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JANUARY 7-8, 2000 - 1 SHEBAT 5760

Rosh Hodesh Shebat will be observed on Shabbat, January 8.

Pop Quiz: Who were Moshe's two grandfathers?

Rabbi Shmuel Choueka

Many of the warnings given to Pharaoh took place early morning by the Nile River. The Rabbis teach us that Pharaoh considered himself a god, and as such could not be seen doing human activities such as relieving himself. He therefore used to go early in the morning to the river to relieve himself and then "hold it in" all day long, so as to maintain his image of a god.

From our own experiences, we can well imagine his discomfort at not being able to go to the bathroom when needed. Yet Pharaoh had to maintain an image and in his eyes, it was worth all the discomfort to do so. We, who see it from the outside, are amazed at how foolish he was and to what extent he would go just to keep up with what others thought of him.

We would do well to remember this when we do things just for the image. Do we have to put ourselves in financial stress just to go away when everyone else does? Does that not remind us of the '60's when air conditioning wasn't standard in all cars and some people would ride around in the summer with the windows closed to maintain their image? Pharaoh lived with discomfort for his image; do we have to live with financial pressures for ours? Shabbat Shalom.

Rabbi Reuven Semah

"Moshe said to Pharaoh, 'Glorify yourself over me - for when should I pray for you?'" (Shemot 8:5)

One of the most riveting dramas of the Torah is the battle between Moshe and Aharon on one side and Pharaoh on the other. Pharaoh endures the terrible plague of frogs. The frogs brought intense suffering to Pharaoh as well as to the Egyptians. Rashi explains Moshe's statement in the verse above. Pharaoh tells Moshe to please remove this terrible plague! Pray to G-d to remove them. Moshe responds by saying, "Test me! Ask me for something I can't do and if you are right you will be able to say that I failed your test." The Ramban explains that Pharaoh suspected that Moshe, using the forces of nature, knew that the plague was going to end now anyway. Consequently, Pharaoh thought that Moshe, knowing this, was setting him up. Moshe would assume that Pharaoh would demand an immediate end to the plague, and Moshe would come out looking great when the plague would end exactly at the time Pharaoh requested of him. So Pharaoh tried to outfox Moshe by saying, "tomorrow," a most unexpected move by Pharaoh!

Pharaoh is truly amazing. The man is willing to endure another excruciating day to prove himself right. He has the power, as the king of Egypt, to kill both Moshe and Aharon. However, we don't find it mentioned anywhere that Pharaoh tried to kill them but they were miraculously saved. It seems that Pharaoh didn't try to kill them. He was more determined to prove himself right and win the battle of spiritual supremacy. It was all worth it not to admit to the truth of Hashem's existence.

In a kind of backwards way, we can learn a lesson from Pharaoh. In the same way that he struggled to deny the truth, we must struggle to know the truth of Hashem and the real purpose of life. Pharaoh finally found out at the Red Sea. Let us be convinced in a crystal clear way right now. Shabbat Shalom.

Rabbi Yaacov Ben-Haim

"Go to Pharaoh in the morning when he goes out to the water" (Shemot 7:15)

"He goes to the water to attend to his bodily needs, for Pharaoh would claim to be a god, who did not excrete. He would rise early and go out to the Nile, and tend to his bodily needs there" (Rashi).

In his book, Imrei Shefer, Rabbi Shmuel Pinhasi describes how the Egyptians were full of pride at their achievements and blinded by their civilization's technology. They thought of themselves as supernatural beings, able to control the world. This teaches us how easy it is for a person to begin to believe in his own power. This attitude, unfortunately, is consciously or unconsciously held by most of society. Faced with multiple technological advances in every direction, it is not difficult for man to share the outlook of Pharaoh, "My river is mine and I created myself."

This does not mean that we must shun technological advancement. There is no inherent conflict between technology and Torah. The Torah does not require us to be ascetics, but to extract the positive and valuable from any situation and utilize it to better worship G-d. How wonderful are the words of Rav Kook on the verse, "With trumpets and shofar sound, call out before the King, Hashem" (Tehillim 98:6). The shofar is the symbol of natural activity, while the trumpet represents the technological world. Man must strive to make a choir of the two, a choir that sings in harmony before the King. We are obligated to see and worship the Holy One Blessed is He everywhere - in nature, in science, in technology and in the cosmos. We have but two options - either to see Him everywhere, or to see Him nowhere. Shabbat Shalom.


"These are the heads of their father's houses" (Shemot 6:14)

Because of Moshe and Aharon, the Torah provides a genealogy to tell us how they were born and to whom they were related. Why is it necessary to record their pedigree?

Contrary to the belief of the gentile world regarding their own leader, the Torah wants to emphasize that a Jewish leader is not one who is born in a supernatural way. He is a normal person who has a father and a mother and who has spiritually elevated himself to be worthy of his rank. Every Jewish boy has the potential to become a Moshe Rabenu - a leader of the Jewish people in his generation. (Vedibarta Bam)


"And Pharaoh sent for Moshe and Aharon and he said to them, 'I have sinned this time. Hashem is righteous and I and my people are wicked'" (Shemot 9:27)

Rabbi Nosson Tzvi Finkel of Slobodka noted that although Pharaoh verbally admitted his guilt when he was under the pressure of the plague, he reverted to his old ways as soon as the pressure was off. The problem was that he viewed suffering with a limited perspective. He viewed suffering merely as a punishment for wrong. That is why he said, "Hashem is a righteous judge and His punishment is fair because I have done evil." But the reality of Hashem's suffering is that there is a strong element of kindness. Suffering is a divine message telling a person that he has something to improve. It is a reminder that one needs to improve oneself. The goal of suffering is to motivate a person to improve his behavior. Because Pharaoh viewed suffering only as a punishment, as soon as the punishment was over he made no changes.

When you view suffering as a means to elevate yourself, you will find meaning in your suffering. While there is still pain involved, it is much easier to cope with. Whenever you find yourself suffering, ask yourself, "How can I use this as a tool for self-improvement?" (Growth through Torah)


"[Hashem] commanded [Moshe and Aharon] regarding the children of Israel and regarding Pharaoh, the king of Egypt" (Shemot 6:13)

Rashi explains that the fact that this pasuk refers to Pharaoh as the king of Egypt teaches that Hashem commanded Moshe to treat him with respect. This seems strange. We know that Moshe approached Pharaoh in order to warn him about the plagues which would come if Pharaoh would not release B'nei Yisrael. This entire episode, and the encounters that followed, brought tremendous disgrace to Pharaoh. How much of a difference would it make if Moshe did not give him the proper respect due to a king?

From here, we can learn two lessons. First, the punishment that Hashem brings on a person is precisely measured, and a person never receives a greater punishment than he deserves. Imagine the scene: during the plague of frogs, the frogs were everywhere, croaking constantly, even in the Egyptians' stomachs! Picture Pharaoh sitting on his throne with his officers gathered around him. Pharaoh opens his mouth to speak, and a frog jumps into his mouth! He tries again, and instead of his voice, all that is heard is a loud croak! Can we say that there is even a remnant left of the honor of the king? Still yet, even though the humiliation and disgrace that Pharaoh was immense, the additional disrespect of being spoken to in an improper manner was more than he deserved.

Another lesson we can learn is that one must be very careful about his manner of speech when rebuking or punishing another person. If Moshe was commanded to speak respectfully to the wicked Pharaoh, how much more so must we use caution when speaking to a fellow Jew! And if this is what is required when we are rebuking a fellow Jew, how much more so in our normal daily conversations. (Lekah Tob)

Answer to Pop Quiz: Levi (Yochebed's father) & Kehat, the son of Levi (Amram's father).

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