Shemot 5772 – Gilayon #733
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And the king of
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.
In addition, there were those
women who were righteous converts from among the gentiles…Hagar, Asenat, Tsipporah, Shiphrah, Puah, Pharoah's daughter, Rahav, Ruth
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
and Amon, so were these two saintly women Egyptian.
(N. Leibowitz: Studies in the Book of Shemot, pps. 32-330)
"AND SHE SAW THAT HE WAS GOODLY…"
THUS IS A LEADER BORN
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.
1. PEDIGREE IS NOT ESSENTIAL –
"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.
3. TOGETHERNESS – "And
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.
5. MOTHER'S MILK – "And
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
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
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
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
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 his days.
his days.[He was called] Geder [fence] because he fenced in
promiscuity. [He was called] Heber because
he attached [hiber]
heaven. [He was called] Soko because he was like a sukkah to
was called] Yekutiel because
called] Zanoah because he caused
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.
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
Rafael Hirsch, Shemot 2:10)
"And the king of
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, EVEN IN FLIGHT, DOES
NOT STOP FIGHTING FOR JUSTICE
"Moshe fled from Pharaoh's
face and settled in the
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.
"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.
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