פ’ שמות תשע”ז
Volume 17, Issue 1
INSIGHTS from the SEDRA
Insights from the Sedra is a project of the Scholar’s Kollel of Great Neck. It aims to provide several questions and answers about the Sedra, culled from various commentaries, including the following: Baal Haturim, Darash Moshe, Vedebarta Bam by Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky, Torah Treasures by Dov Furer, Wellsprings of Torah by Alexander Friedman, and Kol Dodi by Rabbi Dovid Feinstein, Great Torah Lights by Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Goodman, Something To Say by Dov Wasserman, The Vilna Gaon, and Growth Through Torah by Zelig Pliskin.
ואלה שמות בני ישראל הבאים מצרימה
“These are the names of the sons of Israel who came to Egypt.” (1:1)
The Jews’ physical exile was their forced slavery; their spiritual exile was their psychological enslavement to their hosts’ culture. Although many Jews assimilated because of their exile, others struggled to retain their Jewish identity, refusing to give up their Jewish names and language because their faith in their destiny. It was only after revealing their inner identity in response to the challenge of exile that the Jewish people could receive the Torah. The purpose of the Torah is to teach us how to bring Divine consciousness into the most mundane aspects of life, even those that initially oppose Godliness. In exile, the Jewish people learned how to overcome even these forces.
The same applies to our present exile: holding on tenaciously to our traditions – even those that appear to be unimportant – will hasten our redemption. The challenges that we overcome purify and prepare us for the exalted Divine revelations that will accompany the imminent, final Redemption. (Likutei Sichot)
וכאשר יענו אתו כן ירבה וכן יפרץ
“But as much as they would afflict it, so it would increase and so it would spread out.” (1:12)
The Ohr HaChaim wonders why the verse uses the future tense here – V’ka’asher y’anu – but as much as they would afflict, rather than – V’ka’asher anu – but as much as they afflicted. This indicates that the Jewish nation would be persecuted in the future, but that the outcome would be the same as in the verse: so it would increase and so it would spread out. The message is that regardless of who would afflict Israel, the persecution would never be devastating; in fact, the Jews would always emerge stronger than before. (Ohr HaChaim)
ויצו פרעה לכל עמו לאמר כל הבן הילוד היארה תשליכהו וכל הבת תחיון
“Pharaoh gave orders to all his people: ‘You must cast every boy who is born into the Nile, but you must let every girl live.’” (1:22)
By instructing his people to “let every girl live,” Pharaoh meant that the Jewish girls should be raised as Egyptians. He thus decreed that the boys be killed physically and the girls be killed spiritually. The decree to throw the boys into the Nile also alludes to immersing the Jews in Egyptian culture, for the Egyptians worshipped the Nile as the source of their livelihood and culture.
Egypt is the prototype of all exiles. In all exiles, the ruling culture urges us to raise our children in its ways, promising that this is the path to attain material and social success. As in Egypt, resisting these promises and ensuring that our children grow up cherishing the Torah’s values is what will guarantee their material, social, and spiritual happiness, as well as their freedom from the bonds of exile. (Likutei Sichot)
ויפן כה וכה וירא כי אין איש
“He turned here and there and saw no one.” (2:12)
QUESTION: Why did Moshe not see the person who said to him on the second day, “Do you think you will kill me like you killed the Egyptian?” (2:14)
ANSWER: When Moshe saw a Jew being beaten, he was startled and dumbfounded. He could not believe his eyes. Why was an innocent Jew being beaten with nobody raising a protest? Immediately, Moshe “turned here and there”: He ran to the police, to governmental agencies, and to “humanitarians,” screaming at the top of his voice, “Do something! An innocent Jew is being beaten for no reason!” After turning to all sides and receiving no response, “vayar ki ein ish” – “He came to the realization [that the world] does not consider [Jewish blood] human.” Therefore, he had no other choice but to take the law into his own hands and kill the Egyptian. (Vedebarta Bam)
ומאז באתי אל פרעה לדבר בשמך הרע לעם הזה
“From the time I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your Name, he did evil to this people.” (5:23)
The expression from the time implies that Moshe was referring not only to his recent, unsuccessful visit to Pharaoh, but also to a meeting with Pharaoh, occurring in the distant past, perhaps when Moshe was an adolescent. Possibly, in his youth, Moshe had convinced Pharaoh to permit the Jewish slaves to rest on Shabbos. Now, years later, Moshe wondered if the harsher regimen now being imposed was intended to compensate for the Shabbatot which Bnei Yisrael had not worked.
The language of the Fourth Commandment (Devarim 5:15), in which the observance of Shabbos is explained as a memorial to Yetziat Mitzrayim, made it abundantly clear to Moshe that the servitude in Egypt was not prolonged as a result of his attempts at negotiation. On the contrary, Yetziat Mitzrayim and Shabbos observance are closely related, as the Shabbos prayer states: “Yismach Moshe b’matenat chelko”, Moshe rejoiced in the gift of his portion, that he helped Bnei Yisrael earn the Shabbos as a respite from their labors. (Chasam Sofer)
This week’s publication is sponsored in honor of the wedding of Arthur & Randi Luxenberg’s daughter, Jacqueline, to Jonathan Spiegel. For future sponsorship opportunities please call Steve Zuckerman at 516 652 5266 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or Rabbi Lichter at email@example.com. Sponsorships in memory of or in honor of someone are $50.00 per issue.