The seven candles shall illuminate (8:2) – The Yalkut Shimoni notes that the reason Moshe only lit 7 candles and Shlomo lit 70 (he donated 10 menorahs to the Beis HaMikdash) is that Moshe only had to deal with the 7 nations that inhabited the land of Israel while Shlomo needed to interact with and overcome all 70 nations of the world. Rav Elyashiv ztl. explains that the power to remain vsuperior in the world comes from the illumination whose source is the Torah. The responsibility to illuminate is no longer limited to the Kohanim alone. Rather, wherever there is a Jew, there is potential for us to illuminate and radiate Torah and Torah values. When we do so, we thrive and are able to be supreme.
And those men said to him (9:7) – Why does the Possuk seem to stress that the cousins of Moshe spoke to him directly. What does Moshe have to do with their Tumah status? Rav Nissan Alpert ztl. explains that the people were those who were charged with the responsibility of carrying Yosef’s bier (the other side of the Midrash has a different interpretation). That responsibility was originally Moshe’s when he took the bones of Yosef out of Egypt. Moshe had to pass off the responsibility in order to be prepare to receive the word of Hashem at any moment. However, the cousins turned to him and asked “fine, you need to be Tahor in order to be ready to move up. But why should we LOSE on your account?”
By the word of Hashem they camped and by the word of Hashem they traveled (9:23) – The Solnimer Rebbe ztl. learned two valuable lessons from this section of the Torah. Firstly, when a Jew sets up his home, he needs to know that there are times of challenge and times of clarity in his relationships. How he chooses to proceed needs to be Al Pi Hashem (by the word of Hashem) in all instances. At the same time, the verses also speak to man’s Avodas Hashem. At times it is obvious that we are connecting to Hashem and it is easier to move forward in those times. At other times, we feel like we are in unchartered territory. At these times a more conservative approach might be important until we are sure of our footing in order to move on squarely and safely. (Rav Baruch Simon Shlita has a beautiful essay on this topic based on the concept of Lo Shinah)
He said to him “I will not go with you but rather will go to my land and my birthplace” (10:30) – Having experienced the greatness of the Jewish experience with Maamad Har Sinai, why does Yisro refer to Midyan as his land and his birthplace? Rav Soloveitchik ztl. answers that when it comes to a Ger (or even a Baal teshuva) we cannot and should not expect them to “forget their past” for memories of being young and earlier experiences are part of what make up a personality. Yisro understands this idea and desires to build upon it and bring others along in the process.
We remember the fish that we ate in Egypt for Free (11:5) – Do we really believe that the same Pharaoh who didn’t give them straw to make bricks for free actually fed them for free? Rav Moshe Sturnbuch Shlita says no. The word Chinam here means without any spiritual responsibility. In Egypt Hashem took care of the Jews equally but in the desert each person’s experience with the Manna was dependent upon his or her spiritual level. The Jews feared being unable to maintain their lofty status and so, they complained.
And Miriam and Aharon spoke about Moshe (12:1-2)- Why is this familial episode so important that it appears at this point in the Torah? Rav Moshe Tzvi Neriah ztl. explains that in the process of nation building we often find disagreements even among the leadership. Moshe Aharon and Miriam can have differences of opinion about how a leader is to act and this too, can be a big part of the growth of the nation. Rav Yechiel Yitzchak Perr Shlita used to often note that in battles between big people it is more important to understand their positions than to worry about what YOU hold.
Haftorah: Zechairah (2) – The Haftorah is often assumed to be connected to the Parsha because of its reference to the Menorah. However, the use of the image of the menorah is quite small – almost irrelevant to the theme of the Haftorah. What then is its connection to the text of the Parsha?
The Rambam (Moreh Nevuchim II: 35-43) notes that there is a key difference between the quality of the Nevuah of Moshe Rabbeinu and that of other Neviim. Moshe received his Nevuah from Hashem directly while alert and awake. Other Neviim received Nevuah (prophesy) via an angel and in a dream – in an unclear mode (Aspaklaria Sheino Meira). HaRav Hershel Schachter Shlita (intro to Sefer Ginas Egoz) notes that this is seen most openly in the Nevuah of Zechariah. Rashi notes that Zechariah’s Nevuos were so closed we are not sure of their entirety until a Moreh Tzedek will explain them. Zechariah’s Nevuah in the Haftorah was not even clear after he had it. Only after being asked by the Malach if he understands the message of the Nevuah, does Zechariah answer in the negative and has the Malach explain it to him fully. Herein, says Rav Schachter shlita, lies the difference between Moshe and the other Neviim. Indeed, at the end of the Parsha, we read about Miriam and Aharon’s challenge to the difference between their qualitative prophesy and Moshe’s. Hashem underscores Moshe’s unique prophetic status by confirming it to Miriam and Aharon and then striking Miriam with Tzoraas. That difference, the supremacy of the Nevuah of Moshe continues to serve as a basic fundamental in the faith of the Jew until today.