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Haftarah: Yirmiyahu 1:1 - 2:3

JANUARY 12-13. 2006 23 TEBET 5767

Pop Quiz: How many daughters did Yitro have?


"And they kept the boys alive." (Shemot 1:17)

Our perashah reveals to us the great heroism of the midwives in Egypt. Yochebed and her daughter, Miriam, risked their lives and disregarded Pharaoh's evil decree to kill all Jewish newborn boys. They not only refrained from killing them, but they made Herculean efforts to make sure every Jewish baby boy survived childbirth. The following is a great story about keeping the boys alive.

Yoav, a young Israeli soldier, was stationed in Hebron. One night, at 4:00 am, he was shot by an Arab sniper and left for dead. No one was awake to hear the shot and it seemed that his short life would come to a tragic end.

One other soldier, however, did hear something and went to investigate. He spotted Yoav lying on the ground bleeding to death, and immediately began to stabilize the wound. It took time for help to arrive at the scene so he needed to use every trick he could think of to keep Yoav alive. Eventually, Yoav arrived at a hospital and was treated by surgeons. Yoav's parents were notified and rushed to the hospital. The doctors said that if not for the immediate actions of the other soldier, their son would not have survived. They went to thank the soldier but he had already left the hospital.

After Yoav went home to recuperate, they called the army to find out the name of the other soldier, but the name had not been recorded in the incident report, so they had no way of ever contacting him.

Yoav's parents owned a grocery store so they put up a poster in their store, describing the miracle and asking if anyone knew the identity of the savior. Months passed with no response. Finally, after a year, a woman entered the store and saw the sign. She was positive that her son, Doron, had mentioned such an incident. She took out her cell phone and called Doron. Sure enough, it was he who had saved Yoav's life.

Doron's mother pulled Yoav's mother aside and told her, "You don't remember me, but 20 years ago, I was standing in your store feeling lost. You and your husband noticed how I looked and asked me what was the matter. I explained that I was pregnant and was overwhelmed. There were so many unbearable difficulties that I had decided to have an abortion. You both stopped everything, and calmly and lovingly spoke with me. You offered so much encouragement that I chose to keep my baby. The name of that precious baby was Doron. My beloved Doron, who would not have been born were it not for you, grew up to save your son Yoav's life." 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 Yosef died and all his brothers and the whole generation" (Shemot 1:6)

The Ohr Hachaim states that the specificity of this pasuk is deliberate. The enslavement of the Jewish people evolved gradually in three stages. As long as Yosef was alive the Jews were admired and held in high esteem. After he passed away, the Jews were no longer revered, and were accepted only as equal to the Egyptian citizen. With the passing of Yosef's brothers this equality disappeared, only to be replaced with contempt and ridicule. However, it was only after the original generation of immigrants passed away that the Egyptians had the audacity to enslave the Jews. From this we learn that although the Egyptians were very evil, they could not enslave the Jews as long as they had respect for them. It was only after the Jews were held in contempt that this enslavement could then occur.

We may suggest that there are two aspects to this matter. First, the Egyptians could not enslave a nation that was prominent and which they held in esteem. Second, had the Jewish people not demeaned themselves, had they not lost their sense of self-respect, this enslavement could not have transpired. A person who maintains his self-respect cannot be degraded into slavery. A people cannot be degraded unless they permit themselves to be manipulated this way.

This is precisely the way the yeser hara (evil inclination) is able to entice one into transgressing. He first attempts to paint a picture that legitimizes the various transgressions. Once this is accomplished, man becomes clay in the yeser hara's hands to be molded in any way he chooses. It is our job to maintain our stature in order that we be able to withstand the various enticements that lurk before us. (Peninim on the Torah)


"Moshe answered and said, 'But they will not believe me nor will they listen to my voice, for they will say, Hashem has not appeared to you.'" (Shemot 4:1)

Undoubtedly, Moshe's inference that "they will not believe me" did not apply to the actual future redemption. Rather, as the Netziv explains, their apparent lack of belief was directed to Moshe's claim of Divine revelation. After all, B'nei Yisrael knew Moshe only as a young man growing up in Pharaoh's palace under the watchful eyes of Pharaoh's special tutors. His outward demeanor so resembled that of an Egyptian aristocrat that Yitro's daughter's mistook him for one. For this reason, Moshe deferred his mission to Aharon, who was recognized and revered as a prophet and a saddik. Aharon's credibility had already been established.

Hashem responded by miraculously transforming the staff into a serpent. The Netziv offers a profound interpretation of this miracle. In its original transformation, the top of the staff turned into the head of a serpent, while the bottom half of the staff became the serpent's tail. When Moshe retrieved the serpent, it once again turned into the original staff. There was, however, one distinction. When Moshe picked up the serpent by its tail, it immediately transformed into the top of the staff! This is derived from the pasuk which states, "And it became a staff in his hands." Hashem instructed Moshe to pick up the serpent at that specific place, so that it turned into the top of the staff. Hashem taught Moshe that not everything which appears to be the tail is really a tail. It can immediately be transformed into the head. Likewise, Moshe, whom the Jews perceived as inferior, or the "tail," could instantly be propelled into becoming the great leader of B'nei Yisrael. Such was the will of Hashem. (Peninim on the Torah)


"Please, My Master, send anyone else" (Shemot 4:13)

The Ramban explains that Moshe told Hashem to send anyone else because there is no other person in the world who is not more fitting than me for this mission.

At first glance this is puzzling. How could Moshe sincerely have thought of himself as unworthy? Rabbi Chayim of Volozhin explained that even if a person is very intelligent and wise and has accomplished very much, he nevertheless might not be working as hard as he should. With his talents and abilities he might have accomplished very much if he tried harder. On the other hand, a person who seems to be very lowly perhaps is doing all he can. The lowly person is reaching his potential, while the great person might be far from it. For this reason Moshe felt he was unworthy. In his humility, he thought that he was more distant from being all that he could be than everyone else.

This is a lesson for two types of people. Those who feel arrogant and conceited because of their great intellect and accomplishments should be aware that perhaps they are far from reaching their potential and this should lessen their inflated feelings about themselves. For this exact reason, those who are trying very hard to act in an elevated manner and put in much effort should not feel envious or disheartened when they see others apparently accomplishing more than them. One's true spiritual level cannot be measured by any mortal. There is no accurate objective means of evaluating any person. The true level of each person is based entirely on effort and this only Hashem can measure. (Growth through Torah)

Answer to Pop Quiz: Seven.

A quick tip to boost the power of your prayer. Hazal tell us (Masechet Baba Kama Daf 92A) that Hashem loves the tefilot of one Jew for another so much that anyone who prays on behalf of a fellow Jew with similar needs will have his prayer answered first. A special service has now begun to provide people with names of others who find themselves in a similar predicament. You can call with complete anonymity and get the name of someone to pray for and give the name of someone that needs our prayers. The name of the service is Kol Hamitpalel. Categories include: Marriage; Income; Health; To have children etc.

Call to 646-279-8712 or email (Privacy of email limited by the email address)

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