תש”ף פ’ שמות
Volume 32, 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 Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser, The Vilna Gaon, Growth Through Torah by Zelig Pliskin and The Call of the Torah.
וימררו את חייהם בעבודה קשה
“And they embittered their lives with hard labor… (1:14)
There are cantillation marks (kadma v’azla) on top of the words וימררו את חייהם – “and they embittered their lives,” to allude to one of the difficult questions regarding the Exodus of Bnei Yisrael from Egypt. Avraham was told that his children would dwell in galut for 400 years, yet the Torah teaches us that Bnei Yisrael’s sojourn in Egypt lasted only 210 years. Our Sages explain that the extreme affliction and bitterness of Egyptian bondage made the 210 years as difficult as 400 years of a more moderate galut.
It is also written that Bnei Yisrael worked by night and by day. Since they doubled their worktime, they were able to leave after only 210 years. In the Haggadah, it is written that Hashem contemplated the “end” – קץ . The gematria for the word קץ is 190 so that 400 minus 190 is 210. Were Bnei Yisrael to stay in Egypt the entire 400 years, they never would have left. (Great Torah Lights)
“And she placed it among the reeds.” (2:3)
Where exactly was this “suf”? One opinion is that this suf was the Yam Suf, the Sea of Reeds, and Yocheved put the basket at the point where the Yam Suf meets the Nile River. The waters there do not flow, and the basket would stay in one place.
Another opinion is that Yocheved hid the basket in the still waters of a marsh, among the reeds and willows, which are called suf, so that passerby would not notice him. (Teachings of the Talmud – Sotah 12a)
ואמרו לי מה שמו…ויאמר אלקים אל משה אהי-ה אשר אהי-ה
“And they will tell me ‘what is his name?’ And G-d said to Moshe, ‘I shall be as I shall be.’” (3:13-14)
QUESTION: 1) Instead of “ve’amru li mah shemo” – “they will tell me what is His name” – Moshe should have said “veyishalu mimeni” – “they will ask me?” 2) Why did Hashem tell him to use the name אהי-ה and not one of the more familiar names?
ANSWER: Hashem told Moshe, “One of my names is אהי-ה – “I will be” – the word אהי-ה has the numerical value of 21, and אהי-ה אשר אהי-ה is 21 times 21 which totals 441. The word אמת
(truth) also adds up to the value of 441.” Thus, Hashem assured Moshe, “You have nothing to fear. Just tell them the truth and they will listen. Truth is extremely powerful and will have the desired effect.” (Vedebarta Bam)
ויאמר משה…לא איש דברים אנכי…כי כבד פה וכבד לשון אנכי
“Moshe said… ‘I am not eloquent…my speech is impaired and my tongue is slow…’” (4:10)
QUESTION: Logically, Moshe was right. Why did Hashem choose an emissary who was tongue-tied?
ANSWER: Pharaoh was very stubborn about freeing the Jews from Egyptian bondage. Moreover, Hashem hardened his heart and he became even more reluctant. Due to a series of wonders and miracles designed to demonstrate Hashem’s power, the Jews were enabled to leave Egypt.
If the Jewish leader had been a renowned articulate and eloquent speaker, some people could have erroneously credited Israel’s liberation from Egypt to his power of persuasion. Therefore, Hashem selected Moshe who was not eloquent. Thus, his power of speech would never be seen as the cause of the redemption of the Jewish people from Egypt. (Drashot HaRan)
ויקח משה את מטה האלקים בידו
“Moshe took the staff of G-d in his hand…” (4:20)
Even though, as we will see, Moshe showed Pharaoh the honor due a king and spoke to him respectfully, he made no compromises in his demands concerning the people’s spiritual and physical needs. He spoke with “the staff of G-d in his hand,” i.e., with authority and determination.
The lesson for us here is that whenever we are confronted with an “Egyptian king,” i.e., someone who seeks to impose upon us elements of a lifestyle that goes against our values and principles – whether through kindness or force – we must recognize the inherent danger in succumbing to such pressure. In the end, this Pharaoh will tell us to drown ourselves (or our children) in material culture. We must therefore respectfully but resolutely insist on living according to the Torah’s values. (Lubavitcher Rebbe)
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