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Haftarah: Yirmiyahu 1:1 - 2:3

DECEMBER 28-29, 2007 20 TEBET 5768

The fast of Asarah B’ Tebet will be on Wednesday, December 19.


“Moshe agreed to dwell with the man, and he gave his daughter Tziporah to Moshe [for a wife]” (Shemot 2:21)

There is an interesting story told in the book of Shoftim (chapter 17) about a man named Michayahu (Micha for short), who started a cult dedicated to idolatry. He had a fancy idol and built a temple, but couldn’t find a priest. One day a man named Yehonatan, of the house of Levi, came to town. He was very charismatic and suitable for the job, and ultimately he took the job as the priest. Who was this man Yehonatan? He was Moshe Rabenu’s grandson (the son of Gershon)! What did Moshe do to deserve this? The Ba’al Haturim quotes a Midrash, that after working as a shepherd for Yitro (the high priest of Midyan), Moshe sought his permission to marry his daughter, Tziporah. Yitro agreed, provided that Moshe undertook that their firstborn son would be dedicated to serve as a priest in the Midyan religion. Moshe agreed, calculating that by the time his firstborn grows up, he (Moshe) would have converted Yitro to Judaism. As it turned out, Moshe’s calculation proved correct, so that his eldest son Gershon was saved from idol worship. Nevertheless, this Midrash says that Moshe was punished for this behavior and Gershon’s son became the high priest of a pagan cult. Now exactly what was Moshe’s sin here?

Rabbi Yaakov Haber explains that we can never criticize Moshe Rabenu, but to explain the Midrash, it means that Moshe confused his own role with Hashem’s. To explain this he tells a story of Rabbi Pinhas Scheinberg. Rabbi Scheinberg knew a fellow student in Mirrer Yeshivah in Europe. He was destined to have a great career. Many years later Rabbi Scheinberg met his friend in America. He was amazed to hear that he became the Rabbi of a large Reform congregation. When asked what happened he explained that after the war there were no important positions, perhaps only a small shul. But, if he could become the Rabbi of a large Reform congregation, he could bring the word of Hashem to thousands, even tens of thousands if his services were carried on TV. Today he is perhaps the foremost Reform spokesman and an outspoken opponent of Orthodoxy. This man committed a serious wrong – he confused his own work with Hashem’s. He realized there were halachic problems but he felt in modern America the laws of Torah were somewhat unrealistic. His logic was that in order to bring the word of G-d to as many people as possible, he had to break the word of G-d.

Moshe Rabenu should have realized that even if Tziporah was destined for him, he still should not have to make calculations on being able to convert Yitro. He should have said, “No way, I cannot even consider such a condition for a son of mine!” Let us remember to do only our own work and leave G-d’s work to G-d. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

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. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


“Come, let us deal wisely with them” (Shemot 1:5)

In Sotah 11a the Talmud expounds on Pharaoh’s meeting with his advisors. Three wise men, Pharaoh’s confidants, Bilaam, Iyob and Yitro, met together to discuss the “Jewish problem.” Bilaam suggested that Pharaoh order the execution of all the Jews; instead, Bilaam himself was killed. Iyob, who kept silent, was punished by Hashem with intolerable pain. Yitro ran away and was granted the reward that his grandchildren would be members of the Sanhedrin. It seems clear from this Hazal that the solution to the Jewish problem had already been sealed. This is indicated by the fact that Yitro was not punished for his flight. Why, then, was Iyob punished so harshly? What other options had been open to him?

The Brisker Rav z”l derives a profound lesson. Iyob was truly judged middah keneged middah, measure for measure. The nature of a person is such that when he feels intense pain, he cries out, even if his screams will not relieve his pain. Iyob was reproved for sitting in silence while Klal Yisrael was being sent to a ruthless death.

How could a sensitive person witness boundless suffering and not cry out for justice? If Iyob had empathized with Klal Yisrael, he would have articulated his feelings, even if they were to fall on deaf ears.

The Brisker Rav’s words strike at the essence of our lifestyle! How can we proceed in our daily endeavors, complacently accepting the spiritual decline of many of our brethren? We listen to statistics concerning the rapid rise of intermarriage, the bankruptcy of morality among the uninitiated, and the complete erosion of Jewish values, without even uttering a cry of anguish! A portion of Am Yisrael is falling victim to spiritual extinction, and we are resigning ourselves to the news. We are morally obligated to do everything within our power to stem the tide of assimilation and spiritual deterioration. (Peninim on the Torah)


“And it was in those days and Moshe grew up and he went out to his brothers, and he saw their suffering” (Shemot 2:11)

Rashi adds that Moshe made a special effort that his eyes should see and his heart should feel the suffering of the Children of Israel.

Rabbi Chaim Shmuelevitz used to say that sight is the means by which you are able

to feel for another person. Only by seeing can a person have a strong degree of empathy for the suffering of others. Just a plain seeing alone is not sufficient. Rather a person needs to make a “special effort” to observe carefully. When a person observes carefully, he will be able to feel for another person from the depths of his heart.

This is the reason the Sages said that a blind person is considered as if he were dead, said Rav Chaim. Without being able to see, one cannot feel for another person. He is as if he were alone in the world. When a person is alone, there is an aspect of not being fully alive.

This attribute of becoming more sensitive to the suffering of other people is a basic trait to develop. Make an effort to truly “see” people. Some people are experts at seeing the faults of others. When one works on seeing the suffering of others, one’s focus is on helping them. This prevents seeing the negative, and leads to many acts of kindness. This was the trait of Moshe and it is incumbent upon us to use this as our model for our own behavior. (Growth through Torah)

Answer to Pop Quiz: Midyan.

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.

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