A Student Publication of the Torah Academy of Bergen County
Parshat Shemot 24 Tevet 5763 December 28, 2002 Vol.12 No.12
In This Issue:
Rabbi Darren Blackstein
Halacha of the Week
Rabbi Howard Jachter
This week’s issue of Kol Torah has
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Look Both Ways
by Rabbi Darren Blackstein
Beyond the concern for doing that which is correct and avoiding sin, is another private concern for fulfilling one’s destiny. Am I fulfilling the purpose of my own creation?
We actually have to ask if the question is meaningful. Is there a specific purpose for which I am created? Is it possible for me to discover and know that destiny? Perhaps our Parsha can shed light on this topic as we are introduced to our beloved Moshe Rabbeinu.
At the beginning of the third Perek in the first Pasuk we are told that Moshe “was” a shepherd to the flock of Yitro. This is not a mere job description but a statement of purpose. The Midrash on this verse tells us that the word “was” tells us about the subject’s destiny. In Megilat Esther (Perek 2 Pasuk 5), we are told that Mordechai “was” a Jew in the capital city of Shushan. The Midrash tells us that this word is used to convey the notion that he was prepared for deliverance Similarly, we are told that Moshe “was” a shepherd, meaning that he was created and prepared for a purpose of deliverance. Perhaps this is why Rashi chooses to bring the comment of the Midrash as he explains why Moshe took the flock deep into the wilderness. Moshe did this to avoid any grazing on other people’s property. His concern for others was outstanding. In fact, the Midrash also mentions that before ascending to greatness, one is tested by Hashem through seemingly minor actions. The occupation of being a shepherd has within it many ways of revealing one’s true character, as it did with Moshe. It seems that each person has his own destiny.
Regarding the discovery of one’s destiny, it also seems that our Parsha can be of assistance. Throughout Moshe’s life he asked questions to Hashem which seemed to be ways of clarifying his path. In our Parsha he begins by questioning his worthiness and ability to do that which Hashem has asked. He questions as to whether he will be believed! Maybe after all is said and done, Moshe finally realizes his destiny. However, all along the way he seems to be looking for signs and indications as to how to proceed. In Perek 2 Pasuk 12 we are told that Moshe looked both ways before dealing with the Egyptian. Rashi cites the comment of the Midrash, which says that Moshe looked up and down the timeline and saw no significant contribution from this man and then Moshe dealt with him. Moshe took into account the consequences of his actions and then acted. In Pasuk 14 we are told that Moshe became frightened when dealing with the two quarreling Jewish men and perhaps “the matter” became known. Rashi tells us that the simple meaning is that Moshe was worried that news of his causing loss of life to the Egyptian had spread. Rashi also brings the comment of the Midrash, which says that by seeing these Jews fighting with each other, Moshe realized why the Jews had been condemned to backbreaking labor by Hashem. The Jews could not get along amongst themselves. This message is valid on its own terms. However, we should realize that Moshe understood this by his ever-inquisitive nature. He looked for understanding and not answers.
Indeed, we can learn from our great teacher, Moshe Rabbeinu, that we each have a destiny and purpose, fashioned and designed by Hashem. It also seems that we can learn that knowing one’s destiny is not as important as pursuing one’s destiny. One may never know if a particular action or set of actions were destined in this sense. All we can do is follow the lead of Moshe, our shepherd, and keep on looking for ways to understand our actions and that which goes on around us. In this way, a person, no matter what he is doing, can demonstrate to Hashem and to himself who and what he truly is as he engages in the pursuit of his destiny.
A True Leader
by Moshe Rapps
Moshe Rabbeinu was a great leader and role model. He had fantastic leadership skills, such as being able to speak his mind and solve problems. But where did Moshe develop these skills? When Moshe was three months old, he was placed on the Nile in a basket and was recovered by Bat Paroh. When she recognized that he was a Jewish boy, she shockingly went against her father’s royal decree and raised Moshe as her own child. However, Bat Paroh’s actions are puzzling. Why did she disobey her father and raise a Jewish boy? The Baal Haturim quotes the Gemara in Masechet Sota, which states that the reason Bat Paroh was in the water in the first place was that she was in the process of converting to Judaism, thereby explaining her sympathetic attitude toward Moshe.
The Ibn Ezra ponders the question of why Moshe had to grow up in Paroh’s house. We would think that the greatest Jewish leader of all time would be raised in a Jewish home surrounded by Jewish influences and culture. The Ibn Ezra explains that Moshe had to be raised in a house of royalty to be able to acquire the leadership skills he would need, so that he could eventually become the leader of Bnai Yisrael. Had Moshe grown up as a Jewish slave, he would not have acquired the skills or the self-confidence that he would need in order to face Paroh and lead Bnai Yisrael out of Egypt. By growing up in a royal house, Moshe was free from the slave mentality from which the rest of Bnai Yisrael suffered. Also, if Bnai Yisrael recognized Moshe as a fellow slave, they would not have given him the proper respect when he became their leader. Finally, the former position that Moshe held in Paroh’s house gained him admission into Paroh’s court and made him a legitimate person to deal with. Perhaps it was his royal upbringing that gave Moshe the courage to act as he did when he went out into the world.
In addition to leading Bnai Yisrael, there were also three important incidents that took place in Moshe’s life. First, Moshe saw an Egyptian beating a Jew, which angered Moshe so much that he struck and killed the Egyptian. Then Moshe came across two Jews who were fighting and consequently he reprimanded the one who hit the other. After running to Midyan, Moshe chased away a group of shepherds who were harassing Tzipora and her sisters. In all of Moshe’s actions, he showed the key characteristic of a true leader: the willingness to act purely for the sake of justice and righteousness. Nechama Leibowitz points out that all three of these episodes are necessary to describe Moshe’s personality. Had we only known of the first incident, we might have thought that Moshe acted as he did because he was so overwhelmed to see an Egyptian taking advantage of a Jew. If we only had the second episode, with the two Jews fighting, we might think that Moshe stopped the fight because he could not tolerate seeing two fellow Jews fighting. But in the third episode, where both sides were strangers, Moshe still did the right thing by chasing away the harassers. Only at this point is Moshe ready to be called upon to lead Bnai Yisrael out of Mitzrayim.
The No-Win Situation
by Zev Feigenbaum
The Gemara (Sotah 11a) states that before Paroh decided what to do with Am Yisrael he asked three respectable people what to do. The three he asked were Bilam, Iyov, and Yitro. Bilam was the one who came up with the idea of throwing the baby boys into the river, Iyov was silent and did not give Paroh and ideas, and Yitro fled to Midyan. The Gemara goes on to say that Bilam was killed by a sword, Iyov condemned to terrible suffering, and Yitro was merited to having his descendants sit on the great Sanhedrin in Jerusalem.
The Brisker Rav asks that if we know that Hashem always rewards and punishes according to our deeds, then we understand why Bilam was killed in the way he was. Since he proposed murder, he himself was put to death in the end. But how do the punishment of Iyov and the reward of Yitro reflect what they have done.
Iyov was punished with extreme illness. Sick people moan, groan, and complain a lot about their illness or sickness. The sick person knows that his screaming or complaining does not help him get better in any way, but he still does it. While it is true that Iyov could not have stopped Paroh from enslaving and harming the Jews, he could have showed that the decision Paroh made was wrong and that he was troubled by the hearing it. Because Iyov kept silent when his words could have meant something he was punished by having terrible pains and when he cried out, his cries accomplished nothing at all.
As for Yitro, he was chosen as one of Paroh’s top three advisers and he chose to flee the land. If he would have stayed in Egypt and agreed with Paroh’s plan he and his family would have been subject to a life of honor and riches. Yitro did not choose to stay and instead he ran to Midyan. Because of his choice to give up the honor he would have gotten from Paroh he was “Zocheh” to have his descendants sit on the Sanhedrin of Jerusalem, one of the greatest honors possible.
Name That Tune
by Willie Roth
The first Pasuk in this week’s Parsha says, “These are names of Bnai Yisrael that came down to Egypt, Yaakov and every man and their household” (Shemot 1:1). Rashi asks why Hashem counted them both before and after they came down. He explains that Hashem did it to show how precious they are. In the beginning of Sefer Bemidbar Hashem counts us again, also to show how precious we are. I think that this Pasuk teaches us a lesson. Throughout our history many bad things have happened to us. However, because we are precious to Hashem, He has helped us, and we have survived. However, if you think about all the other ancient nations, civilizations, and empires, you realize that they are all destroyed. The Romans, the Greeks, the Egyptians, and the Babylonians are all gone. All of our ancient enemies who at their times were world powers have been destroyed. This idea from the Pasuk teaches us that no matter what happens to us we will live on because we are precious to Hashem. We must show Hashem that He is special to us in everything that we do. A great way is by making a Kiddush Hashem. When a non-Jewish person sees us doing something good, and that we are Jewish, we are glorifying Hashem publicly, which shows that Hashem is precious to us. We must learn this important lesson, that we are precious to Hashem, and therefore Hashem should be precious to us.
What Did We Do to Deserve This?
by Josh Rossman
Why did the Jews have to be exiled from Eretz Yisrael and be enslaved in Egypt for so many years? According to the Ramban it was a punishment for Avraham Avinu’s actions. Although Avraham left Canaan for a famine, he should have stayed there because Hashem never told him to leave. The Abarbanel also says that it was a punishment, but for a different sin. He says that it was punishment for the sin of the brothers who kidnapped Yosef. He claims that each event that happened in Egypt corresponds to something that the brothers did to Yosef. For example, they sold him into slavery, so they were enslaved. They threw him into the pit, and in return their male children were thrown in the Nile River. The Chachamim (Nedarim 32a) give three more reasons as to why we were enslaved which are based on three episodes in Avraham’s life. One such event was when Avraham sent his Talmidim to fight in the war. Another instance was when Avraham asked for a sign to indicate that he would receive Eretz Yisrael. The third reason is according to Rav Yochanan who says that Avraham didn’t give those who worshipped idols enough of a chance to repent. We see from this that our sins can have a large effect even on later generations therefore, so we should try to do more Mitzvot and fewer Aveirot in order to hasten the arrival of Mashiach.
Halacha of the Week
It is especially important to study Torah at night, since the night was made for Torah study (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 238:1).
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