Points to Ponder

Shemos 5779


אֵ֗לֶּה שְׁמוֹת֙ בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל These are the names of Bnei Yisrael (1:1) – Rashi comments that Hashem sees us like the stars and loves us hence he wants to count us all of the time. Why are we compared to the stars? Wouldn’t it be better to be compared to the sun which offers a lot of light all by itself? Rav Moshe Shapiro ztl. quoted Rav Leib Bakst ztl. who explained that the sun was created to provide light and warm the earth in order to make things grow. The moon was created to illuminate and control the tides. However, the stars were created as a result of the shrinking of the moon in order to provide assistance. Just as the stars are created only to provide support and comfort to their creative purpose, Bnei Yisrael exist only to do the will of Hashem and to assist the world at large.


כָּל־הַבֵּ֣ן הַיִּלּ֗וֹד הַיְאֹ֨רָה֙ תַּשְׁלִיכֻ֔הוּ: Every male child born to you shall be tossed in to the Nile (1:22) – The Talmud (Sotah 12a) notes the length that Pharaoh went to avoid the fear he experienced as a result of the prognostications of his magicians. He was so afraid of the Jewish savior that he had the babies tossed in the Nile and killed off even the children of his own people in order to get away from a fear of the future. Ironically, it was this very plan that had Moshe brought to his own home and raised right under his nose. The Steipler ztl. comments that the whole story teaches us that man’s plans do not help one iota when they are in conflict with Hashem’s master plan. We see a similar point in Megillas Esther when Haman too, planned his plan and it was exactly his plan to defeat the Jewish people that served as the point of Yeshua – salvation and the means of defeating him. The Steipler adds that Hishtadlus can be best understood in this context – doing what you can to bring about Hashem’s plan – not your own.


וְכָל־הַבַּ֖ת תְּחַיּֽוּן And all daughters you shall let live (1:22) – Why does the Torah highlight this aspect of the ruling of Pharaoh? Rav Shaul Yisraeli ztl noted that it too, is part of the Gezaira. When we create a situation where we have a strong disparity between the young men and the women, we create a situation where the latter seek comfort elsewhere. This was part of Pharaoh’s plan – to make a limit on the supply of “good” boys so that the Jewish women would seek out wisdom and companionship in the intellectual halls of the secular culture and get the Jewish girls that way.


משֶׁ֥ה משֶׁ֖ה Moshe Moshe (3:4) – As opposed to the Avraham Avraham and the Yaakov Yaakov where there is a bar between the name, by Moshe it is not so. Why? Rav Schachter Shlita quoted Rav Chaim of Volozhin who explains that there is only one who lived up to his greatest potential. That was Moshe. Hence, there is no bar between the potential person who was Moshe and the person who became Moshe. Rav Schachter Shlita added that it is incumbent upon each person to consider what is expected of him and to try to live up to his potential – without a bar.


אַל־תִּקְרַ֣ב הֲלֹ֑ם שַׁל־נְעָלֶ֨יךָ֙ מֵעַ֣ל רַגְלֶ֔יךָ Don’t come close to here, take your shoes off (3:5) – Why must Moshe take off his shoes if he is not to come close to here? Rav Mattisyahu Solomon Shlita explained that there were 2 Kedushos at the Sneh – the first was the Kedusha of the Sneh itself – akin to that of the Shechina. To that Kedusha, one cannot get too close for it is too bright as the Shechina. However, the second Kedusha comes from being at the experience and what merely being there does for the person. For that which he becomes in that moment, he must remove his shoes. Speaking in the forest where the entire Kelm community was murdered, Rav Mattisyahu added that we cannot fathom the Kedusha of those murdered Al Kiddush Hashem but we certainly CAN become more kadosh from standing and learning from their actions and making it ours. (Compare to Rav Elazar M. Teitz Shlita’s comment that while we cannot always walk in the shoes of the great ones, we most certainly can walk in their footsteps.)


שְׁלַח־נָ֖א בְּיַד־תִּשְׁלָֽח Send someone else (4:13) – The Midrash notes that Yosef had given Bnei Yisrael the magic words of Pakod Yifkod as the key words to identify the Go’el. If everyone knew them, what was the secret? What stopped ANYONE from using them? Rav Betzalel Rudinsky Shlita quoted a second Misrash that notes that Yosef’s secret was in the words Pakod through Rachel and Pakaditee through Leah. In other words, the Galus happened because of the sibling rivalry. Its ending has to come through the end of the sibling rivalry. Hence, Moshe demurred the mission from Hashem because he felt Aharon should’ve been sent first. Hashem noted that Aharon had already quieted the possibility of a rivalry from his perspective. It was the ultimate setting for the achieving the Geulah.


לְכ֖וּ לְסִבְלֹֽתֵיכֶֽם: Pharaoh told the people get back to work (5:4) – Rashi comments that the slavery was on the shoulders of all of the Shevatim except Levi. Chezkuni explains that this is because Yaakov taught his Torah teaching ability to Levi and the Leviim went and established many Yeshiva systems in Mitzrayim as a result. That is what they knew. Rav Gifter ztl. asks that if this is indeed the case, why did Yaakov send YEHUDA and not LEVI to set up the first Yeshiva in Goshen? Rav Gifter answers that when we establish something, it must be anchored with a sense of royalty if it is to be structured to be successful. However, behind the royalty there needs to be faculty that is properly equipped to teach the Torah in the manner that it is meant to be taught – with teachers who are able to get through to their students. Sometimes in our generation there are institutions where this model is forgotten.


Haftara:  הַבָּאִים֙ יַשְׁרֵ֣שׁ יַֽעֲקֹ֔ב יָצִ֥יץ וּפָרַ֖ח יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל Those who come are the roots planted by Yaakov, they will flower and sprout forward Yisrael (Yeshayahu 27:6) – Rav Mendel Kaplan ztl. noted that the focus of the book of Shemos is more on the Geulah. In fact, the depth of the suffering is truncated by the text. Why? Rav Kaplan explained that the point of the story is like the point of the Haftara. Really, the theme of the book of Shemos is the growth of Am Yisrael. Where will the nation successfully sprout? It will happen in the place selected for plowing and weeding and gardening. Mitzrayim was one such place. Through the hard work, the nation sprouted forth.