A Student Publication of the Isaac and Mara
Benmergui Torah Academy of Bergen County
Parshat Shemot 21 Tevet 5762 January 5, 2002 Vol.11 No.16
This week's issue has been sponsored by Ruby and (Coach) Bobby Kaplan in honor of their new granddaughter Menucha Malka (a future point guard),
daughter of their children Ilana and Jeffrey Gdansky
Real Chessed - Moshe's
by Rabbi Herschel Solnica
begins with the story of Moshe's birth and a description of certain events in
his life. Three episodes described in our Parsha stand out as presenting the
basic character traits of the greatest leader and teacher of the Jewish people.
These three stories as described in the Torah seem to be trivial, but it is
tremendously important, if not imperative, to understand and appreciate them
in order for our people to survive.
The earliest challenge that Moshe faced was when he saw a vicious Egyptian beating a Jew (Shemot 2:11). His reaction was swift, yet careful. By killing the Egyptian (Shemot 2:12) he made it clear that Jewish blood is not cheap! The Torah then presents a second story. On the next day, Moshe saw one Jew raising his hand against a fellow Jew (Shemot 2:13). This enraged Moshe to the extent that he exclaimed Achen Noda Hadavar, "indeed the matter is known" (Shemot 2:14). As Rashi explains in the name of the Midrash, Moshe's exclamation was the result of his realization of why the Jewish people, of all nations, were sentenced to this period of suffering and slavery. He suddenly realized the greatest Jewish weakness: self-hatred and "Jewish" anti-Semitism. When one Jew abuses another Jew, the nation is indeed in great trouble, and deserves whatever punishment befalls them. In the Sefer, Al Hatorah, Rabbi Mordechai Hakohen underscores this point by focusing on the Pasuk later in the Torah where Moshe expresses doubt that Paroh will listen to him saying Bnai Yisrael did not listen to me, so how will Paroh listen to me, especially since I have a speech defect" (Shemot 6:12). This Sefer suggests that Moshe here was really wondering what he would do if Paroh would listen to him while his own people reject him. Then, he says, he will be unable to respond. There is very little to say when Jews do not trust or get along with each other.
Finally, when Moshe was in Midyan, he saw that several shepherds were driving seven young women and their sheep away from the well. Moshe could not tolerate such discrimination; he therefore stood up and helped them, and provided water for the flock. We see from here how important it is to stand up for social justice. Chazal tell us that the world is built on kindness, an idea expressed in Tehillim (89:3), where we read Olam Chessed Yivneh. This is not limited, however, to Chessed done by or for Jews exclusively. Indeed, we recognize the greatness of Chassidei Omot Haolam, the righteous gentiles, whom the Rambam tells us (Hilchot Teshuva 3:5) have a share in Olam Haba. It would not be possible for us to acknowledge this unless we understand the existence of a notion of Chessed and social justice which applies to the whole world.
Through these episodes, we are trained by Moshe Rabbeinu, our fearless leader, to be ready to follow his example. We must be prepared to fight the vicious anti-Semites who threaten our existence. At the same time, we are directed to bring peace and stop the fighting between the different factions of our Kehillah. The great enemies of the Jews throughout the centuries, down to our very own day, made no distinction between observant and non-observant Jews. The collective suffering of our people can serve as an eternal symbol that should inspire us to unite and to love each other as we love Hashem.
Finally, we dare not live a parochial, self-centered life. We are a part of the larger community. Sometimes, one who suffers a personal tragedy sees kindness from every friend he has ever known; from colleagues, Talmidim, congregants and Chaverim who stand together to help in whatever way possible. Jew and non-Jew can show to each other the Chessed that was so beautifully displayed by our Rebbe, Moshe Rabbeinu. The story is told of two men who were seated in the lobby of a hotel; one was a white American and the other an Apache Indian. The Caucasian stared at the Indian, and respectfully asked, "Are you really a full-blooded Indian?" "Well, no," replied the Apache thoughtfully, "I am short one pint of blood, which I just gave to save a white man's life." This is an example of real Chessed, Moshe's style.
The No-Win Situation
by Zev Feigenbaum
(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 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.
The House that the Meyaldot Built
by Moshe Rapps
Perek of Parshat Shemot speaks about the suffering of Bnai Yisrael under the
power of the Egyptians. Paroh, king of the Egyptians, decreed that all baby
boys born to the Jews were to be killed. However, the Meyaldot, the Jewish midwives
Shifra and Puah, ignored the decree of Paroh and saved the babies. In Shemot
1:20-21 the Torah writes, "And Hashem did good to the midwives and the
people [of Israel] increased and became very strong. And it was because the
midwives feared God that He made houses for them."
If the Meyaldot did such a great thing by saving all those Jewish baby boys, what does it mean that Hashem is rewarding them with houses? Does this not seem like a very insignificant reward for the deed they performed?
Rashi, when the Meyaldot were first introduced in the Parsha, comments that Shifra and Puah were really Yocheved, Moshe's mother, and Miriam, his sister. In this Pasuk, Rashi brings down a Gemara in Sotah, which says that these "houses" refer to the houses of the Kohanim and Leviim, and the house of Malchut, kingship. The Kohanim and Leviim would come from Yocheved and the kings of Israel would come from Miriam.
A second question can now be raised. Why does the phrase "and the people [of Israel] increased and became very strong" interrupt the description of the reward of the Meyaldot?
Rav Moshe Feinstein answers the following. The real reward of the Meyaldot was not that they got "houses,"
but rather that the Jewish people grew and strengthened. But why were the Meyaldot rewarded in the first place, after all, a person must die to not kill another person, so why was the deed of the Meyaldot so great? This is answered by the fact that if someone is happy due to the fact that he is no longer obligated to fulfill a difficult Mitzva, he is not punished because of this. But the two Meyaldot had so much faith in Hashem, that they would have been upset if a baby had died even beyond their control because they did not want to be suspected of being relieved that they did not have to disobey the order of Paroh for that particular child. Because of this great faith in Hashem, He rewarded them by keeping all the Jewish babies alive, as it says "Vayirev Haam Vayaatzmu Meod."
Halacha of the Week
The Halachic propriety of opening a plastic bag is somewhat complex. See Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach's discussion of this issue, that appears in the Shemirat Shabbat Kehilchata 9:3, footnote 19. Since the issue is complex, it might be best to avoid being lenient even when it is technically permitted to do so (similar to Teshuvot Igrot Moshe O.C. 1:122).
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