Points to Ponder – Shemos 5774

Intro to Shemos – The Ramban notes that the book of creation is completed with the end of Parshas VaYechi. The book of Shemos begins a new chapter in the lives of the Jewish people and their destiny. How do we understand the change? Rav Wolbe ztl. explains that the difference is in the style. In Berashis Hashem identifies himself only from a distance. In Shemos his involvement is openly apparent. He quotes the Rashba who notes that in the Friday night Kiddush we highlight these aspects. When referencing creation we make references to Hashem in the third person. When we switch to Yetzias Mitzrayim, we use the second person voice. Sefer Shemos is called Sefer Geulah not only because of the redemption of the nation but also of the revelation of the name of Hashem in the world.

And his sister stood at a distance to know what would happen to him (2:4) – Chazal tell us that Miriam had predicted (based on Nevuah) that her mother would have a baby who would save the Jewish nation. When the baby was put into the river, her father hit her on the head and asked her “what happened to your Nevuah now?” Rav Shmuel Rozovsky ztl.  notes that Miriam remained unflustered. She stood steadfast to know exactly how what she believed was going to turn out. (Yatziv)

And she called him Moshe since she had drawn him from the water (2:10) – The wording Moshe seems to focus on where he was headed not where he came from – why call him Moshe?  Rav Shlomo of Belz ztl. once noted that where the head comes from is where the person is headed. If Moshe came from water which always is associated with reaching out to others and taking on their forms, so it would be with Moshe – always moving forward to reach out to others.

And he turned this way and that way and saw that there was no man (2:12)Rabbi Aharon Ziegler Shlita once commented that often in life we look to our left and our right to see if someone will stand up for that which is correct. When Moshe saw that no one was doing so, he took responsibility. He did not ask if it was “worth it”. He responded. Shouldn’t we?

And Moshe swore to stay with the man (2:21) – The Midrash comments that Moshe swore to allow his firstborn son to be brought up through the ideology of Avodoa Zara. How could Moshe agree to such a request? And how could Yisro who had already rejected Avoda Zara request it? Rav Yisroel Lau Shita explains that Moshe and Yisro never intended to have the child raised in the ways of Avoda Zara. Rather, Yisro wanted Moshe to raise his family in Midyan where he would be able to influence the Midyanites. However, in the process, it might have a deleterious effect on his family.  Indeed, the Midrash notes that in the future, the children of Gershom were open to the tragedy of Pesel Michah as a result.

And Hashem called out to him “Moshe,  Moshe” (3:4) – The midrash cites the comment that similar to Yosef who was equally as committed when he was a shepard as when he was a viceroy so too, with Moshe when he was a shepard so too, when he was a leader – he didn’t change. How is that possible? We know that Moshe grew from the experience at Maamad Har Sinai? How could he be the same person. Rav Shteinman Shlita suggests that he was forward focused on spiritual improvement in the same way before speaking to Hashem as afterward.

 When you return to Mitzrayim see the signs that I have placed in your hands and perform them before Pharaoh (4:21) – The Abarbanel notes that after spending so much time on the need to take the Mateh, all of a sudden it disappears from Hashem’s instructions – and limited to the hand of Moshe. What happened to the Mateh? The Abarbanel answers that Hashem had encouraged Moshe to use it as a means of inspiration but that he did not want Moshe to use it as a magic crutch. Rav Lamm Shlita would often note the common nature of the Orthodox Jew to shirk his own responsibilities and focus on the crutch – be it the mezuzah-check or the latest Segulah or even the realm of Jewish Education wherein many do not see it as supplemental but rather as replacement for the hand of the person. Judaism recognizes that there are many Keilim to be used BY man in achieving a life-long Kesher with Hashem but it is man who must be responsible for that Kesher.

Haftorah: Those who are coming will set roots in Jacob and give off flowers of Israel (Isaiah 27:6) – What is the connection between a prophesy about the days of king Chizkiyahu and the beginning of the slavery in Mitzrayim? Rashi notes that the Baim referenced in the Possuk referred to the children of Yaakov who came to Mitzrayim and became a multitude of nations. The Redak says that the Baim refers to days – that although it looks like the days are darker and the freedoms shrinking, in actuality the steps to Geulah are closer. Rav Yosef Carmel Shlita notes that these 2 commentaries are really not at odds. When the brothers came down to Mitzrayim and slowly and surely the beginnings of the slavery were felt, it would have been easy for them to fall into thoughts of Yiush – of abandon. Instead, the message of the Haftorah – similar to that of the Torah reading is that in the darkest moments, the best thing to do is build.