact that many Jews have abandoned their religion, not on purpose, but due to the lack of knowledge of the greatness of their background. They are compared to children that were brought up by gentiles who don't know what Jewish means. However, there is one point on which we cannot defend them or justify their lack of Jewish consciences. When they see the fact that the Jewish people live on, despite the effort to destroy us. Many powerful nations fall into oblivion even without the effort to destroy them. Why don't they ask the simple question: How come the bush doesn't burn up? Or, more directly, why does our people live on? What is the power that keeps us going? If they would ask this question, Hashem would reveal Himself to us in some way, just as He revealed Himself to Moses at the bush. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

"And Moshe said, [when he saw the burning bush] 'Let me turn and see this great vision.'" (Shemot 3:3)

Moshe saw a bush burning in the wilderness and realized it wasn't getting consumed. He decided to investigate this wondrous event and, according to the midrash, he either took three steps in that direction or turned his neck towards the bush. Because of his willingness to see what was taking place, Hashem appeared to him and appointed him the leader of the Jewish people. He took the Jews out of Egypt, brought down the Torah, taught it to them, and led them for over forty years. All this because of three steps, or just turning his neck.

We have seen many wondrous acts in our lifetime. At the time, they may not seem as miraculous as a burning bush, but when we stop and think about them, they are just as marvelous. They all point to a Creator Who rules the world, and Who has a plan for everything in this world. How often do we turn our necks or take a few steps to stop and see? How often do we think about the message being transmitted to us? The one who is fortunate to look a second time, to act upon it, may be getting his or her calling from Hashem! May we open our eyes and turn our necks at the right time to hear what is being told to us. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


"And a man of the house of Levi went and took the daughter of Levi" (Shemot 2:1)

This pasuk refers to the marriage of Moshe's parents, Amram and Yochebed. Why doesn't the Torah mention their names? It isn't until later that their names are revealed. What do we learn from this omission? Often, when parents are blessed with a very bright child who possesses very special qualities and capabilities, they immediately take credit for everything the child accomplishes. This is wrong, for we cannot be sure how a child will mature.

In Pirkei Abot (2:5) it is stated, "Do not trust yourself until the day of death." This is especially true if a person lives in the midst of an environment totally estranged and opposed to Torah values. It is only when a child matures and independently acts virtuously, performing righteous deeds with a sense of pride and honor, can parents deserve some praise. When Moshe was born, the Torah does not mention his parents' names since they were not yet praiseworthy. It is only after Moshe had grown up spiritually and responded successfully to the various tests of his ability to lead the Jewish people, that the Torah rightfully mentions his parents' names. This should serve as a motivation for all parents not to be overconfident in their children's abilities and never be lax in devoting all their energies to their children's upbringing. (Peninim on the Torah)


"Come and I will send you to Pharaoh that you shall bring forth My people" (Shemot 3:10)

If Hashem wanted the Jews to leave Egypt, surely He could have arranged it in the twinkling of an eye. Certainly nothing could stand in the way of the Supreme Master of the world! Why then did He send Moshe to Pharaoh to plead with him to allow the Jews to leave Egypt? Why was it deemed necessary to send one plague after another to induce Pharaoh into agreement? What purpose did Moshe serve by constantly returning to this most obstinate ruler?

We may suggest that herein lies the important lesson of hakarat hatob (the obligation to acknowledge and appreciate a favor and show gratitude). The Jews came to Egypt during a time of crisis and famine. Although Yosef gathered and stored food it ultimately belonged to Pharaoh. The Jews were able to move to Egypt to be sustained during this famine only through his gracious consent. They, therefore, owed a debt of gratitude to the country and ruler who gave them refuge. Even though the Egyptians subjected them to the cruelest forms of servitude and affliction, Klal Yisrael had a moral imperative to repay this debt honorably. It would have been wrong to simply leave without royal permission. The importance of nurturing this most important attribute takes precedence over everything, even at the expense of suffering. Our experience in Egypt can serve to emphasize this profound message, so that Klal Yisrael would continue to develop into a "holy nation." (Peninim on the Torah)


"Come, let us deal wisely with them." (Shemot 1:10)

The Gemara (Sotah 11a) describes the meeting that Pharaoh had with his advisors regarding the "Jewish problem." The three advisors were Bilaam, Job and Yitro. Bilaam advised Pharaoh to kill the Jewish babies, Job remained silent and did not offer any advice, and Yitro ran away. Because Job kept silent and did not speak up in defense of the Jews, Hashem punished him with tremendous suffering. We know that Hashem always punishes midah k'neged midah (measure for measure). How does Job's punishment fit the crime?

The Brisker Rav explains that when a person is in a great deal of pain, he will cry out even though it will not reduce his pain. Similarly, when Job heard Pharaoh's evil intentions, he should have cried out in defense of the Jews even if he knew it wouldn't do any good. Therefore, he was punished with intolerable pain to make him understand that he should have been so distressed by Pharaoh's plan that he could not have possibly remained silent.

Unfortunately, we often hear about people who are suffering. Some people are suffering from an illness, others have financial hardships and still others have problems in the home. When a piece of news like this reaches our ears, we should feel sympathy for them and try to help them as much as we can, just as we would if, G-d forbid, we were going through the same problem ourselves.

Question: How sympathetic are you to other people's problems? Do you have a list of people in need for whom you pray every day?


Question: Why is a newborn daughter named at an aliyah to the Torah? Answer:. A verse in Isaiah (62:2) states: "And you will be called a new name which the mouth of G-d will communicate." The "mouth of G-d" is a reference to the Torah." Therefore, the child is named at the Torah reading. (Excerpted from Siddur Abir Yaacob, published by Sephardic Press)


This week's Haftarah: Yirmiyahu 1:1 - 2:3.

In our perashah, Hashem commands Moshe to go back to Egypt to bring out B'nei Yisrael. Moshe tries to convince Hashem to send someone else instead of him, until finally Moshe agrees to go. Similarly, in this haftarah, the prophet Yirmiyahu is told by Hashem that he had been chosen to be a prophet. Yirmiyahu attempts to refuse, saying that he is not worthy and that the people will reject him, but he finally agrees.

Hashem's prophecy to Yirmiyahu is that even though the Babylonians will bring destruction to Israel, they (and anyone else who rises up against Israel) will be punished by Hashem. Our perashah begins the story of the slavery of the Jews in Egypt which ultimately led to the Ten Plagues and the drowning of the Egyptians in the Yam Suf.

Answer to Pop Quiz: Shifrah and Pu'ah (also known as Yochebed and Miriam).

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