• Dvar for Shemot (Exodus 1:1-6:1)

    The most repetitive phrase you hear when you get engaged/married is “you should build a Bayit Ne’eman (sturdy home), and it just so happens that this week’s Parsha is the very first time in the Torah that this concept is mentioned, so it might be nice to try and understand it:

    When Yocheved and Miriam, the 2 midwives responsible for delivering the Jewish babies, were ordered by Paroh to kill all the newborn boys, they disobeyed a direct order, thereby risking their lives. In explaining this to us, the Torah says that G-d rewarded them, the nation prospered and multiplied, and G-d “built them houses” (1:20-21) –  not literal houses, but rather that their descendants would become great pillars of Jewish leadership and religion (Rashi). From the way the Passuk (verse) elucidates it, though, it seems that they were rewarded AND there were houses built for them. Were they rewarded twice? If so, why?
    Rabbi Rubman points out that the Passuk says that it wasn’t because they risked their lives that they were rewarded with great descendants, but because they feared G-d that they deserved it. The reason for the double-language is because they were 1) rewarded for risking their lives, and 2) houses were built based on their fear and respect of G-d. What’s unique about these rewards is that their fear/respect of G-d is what warranted eternal reward, and NOT their life- risking actions. If the motives behind our actions are sometimes more important than the acts themselves, even if the act is life threatening, then the Torah’s message is that it truly is the thought that counts.

  • Daily Aliya for Shemot, Shlishi (3rd Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: Moshe was raised in Pharaoh’s palace. When he matured, he went out one day and saw an Egyptian smiting a Hebrew. Moshe slew the Egyptian. Word of his deed reached Pharaoh, and Moshe was compelled to flee. He escaped to Midian where he married Zipporah, the daughter of Yitro. They gave birth to a son, Gershom. Back in Egypt, meanwhile, the plight of the Israelite slaves was worsening. They cried out to G‑d, and He remembered the covenant He had made with their forefathers.

    It is interesting to note the contrast between Yosef and Moshe in this Aliya: Yosef was identified by the Wine Steward as a Jewish lad, while Moshe was identified by Yitro’s daughters as an Egyptian man. Yosef was privileged to have his remains buried in the Land of Israel, while Moshe apparently did not enjoy the same privilege. Apparently sometimes it’s good not to blend in.

  • Daily Aliya for Shemot, Sheni (2nd Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: Pharaoh called the midwives to task for not following orders. They answered that the Hebrew women were skilled in midwifery and delivered their babies before they even arrived. G‑d rewarded the midwives for their bravery. Pharaoh then commanded the Egyptians to cast all newborn male Israelites into the Nile. Moshe was born. His mother, who feared for her baby’s life, put him into a waterproofed basket and set him afloat in the Nile. Pharaoh’s daughter came to bathe, and took the child as her own. Moshe’s sister Miriam, who observed the entire episode, offered to bring a Hebrew nursemaid for the child, and when Pharaoh’s daughter agreed to the suggestion, Miriam called the child’s mother. Moshe’s mother nursed the child and after he was weaned brought him back to Pharaoh’s daughter.

    The Midrash explains that each threat to the Jewish people generated a corresponding bright star to help the Jews. Miriam is a result of the bitter work forced on the Jews (the root of her name is Mar – bitter). Moshe was borne of the order to throw all males into the river (the root of his name is Meshit – to draw from water). Aaron was borne of the threat to pregnancy (the root of Aaron is Erayon – pregnancy). Clearly, for every negative created in the world, a corresponding positive is brought to combat and equalize its influence – an encouraging lesson from this Aliya, and the Midrash.

  • Daily Aliya for Shemot, Rishon (1st Aliya)

    General Overview: This week’s Torah reading, Shemot, begins the Book of Exodus. Pharaoh issues harsh decrees against the Israelites, beginning decades of Jewish suffering and slavery. Moshe is born and raised in the Egyptian royal palace. After killing an Egyptian, Moshe escapes to Midian and marries. G‑d appears to him in a burning bush and demands that he return to Egypt to redeem the Israelites. Moshe returns to Egypt with the intention of freeing the Jewish people.

    Aliya Summary: Jacob’s sons all died. Jacob’s descendents in Egypt, however, were “fruitful and swarmed and increased and became very very strong.” A new Pharaoh arose, and he resolved to find a solution to the “Israelite problem.” He proposed to afflict the Israelites and impose slave labor upon them, thus preventing them from multiplying. He implemented the plan, and the Israelites were forced to construct storage cities for Pharaoh. “But as much as they would afflict them, so did they multiply and so did they gain strength.” Pharaoh then summoned the Hebrew midwives and instructed them to kill all the Hebrew sons that they delivered. The righteous midwives feared G‑d, however, and defied Pharaohs order.

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