Shemot 5764 – Gilayon #325


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Parashat Shemot

THE DAUGHTER OF PHARAOH CAME DOWN TO BATHE IN THE

NILE. SHE SPIED THE BASKET AMONG THE REEDS AND SENT HER SLAVE GIRL TO FETCH IT.

WHEN SHE OPENED IT, SHE SAW THAT IT WAS A CHILD, A BOY CRYING. SHE TOOK PITY

UPON IT AND SAID, "THIS MUST BE A HEBREW CHILD." THEN HIS SISTER SAID

TO PHARAOH'S DAUGHTER, "SHALL I GO AND GET YOU A HEBREW NURSE TO SUCKLE

THE CHILD FOR YOU?"

(Shemot

2: 2-7)

 

 

Human Compassion Knows No Bounds –

Righteous Gentiles Have a Share in the World to Come.

Nine entered the Garden of Eden while still alive,

they are: Hanokh ben Yered,

Elijah, the Messiah, Abraham's servant Eliezer, King Hiram of Tzor, the Cushite

king's servant, Ya'avetz son of Rabbi Yehudah

ha-Nasi, Pharaoh's daughter Bitiyah, Serah daughter of Asher, and according to

some, even Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi.

(Masekhet Derekh Eretz

Zuta 1: 8)

 

And his Judahite wife bore Yered father of

Gedor, Heber father of Soko, and Yekutiel father of Zanoah. These were the sons

of Bitiyah daughter of Pharaoh, whom Mered married.

 (I

Chronicles 4: 18)

 

These were the sons of Bitiyah daughter of Pharaoh,

whom Mered married Why did they call his wife a Judahite? Because she

rejected idolatry, as is written: The daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe

in the Nile. Rabbi Yohanan said: She went down to wash herself clean of the

idols of her father's house. Bore [Yered

father of Soco..]? She only raised him! This

teaches us that scripture views one who raises a boy or girl orphan in his

house as if he bore them. Yered is Moses, and why was

he called 'Yered'? Because manna

came down [yarad] for Israel in his days. [He was called] Geder [fence]

because he fenced in Israel's promiscuity. [He was called] Heber because he attached [hiber] Israel to their Father in heaven. [He was called] Soko because he was

like a sukkah to Israel. [He was called] Yekutiel because Israel looked [kivu] to God in his

days. [He was called] Zanoah

because he caused Israel's sins to be neglected [hizniah]. [The

verse mentions three times] father of. father of,

father of, – a father in Torah, a father in wisdom, a father in

prophecy. These were the sons of Bitiyah daughter of Pharaoh, whom Mered

married- Was his name Mered? Wasn't his name

Kalev?! The Holy One Blessed Be He said: Let Kalev, who rebelled [marad] against the Spies' plan come

and marry the daughter of Pharaoh, who rebelled [mardah]

against the idols of her father's house.

(Meggilah

13a)

 

 

 

OPPOSE AN ORDER, DISOBEY IT

Daniel Rohrlich

 

We read in the Talmud the principle that "the law

of the kingdom is [binding] law" ("dina demalkhuta dina" in Aramaic). This principle guided generations

of diaspora Jews as they dealt with the laws they

encountered in exile. It is a remarkable principle in several ways. The

principle that "the law of the kingdom is law" (due to the Amora Shmuel and cited in Gitin 10b, Nedarim 28a, Baba Kama 113a and

Baba Metzia 54b,55a) does not have a scriptural or mishnaic

source; it originated in the historical experience of the Jewish communities in

Babylonian exile. Despite the lack of textual support, it won universal

acceptance among Jews; the early codifiers of the halakha

wrote, "We have not found anywhere an objection to this halakha". Originally, the principle applied only to

the king's laws, yet in time it extended to the law of states that were not monarchies.

It applies to statutory laws concerning monies, taxes, land, and so on, but not

to religious ritual (permitted and forbidden practices). It also does not apply

to laws that are inherently arbitrary and discriminatory; see Maimonides, Mishna Tora, Gzelah, Chap. 5, halakhot 12-14. The rabbinic sages, with their dialectical

sophistication, ruled that we must honor the government and acknowledge its

authority; at the same time, we must bound and delimit its authority. They

anticipated, to a surprising extent, the great philosophers of modern democracy

(Locke, Mill, Rousseau, etc.) who set limits to the authority of government. Still

it is important to stress that, unlike these philosophers, they did not discuss

the right of the people to rebel against tyranny; indeed, they did not discuss

rights (in the modern sense) at all. We thus find that the sages delimited the

authority of government without undermining it.

The sages saw no contradiction between these two

aspects of their relation to government, between total respect and partial

obedience. On the one hand, government is essential for communal life, lest

every man exploit and murder his neighbor. In the

words of Chananya, the Deputy High Priest, in Pirke Avot (3:2), "Pray

for the welfare of the government, for if people did not fear it, they would

eat each other alive." The government that Chananya

knew was none other than the evil and hated Roman empire,

and yet – pray for its welfare. (Yeshayahu

Leibowitz, Sichot al Pirke Avot veha'Rambam

(Shocken) 1979, p. 43.) On the other

hand, the duty to oppose certain laws (beginning with laws that involve

idolatry, incest or murder) remains in force. Indeed, it is not a question of a

right, but of a duty, to oppose them. (Note

that the famous essay of H. D. Thoreau on disobedience to unjust laws is called

"On the Duty of Civil Disobedience", although it appeared in

Hebrew translation with the name "mered ezrachi" ("civil revolt").)

This clash of values – between the value of government

and higher values – is embodied in the Torah, in this week's portion, in the

figures of the midwives, Shifra and Puah, who refused to carry out the hideous order of Pharoah, King of Egypt, to kill all the male babies of the

Hebrews. Nehama Leibowitz,

in her book New Studies in Sefer Shmot

(Iyunim Chadashim be'Sefer Shmot: be'Ikvot Parshanenu ha'Rishonim veha'Achronim (Jerusalem:

World Zionist Organization, Department of Torah Education and Culture in the

Diaspora).), describes two ancient

traditions regarding who the midwives were.

According to one tradition (due to Rashi, Ibn Ezra, Rashbam and Ramban, and based on Sota 11b), they were Jews, and the tradition even identifies

them with Yokheved and Miriam (or Yokheved

and Elisheva, Aharon's

wife).

According to the other tradition (due to Philo,

Josephus, Midrash Tadshe, Abrabanel and Luzzatto) they were

Egyptians. The latter tradition is especially interesting here because it

interprets the text as a confrontation between an individual and her own, rather than a foreign, government. It intensifies

the clash of values. But is such an interpretation possible? Exodus 1:15 refers

to "lamyaldot ha'ivri'ot" and the "la" at the

beginning is incompatible with the construct state; that is, it rules out the

translation "the midwives of the Hebrews" (so we are left with the

translation "the Hebrew midwives"). To this argument Luzzatto replies,

This is no argument. True, the text could have read "lamyaldot et ha'ivri'ot"

(the midwives to the Hebrews), but it could also have dropped the

"et" as in (Jeremiah 31:29) "ha'adam ha'okhel haboser".

If this interpretation is possible, then it is also

quite reasonable. How could Pharaoh have specifically chosen Jewish women to

carry out his murderous plan, especially if (as the Ramban

argued) he wanted to keep it secret? Luzzatto further

cites the comment of his disciple Jacob Chai Pardo on Exodus 1:17:

The midwives feared God and did not do as the King of

Egypt told them; they let the boys live.

This verse would not be appropriate for Jewish

midwives:

If the midwives belonged to another people, their

actions would justify the statement that they feared God; but if they were Hebrews,

there is no need to bring up fear of God; everyone loves his own people.

Nehama Leibowitz adds that in the Torah, the expression "fear

of God" appears in connection with how a nation treats a minority. Abraham

refers to the Egyptians with the words (Genesis

20:11) "I thought, surely there is

no fear of God in this place." Amalek's attack

on the Israelites is described (Deuteronomy

25:18) as "undeterred by fear of

God." And Joseph, acting as the (presumed Gentile) second to the King of

Egypt, says of himself, "I fear God." As Leibowitz writes, the treatment of the stranger who lacks

power and protection is a true test for fear of God. She sums up her study of

the midwives with these words:

If this interpretation is correct, we must consider

that the Torah shows us how, in a sea of evil and tyranny – and just after verse

1:13, which shows Egypt (the kingdom and the people) in their wickedness – an

individual can stand up against evil, oppose an order, disobey it, and not

shrug off the responsibility for murder by saying, "Orders from my

King".

Dr. Daniel Rohrlich is a physicist

 

 

Empathy with the Suffering of Others is the Secret of

Revelation and of Redemption

Rabbi Yanai said: Just as it

is with these twins, that if the head of the one aches, the other feels it as

well, [so too] in a manner of speaking, the Holy One Blessed Be He said, I

am with him in troubles (Tehillim 91:

15).

Another explanation: What does I am with him in

troubles mean? When they suffer adversity, they call only upon the Holy One

Blessed Be He. [So it was] in Egypt: And their cry for help from the bondage rose up

to God (Shemot 2:23). At the Red Sea: And the

children of Israel cried out to the Lord (Shemot 14:10). And so it happened many times, so he said, In all their troubles He was troubled (Isaiah 63:9). The

Holy One Blessed Be He said to Moses: "Don't you sense that I am steeped

in suffering, just as Israel is steeped in suffering? Understand that I speak to

you from amongst the thorns; I am, so to speak, their partner in suffering.

(Shemot Rabbah 2)

 

Even While On the Run, Moses

Does not Desist from Fighting for Justice

But Moses fled from Pharaoh. He arrived in the land of

Midian, and sat down beside a well… but the shepherds came and drove them

off. Moses rose to their defense, and he watered their flock (Shemot 2:

15-17). Moses came and sat by the well but

the shepherds came and drove them off. Moses rose to their defense,

and he watered their flock. Moses came and sat in judgment upon them, he

told them: "Usually, men draw the water and women water the flocks, here

women draw the water while the men water the flocks; there is a perversion of

justice here.

(Avot de'Rabbi

Natan 20:1)

 

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