Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Parshas Shemos 5777

Parshas Shemos:

Now, B’Ezras Hashem let us get on to the parsha:  The first passuk is ‘Vi’eileh Shemos B’nei Yisroel habaim Mitzraimah, eis Yaakov, ish u’veiso bau/And these are the names of the Sons of Yisroel who came down to Egypt, with Yaakov, each man and his household came.’  

So, this year we will use some of the same commentaries as last year - but, Baruch Hashem, we also have some beautiful “new” comments:  

1) Tells us the holy Chofetz Chaim (HaRav Yisroel Meir HaKohen Kagan zt”l):  It appears that the entire reason why Yaakov Avinu’s sons (perhaps referring to everyone but Yosef HaTzaddik - or his grandkids, but either way….) came down to Mitzraim is because Yaakov Avinu came down with them!  Because, look at the verse:  It emphasizes ‘eis Yaakov/with Yaakov’!  

And he says that this exactly the case:  Yaakov Avinu, he explains, was their “spiritual leader”, i.e. their Rebbe, so to speak, and they would not have been able to go down to Egypt unless he was with them.  

And he continues and explains just how important a spiritual leader (Rebbe, Rav, etc.) is.  For example, he is in the “center” of the nation - and a lot of things that are important are in the center of things.  Such as the heart - in the center of our body.  (From Sefer Chofetz Chaim Al HaTorah)  

And, based on what Reb Yisroel Meir zt”l said, we may infer another thing from this verse: ‘eis Yaakov ish u’veiso bau/with Yaakov each man and his household came’ - this can teach us that ‘each man and his household’ took a little of Yaakov Avinu inside of them, so to speak.  They went ‘with Yaakov’, as the verse says - meaning that even after he had passed away, they took his spiritual lessons, etc. with them - and maybe, we could say, that was one of the ways they could survive the Exile.  

2) The Tosher Rebbe (Rebbe Meshulam Feish Lowy zt”l) comments on this verse as well:  And he explains that if you look, the word ‘habaim/who came’ is actually in the present tense!  So it wouldn’t mean ‘who came’ - it would mean ‘who are coming’!  

An he explains that this teaches us that during these weeks of Shovavim (the weeks of Shemos, Va’eira, Bo, Beshalach, Yisro, and Mishpatim), we are just like the Jews who went down to Mitzraim.  Just like they went down there and elevated holy sparks trapped there - so too in these weeks (and in our lives overall) we must try to find and elevate the holy sparks trapped in our Galus/Exile. (From Sefer Avodas Avodah)  

Back to the parsha:  The Torah lists the name of the sons of Yaakov Avinu, and Rashi HaKadosh quotes from Midrash Tanchuma and Midrash Shemos Rabbah, which explain that the reason why Hashem counted them again after their death when He had already counted them when they were alive is to let everyone know how precious they are to Him.  

But, anyway, the Torah talks about how much the Jews increased and then it talks about how a new king arose, who didn’t know Yosef HaTzaddik, and Rashi HaKadosh quotes a debate between Rav and Shmuel (both zt”l):  One says that this was a new king and one says it was the same king just with new decrees.  

So, this “new Paroah” said that they should act wisely with the B’nai Yisrael, because they were more numerous than them, and he was afraid that if a country would come and wage war with them, the Jews would join the nation, and go up from the land. So he put tax masters over them, and enslaved them with very, very hard work.  
Now, the language the Torah used when talking about the Jews increasing was ‘U’Vi’nei Yisroel paru, vayishritzu, vayirbu, vayaatzmu bi’mi’od mi’od, va’timalei haaretz osam/And the Sons of Yisroel were fruitful and swarmed and increased and became very, very strong - and the earth was filled with them.’

And the Netziv (HaRav Naftali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin zt”l) comments and he explains that that verse it teaching why the Egyptians got upset and enslaved us:  The verse talks about how we spread out and filled the earth.  

And this teaches us, he explains, that we mingled with the Egyptians.  We left just living in Goshen - with other Jews - and we went out and mingled in Egyptian society.  
There, we were very vulnerable to taking their examples and assimilating, Chas V’Shalom.  And this is why the Egyptians enslaved us, he says:  Because we were almost to the point of becoming part of their nation - so Hashem had to make sure that we were separated from them so we would not become totally assimilated.  And this would come through the slavery, etc. (From Sefer Ha’Emek Davar)

Back to the parsha:  Paroah put tax masters over them, and enslaved them with very, very hard work.  However, the more they enslaved them, the more they continued to grow!  Rashi HaKadosh gives the Midrashic interpretation (from Gemara Sotah 11a) that says that the Holy Spirit (Hashem) said “You i.e. the Mitzrim/Egyptians, say ‘lest they increase’ and I say ‘so it will increase.’”

So, Paroah told the Jewish midwives, Shifra and Puah, to kill the Jewish baby boys, and to let the girls live.  And Rashi HaKadosh quotes from Gemara Sotah 11b, which says that Shifra was Yocheved, and Puah was Miriam.  Also he says that they - instead of killing the babies - cooed at them and Davened/prayed for them.  And their names are reflections of these things - as there meaning is like what they did for the babies.  

Asks HaRav Yerucham Levovitz zt”l; why are Yocheved and Miriram called these names?  They’re called after the little things that they did for the babies?  

And he answers; yes.  Because “big people” - i.e. righteous people take “little” things and make them big. “Little” things such cooing, beautifying,  and crying for babies are actually big.  And he adds a beautiful thing:  He says that there is no such thing is a “little thing” - it is only up to a person whether they make it “big” or “little”.[1]  

Okay; back to the parsha:  Shifrah (Yocheved) and Puah (Miriam) did not listen to Paroah; they feared Hashem.  What courage and devotion!  In fact, HaRav Chaim Ephraim Zaitchik zt”l says a beautiful thing on this:  

He asks; how these two people could have acquired such fear of Hashem?  He answers with the Chachamim/Sages’ answer that they adorned themselves with the deeds of the Avos/forefathers.  

They said “Our father Avraham opened an inn and fed uncircumcised wayfarers,and we will kill Jewish babies?! We will help them live!” So, he explains on the midwives adorning themselves, that from here we learn that so bold a decision requires ‘adornment’ that is, a sharpening and polishing of one’s thoughts until it becomes illuminated by the deeds of our Avos/forefathers.

He explains how powerful it is to think about what the Avos/forefathers did, how they acted and how they served Hashem. We can do this with great Rabbis also, and see what they did to serve Hashem, and hopefully, B’Ezras Hashem/with the Help of Hashem, we will be able to see how all the great people acted, and learn from them and get their example, and may we be zocheh/have the merit to serve Hashem like they did.  

This, he explains, is why it is worthy to read about great Rabbis, and try to get examples from them. Then, we can learn from them as if we were in the same generation as them!  (From Sparks of Mussar - original, HaMeoros HaGedolim)

Back to the parsha:  Hashem rewarded the midwives and gave them good.  Then, afterwards,  the Torah talks about that a man from the Tribe of Levi married a daughter of Levi. Now these people are Amram and Yocheved. Yocheved became pregnant and had Moshe.  

She hid him for as long as she could before the Mitzrim/Egyptians would know that Moshe was alive, and try to kill him.

Rashi HaKadosh brings from Gemara Sotah (12a), which explains that she had him only after 6 months being in the stomach rather than 9 months like usual. So the amount of time that she could hide him for was around 3 months. So, after that time, she put him in a basket and put it in the reeds at the bank of the river. Miriam watched it, to see what would happen.  And Gemara Sotah 12b – 13a explains that Miriam knew through prophecy (because she was a Naviah/a girl prophet) that Amram and Yocheved would have the baby that would lead the Jews out of Mitzraim/Egypt, and she knew that Hashem would save him, but she wanted to see how Hashem would save him.

So, Paroah’s daughter (the princess of Mitzraim/Egypt) went down to bathe, and she saw the basket, and she sent her ‘amasah/maidservant’ to go and get it. But, Aggadically, (Rashi HaKadosh quotes this from Gemara Sotah 12b and Midrash Shemos Rabbah) the word means her arm, and it would mean that she sent forth her arm to get it, and miraculously, it became long enough to reach it.  

And The Kotzker Rebbe (Rebbe Menachem Mendel Morgenstern of Kotzk zt”l) says a beautiful thing on this:  He says that we learn a big example from her:  What example is that?  He explains that we learn to never think something is impossible.   Because she reached out her arm, and Hashem let her reach it, and so too, if we reach out to try to do something, Hashem will help us do it. (From the Stone Edition Chumash)

But, anyway, she opened the basket and saw that there was a baby, and it was crying, and she said that it was one of the Jews.  The Holy Writings teach that from the crying of Moshe Rabbeinu, the cries of many Jewish babies could be heard.  Not only this, but Rashi HaKadosh quotes from Gemara Sotah 12b, which says that the cry of Moshe Rabbeinu was the voice of a lad (even though he was a baby).  

And there is an absolutely beautiful insight on this from the Lubliner Rebbe (and founder of Daf Yomi) - Rebbe Meir Shapiro zt”l:  

He explains that; what does it mean that his voice was ‘the voice of a lad’ - and not a baby?  What does this mean?  So, he explains that a baby really doesn’t cry for others (because they don’t understand others’ troubles), while someone older can and often does.  

And this is what the Gemara means, he explains:  Moshe Rabbeinu was crying for all of the Jewish People - and that is the ‘voice’ of someone older.  And that is how the Egyptian Princess knew he was Jewish, says Reb Meir zt”l.  Because Jews are more apt to feel and cry for others. (This is probably the meaning of what the Holy Writings taught - that through the cry of Moshe Rabbeinu, the cry of all other Jews could be heard).[2]  

Okay; now back to the parsha:  Miriam came and asked Paroah’s daughter if she should get a Jewish person to nurse Moshe, and she (Paroah’s daughter) told her that she should. Rashi HaKadosh quoting Gemara Sotah 12b says that Hashem said “Should the mouth that will speak with the Shechinah/Divine Presence drink unclean milk? Should an Egyptian woman boast that she fed the mouth that spoke with the Shechinah/Presence of Hashem?”

And there is a Halacha brought down in Shulchan Aruch that if you can nurse from a goy/non-Jewish person, or a Jewish person, then you should nurse from the Jewish person.  This Halacha seems to have been originated by this case.

Asks HaRav Yaakov Kamenetzky zt”l; should there really be a Halacha like this?  How can we derive it from this case if that was Moshe Rabbeinu!  He spoke straight to Hashem and vice-versa!  

And the answer he tells us is - yes.  Because every day, we too speak straight to Hashem.  Every single person has this ability, Baruch Hashem, and so they should try to keep their mouths holier as well.[3]

Back to the parsha:  Miriam brought Yocheved, and Yocheved nursed Moshe.  The Egyptian princess named the child Moshe, and he grew up, and one time, he saw an Egyptian hitting a Jew, so he killed him, and hid him in the sand so that the Egyptians wouldn’t know what he did.  The next day, he saw two Jews fighting - who Rashi HaKadosh from Midrash Shemos Rabbah says were Dathan and Aviram – and he asked one of them why he was hitting his fellow, and the person asked if he was going to kill him like he killed the Egyptian.

Now, hitting a fellow Jew (without very, very good and valid reason) is not at all a good thing.  It is very bad!  In fact, if you look at Rashi HaKadosh on this verse, he quotes from Gemara Sanhedrin 58b, which says that even someone who just raises their hand to strike another Jew is called ‘wicked’. (Though, of course, if, Chas V’Shalom, we lose ourselves and are about to hit someone, but then hold back - that is a great thing, as we overcame our Yetzer Hara to hit a Jew).  

And there is a great story on this, which I saw:  On the yartzheit of his mother, the Chiddushei Harim (the first Gerrer Rebbe, Rebbe Yitzchok Meir Alter zt”l) wanted to Daven/pray with a Minyan (group of ten men over 13 in his house), and he asked a person to organize the men for him.

The man whom he asked had already Davened/prayed, so he couldn’t be in the Minyan. So, he gathered ten men, but an 11th tried to get in, and the man who was organizing them told him that the Rebbe only wanted ten.  But the man wanted to get in so bad that he tried to push his way in. The organizer lost his wits and slapped the 11th man in the face. The 11th man was very insulted, and walked away.  

At Mincha, the Rebbe wanted to again Daven/pray with a Minyan. This time, the organizer hadn’t Davened/prayed, so he gathered only 9 people and included himself in the count. The Rebbe counted and told the organizer that there were only 9. The organizer counted – including himself – and said that there were 10. The Rebbe looked at the man seriously, and said that he must have counted himself. The organizer replied that he had, surprised at the question.  

The Rebbe told him that he didn’t know how he could be counted in the Minyan/group of ten men over 13, “Did you not raise your hand against a fellow Jew today?” (From Tales of Tzaddikim; Shemos).  

Back to the parsha:  Moshe Rabbeinu saw that it was known what he had done to the Egyptian, and Paroah wanted to kill him, so Moshe fled, and settled in Midian, and sat down by a well.  Now, Yisro had seven daughters, and they came to draw water and water their father’s sheep. The shepherds chased them away, but Moshe saved them from the shepherds, and watered their father’s flocks for them. They came back and Yisro, (called Reuel by the passuk/verse, as that was one of his seven names, see Rashi HaKadosh) asked them how they were so fast today, i.e. to get water and come home, since the shepherds usually chased them away, and it took a long time to get water.

They answered that a Mitzri/Egyptian man (or so they thought) saved them. Yisro told them to get the man and let him eat bread. Yisro gave Moshe Tzipporah as a wife, and they had a son and named him Gershom. The Torah says that in those days, the king of Mitzraim/Egypt died, and the Jews cried because of the work, and Hashem heard their cry, and He knew.

Says Rebbe Shmelke of Nikolsburg zt”l (and the Ohaiv Yisroel - the Apter Rebbe - Rebbe Avraham Yehoshua Heschel of Apta zt”l says essentially the same thing); the Hebrew word for work used here is ‘Avodah’ - which also can refer to our service of Hashem (in this case, Davening/praying).  

And this is the main reason why the Jews were crying, he explains.  Because the hard enslavement, etc. was making it nearly impossible to Daven/pray to Hashem - and that is the worst pain. (From my Rebbe, Rebbe Binyomin Goldstein shlita).

But anyway, Moshe Rabbeinu was shepherding Yisro’s sheep, and he guided the sheep into the wilderness, and he came to Har HaElokim/the Mountain of Hashem, which Rashi HaKadosh explains was Har Sinai. He saw a thornbush that was burning, but the flames did not burn it up entirely.

Teaches us the Noam Elimelech (Rebbe Elimelech of Lizhensk zt”l):  Some people think that they are burning with the fire of Torah and Mitzvos and so holy - when in reality, they, Rachmana Litzlan, haven’t even gotten rid of their bad traits (represented by the thorns not bring burnt up).  We must always take care to constantly rid ourselves of bad traits, and may  Hashem help everyone to do so, Amein vi’Amein.  (Told over by HaRav Elyakim Rosenblatt shlita on TorahAnytime.com).  

So, Hashem spoke to Moshe from the midst of the bush. He told him to not come any closer,and to remove his shoes, because the ground that he was standing on was holy.  
And the Chofetz Chaim (HaRav Yisroel Meir HaKohen Kagan zt”l) explains that there is a great lesson here:  The ground that we are all standing on at each moment is holy - so don’t wait to do a Mitzvah, etc.  No; if the opportunity for a Mitzvah or something like that arises - dont wait until you’re in another place - the ground on which we are standing is holy.  

And part of the way to do this, he explains, is to “remove our shoes”, so to speak - meaning to remove all things in between us and Hashem.  This is very important.  (From Chofetz Chaim Al HaTorah). 

But, back to the parsha:  Hashem told Moshe Rabbeinu that He was the G-d of Avraham Yitzchok and Yaakov. He told him that He had heard the Jews cries, and that He would take them out of Mitzraim/Egypt and He would bring them to a land flowing with milk and honey.

Hashem told Moshe that he would lead the Jews out of Mitzraim/Egypt, but Moshe thought that he wasn’t worthy of doing the job. Hashem gave him a lot of signs, but Moshe doubted that the Jews would listen to him, and Moshe said that he had blocked lips, i.e. he wasn’t good at speaking, especially publicly. Hashem told him that basically, since He gave man a mouth, then if He sent him, he would be okay.  Also, He told him that Aharon was coming, and that basically he could help him with the speaking.

Before Moshe went down to Mitzraim/Egypt, he asked Yisro permission to leave, and Yisro gave it.  But The Alter of Slobodka (HaRav Nosson Tzvi Finkel zt”l) asks; how could Moshe ask Yisro for permission for something that Hashem had told him to do?  He answers that Moshe had to do this to show his gratitude for Yisro’s help. Without gratitude, Moshe could not have been a proper leader. (From Sparks of Mussar - original -HaMeoros HaGedolim).

Back to the parsha:  Moshe Rabbeinu went down to Mitzraim/Egypt, and he told Paroah that Hashem had said to let His People go so that they could serve Him in the wilderness. Paroah didn’t listen to them, and he doubted. He also made the work harder on the Jews, because he said that it was because they were lazy that they wanted to go and serve Hashem in the wilderness (that is laziness?!), when it was actually Hashem Who had told them to.

The Jews were upset because of the extra work. But at the end of the parsha, Hashem tells Moshe Rabbeinu that now he will see what He would do to Paroah.  It is a very encouraging  ending to the parsha, as we also know that He will rescue us from this Galus/Exile and show His Wonders to the nations of the world very soon, as well.
There are 124 pessukim/verses in this parsha.  I wish you and your family a wonderful week, full of Kedusha!

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