Shemot 5772 – Gilayon #733

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Parshat Shemot

And the king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives

One of whom was named Shiphrah

and the other was named Puah.

And the midwives feared god

And did not do as the king of Egypt

had spoken to them

And they let the children live

(Shemot 1:15, 17)


To the Hebrew midwives – To

the midwives who were Hebrews.

(Rashbam, ibid.)


In addition, there were those

women who were righteous converts from among the gentiles…Hagar, Asenat, Tsipporah, Shiphrah, Puah, Pharoah's daughter, Rahav, Ruth

and Yael.


Tadsheh, Chap. 21, quoted by N. Leibowitz,

Studies in Shemlot, p. 31)


In the opinion of our Sages, Onkelos, Rashbam and Ramban, the midwives were of Israelite lineage. In the

opinion of the Alexandrian translator and Heironymous,

of Josephus Flavius and Don Yitzchak Abarbanel, they

were Egyptian midwives who birthed the Hebrew women, and this seems logical,

for how can it be that He would command Hebrew women to destroy their kinfolk

and believe that the matter would not be revealed?

(Shadal, ibid. ibid.)


"Fear of God" in

the Bible is something demanded of every man created in the image

[of God], and if there not be the fear of God in his heart, the heart of the

gentile, Scripture holds him to account, and this is considered a betrayal of

all his duties… there is always to be found fear of God among the nations of

the world, and whoever is suspect of it not being in his heart, is also suspect

of all evil deeds… Let it be noticed that in all four instances where the

gentile is praised (including that of Joseph who is playing the role of a

gentile) for the fear of God in his heart, or, conversely, where he is

deprecated because his heart lacks it, in all those places "fear of God"

is expressed through behavior towards the foreigner, towards the minority, because

the attitude towards the stranger, to the powerless and unprotected, is the

acid test of whether or not one has the fear of God in his heart. Therefore,

also because of this expression "and the midwives feared God" it

seems that the preferred explanation is: They were Egyptians

. and righteousness or evil are not the result

of national or racial affiliation; just as Ruth and Naama

were daughters from Moab

and Amon, so were these two saintly women Egyptian.

(N. Leibowitz: Studies in the Book of Shemot, pps. 32-330)







With Parashat Shemot, which opens the

second book of the Pentateuch, we move from the family stories to the communal

story, the story of the Children of Israel: "And these are the

names of the sons of Israel who came to Egypt…" and, in effect, the

story of a nation: "Look, the nation of the sons of Israel is more

numerous and vaster than we…" In passing from the private to the public

domain, the Torah pauses to relate one more "family story" – the story

of Moshe's family: his parents, his siblings, his childhood, his wife, his

father-in-law, and fragments of his life story, to the point where the family

story rejoins the "national" narrative, the story of us all.

It is my

intention to identify and emphasize what I consider to be the significant

details of the personal and family narratives, those which I deem to be the "buds"

and possible points of passage from the "anonymous' family story to the

public, social, and national narrative. I want to learn from Moshe's story the

connection between various details of one's biography and his growing into a

leader and symbol.



"And a man from the house of Levi went and took a Levite daughter…"

Moshe was born to a man and a woman who appear initially with neither name nor

appellation (although the midrash

determines that Amram was the greatest of the

generation, I prefer to follow the p'shat

the plain-reading of the text). It may well be that Scripture is intimating

that significant "growth" is possible only when you are not weighed

down with an overly-heavy sack of "yichus"

pedigree. It is when you are not "the son of" that you are free

to develop, to blossom and teach yourself to be a leader, sans

trepidations and frustrations typical of "the children of…"



"And the woman conceived and bore a son, and she saw that he was

goodly…" The Torah does not reveal what exactly it was that Moshe's

mother saw. Perhaps this is the reason that Rashi, in

line with the midrash,

determines: "When he was born, the house was filled with light". What

does the text itself tell us? Moshe's mother, despite a reality of darkness and

evil edicts, finds good in the birth of her son and in her son. She senses the

goodness. She does not need the external light described by the midrash; she simply sees

the good. Whoever has given birth to a child recognizes this "good"…

perhaps the infant Moshe also senses this 'good' that his mother discerned in

his first moments of life, and this feeling of the good he carried on into the

future. Success requires a basic feeling of good which is inherent from the

beginning. "The end of a matter is good because of its [good] beginning."

[The plain-reading of this passage from Ecclesiastes is "The end of a

matter is better than its beginning". Homiletic license makes use of the

fact that the Hebrew conjunctive prefix "mem"

may mean either "than" or "because of" – Trans.] When the

beginning is good, there is a good chance for a successful future.



his sister stationed herself at a distance to see what would be done to him."

One may ask: Was little Moshe aware that his sister was there for him? In my

opinion, yes! And not only was she concerned, but also, from her home, was his

mother, and, in the near future, so will the daughter of Pharaoh be concerned;

Moshe is almost never really alone. It seems that leadership is also made

possible by a feeling of certainty that you are not alone. "Someone is

always walking with me…" On the one hand, this togetherness gives power;

on the other hand, it obligates and invites action. 'They are concerned about

me, they love me, I am important, and now it is my turn to take responsibility.'


4. TO BE YOUNG – "…

and [she] saw the child, and, look, it was a lad weeping…" – strange! In

one sentence he is termed both child and lad. Perhaps this is how little Moshe

was seen through the eyes of Pharaoh's daughter… (not

like in the song "And in the ark little Moshe, beautiful and delicate baby").

Perhaps, like the midrash in Bereishit Rabba: 'He was a child,

but behaved like a lad' – a leader must behave like a lad, one who allows himself

to 'make waves', to do things differently, to shake up conventions, to move, to

advance, to dare… all that we recognize from our own adolescent children. Moshe

was a 'lad' already in his childhood, and it seems that this quality

contributed to – or at least made possible – his leadership.



Pharaoh's daughter said to her, 'Carry away this child and suckle him for me… " Contrary to the claims of various blurbs or new

products, there is no substitute for mother's milk! It is not just a matter of

ideal nutrition; it is a principle of support, of "carrying" – "Carry

away this child", says Pharaoh's daughter to Moshe's mother, even as she

is probably unaware that she is his mother. How much power has the mother in

the primary stages of growth, to carry, to lead, the child! We can learn from

here that a proper leader needs, before all else, the natural flow from mother

to her infant, and concurrently, female and motherly "carrying". Without

"mother" in the picture, it just won't happen.



"And Moshe grew and went out to his brothers and saw their burdens."

Asks the preacher in Bereishit Rabba:

"Do not all children grow? But this comes to teach us that he grew unlike

the rest of the world. "A leader, it seems, has to develop differently. He

must be out of the ordinary! Either to grow up in a palace or

in penury. To live with others or to be distinct from

others. To stutter, to yearn, to dream, to err, to face many obstacles

and thereby to become aware of "the other", to detect in "the

other" a brother, and to exhibit – like Moshe–empathy and sensitivity

towards him.


7. FATHER TELLS – And she

(Tsipporah) bore a son, and he called his name Gershom, for he said "A sojourner have I been in a

foreign land." Moshe, the father, already knows how to relate his life

story. He understands that the story of his childhood in an alien land is what

shaped him into an adult and father; he must actualize his story and pass it on

to the next generation. Moshe the father looks into his son's eyes and tells

him, via explanation of his son's name, the story of his own life, in the hope

that his son will have a better and more balanced life. Perhaps we can learn from

this that a good leader is one who is able to look back to his biography, to

weave it into the story, to tell it to his children, growing himself and

attempting to grow a better future for the coming generation.

This week, my

dear husband Eyal, celebrates his fiftieth birthday.

Son, brother, youth, man, father… leader for many more healthful,

loving, and meaningful years.

Naama Eldar teaches Torah in the Galil


Human Compassion Knows No

Bounds –

Now Pharaoh's daughter went down to bath at the Nile

she saw the little ark… she opened it and saw him, the child, here, a boy

weeping! She pitied him and she said: One of the Hebrews' children is this!… The child grew, she brought him to Pharaoh's daughter,

and he became her son. She called his name: Moshe/He-Who-Pulls-Out; she said:

for out of the water I pulled him.


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 NileRabbi 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 [hiberIsrael 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 offather 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)


She did not call him Mashui

 one drawn up from the water. Perhaps this gives

us an indication of the whole tendency of the education which the Princess gave

her foster- son, and of the deep impression that was made from the very

beginning upon his character. By giving him this name she said to him: All his

life, he is never to forget that he was thrown into the water and that I drew him

out of it. Therefore all his life is he to have a soft heart for to other people's troubles and always be on the alert to be a Moshe,

a deliverer in times of distress. His Hebrew name always kept the consciousness

of his origin awake within him. The Princess surely inquired of the mother the

Hebrew term for expressing this thought, otherwise she would have given him his

an Egyptian name. In all this we can see the noble humane character of Moshe's


 (Rabbi Shimshon

Rafael Hirsch, Shemot 2:10)


"And the king of Egypt died and

the Children of Israel groaned because of the labor and they cried out"

Even though the king was evil,

his death disturbed them, for they feared lest he be succeeded by one even more


(Rabeinu Behayeh, Shemot 2:23)


As long as that king was alive,

they hoped that perhaps upon his death his decrees against them would be

nullified, for this is the custom when a king dies, immediately all the

prisoners in the land are freed. But when this one died, his decrees were not

nullified; they said: Now this will go on forever, therefore "they cried


(Hizkuni, Shemot 2:



From the experience of human

history, we recognize the situation in which the joy over a

the fall of an incompetent regime is transformed into sorrow and grief

when people discover the nature of the opposition which replaced the previous

government. Many changes of rule and political upheavals which were intended

initially to correct injustices and to erase evil and iniquities, ended up by

making matters worse. From this aspect, not much has changed in our world over

the last 3500 years since the first Pharaoh was replaced by the second one.

(Y. Leibowitz, Seven Years of Discussions

of the Weekly Parasha, p. 198)




"Moshe fled from Pharaoh's

face and settled in the land

of Midyan;

he sat down by a well… Shepherds came and drove them away… But Moshe rose up, he delivered them and gave drink to their sheep." Moshe

came and sat in judgment upon them, saying to them: It is customary that men

draw the water and the women give to drink; here women draw and men give to

drink, this is perversion of justice.

 (Avoth D'Rabbi

Natan, 20:1)


"Come and note Moshe's

humility; even though he was fleeing like a commoner, and he saw the daughters

of Yitro in distress, and he was not too proud to

stand up and draw for them, but his soul was that of a son of the daughter of

the king". This is to say that the awareness of his coming from the palace

of the great Pharaoh did not prevent Moshe our teacher from standing by those

unfortunate women who were robbed by the shepherds of Midyan

and acting on their behalf in their distress. From his first steps in

approaching his brothers, upon seeing an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, he decided

that the proper course of action is to intervene, to attack the attacker and to

kill him. These events are testimony to his sensitivity to the suffering of

people and to the quality of his leadership; from here we learn that he is

qualified to be the faithful shepherd of his people.

(Y. Leibowitz: Seven Years of Discussions on

the Weekly Parasha, pp. 195-196)


Our Good does not Necessarily Come at the Expense of Others

Ra'o ra'íti [I have

surely seen] the plight of My people in

Egypt (Shemot 3:7)

Ra'o ra'íti should

be glossed: Yet, I have seen.

This is the meaning of all such doubled expressions, such as a'lo na'aleh [yet, we shall go up] (Bamidbar 13:30) andyakhol nukhal [yet,

we can] (loc.

cit). It comes to say "yet" to say the thing is true, even

though some may disagree, as in the verse yadati beni yadati [I

know my son, I know](Bereishit 48:19). That is to say: even

though I saw My people's plight in Egypt, as was shown by the angel in the

bush, even though I will punish the Egyptians for their persecutions just as

the fire burned in the bush, those who oppress you will not be annihilated by

the plagues I send upon them, just as the bushwas not consumed by the fire. After all, the point of

the plagues I bring upon them is not to destroy the Egyptians and settle Israel

in their place, but rather to save Israel from them and settle Israel


(Seforno on Shemot 3:7)


The ruffians who lived in Rabbi Meir's neighborhood caused him much trouble,

and R. Meir would pray for them to die. His wife Bruriah said to him: Why do you think it is

written, let sins cease to

exist (Tehillim 104:35), does

it say let sinners cease to

exist? It says sinners!

Now go to the end of the verse: and

there are no more wicked people. Since you let sins cease to exist as a result there are no more wicked people.

So – pray for them to repent! He prayed for them and they did repent.

(Berakhot 10a)



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