Past Weekly Shabbat Message
Jewish Heritage
Rabbi Dovid Saks
(Torah Portion Shemos) Just Raising a Hand!

The Torah relates that Moshe, who would eventually lead the Jewish people, was raised in the palace of Pharoh.

When Moshe was three months old and in danger of being killed by the Egyptians his mother placed him in a basket in the Nile and he was found by Pharoh’s daughter Basya who rescued him.

Miriam, Moshe’s sister, who was standing by and watching, witnessed Basya taking her brother. Moshe would not nurse from an Egyptian nurse and Miriam volunteered to Basya that she would get a Jewish woman to nurse the child. Miriam returned with Moshe’s own mother Yocheved, who was hired to nurse him.

It sounds preposterous that Moshe was raised in Pharoh’s palace and yet remained under the radar, but that is exactly what happened. When Moshe was twenty years old, Pharoh appointed him to a top position in his kingdom. On that very day, Moshe went to check out the conditions of his brethren, and he encountered an Egyptian beating a Jewish man. This Egyptian had impersonated the Jewish man and had been intimate with his wife. Moshe looked around to see if anyone was watching, and then killed the Egyptian by reciting a special name of G-d. However as we will soon see, someone was in fact watching.

Our sages tell us that the purpose of Moshe looking around was to see into the future with his prophetic vision to see if any of the descendants of this Egyptian would convert. When he saw that none of them would convert, and got the go ahead from the ministering angels, he pronounced the holy name and the Egyptian died.

The Torah relates that two fellow Jews (Dasan and Aviram) were arguing the next day. When Moshe saw what was going on, he proclaimed, “Wicked one, why are you hitting your friend?”

They turned to Moshe and said, “Are you going to kill us like you killed the Egyptian?” They then informed the authorities on Moshe and Pharoh issued a warrant for Moshe’s life. Moshe immediately ran for his life but Pharoh’s men caught up with him wielding a sharp weapon to his neck. Miraculously, Moshe’s neck turn into marble and the sword did not penetrate. Later, Moshe offered gratitude to G-d for saving his life from the sword of Pharoh. Moshe immigrated to the land of Midyan where he met and married his wife Tzipora.

When Moshe tried stopping the Jewish man, Dasan, from hitting his brother Aviram, he said, “Wicked one, why are you hitting your brother?” Rashi, quoting our sages, tells us that he never actually hit his brother, he only raised his hand with the intent to hit him, yet Moshe considered the act of raising a hand to hit a fellow as if the deed was performed, and called him wicked!

Rabbi Yaacov Kamenetzky o.b.m. points out that Moshe was acting properly by stopping one from hitting the other, and by eliminating the Egyptian who was intimate with someone’s wife. Thus, they should have been grateful to Moshe, yet the brothers joined together and berated Moshe and informed the authorities on him, for butting into their issues.

The Torah relates Moshe’s reaction to the Dasan and Aviram fiasco: “Now I understand the reason why the Jews were being enslaved.” The Medrash relates that Moshe understood that the cause of the servitude was Lashon Harah – slander, informing and speaking ill about each other. It was not until about 60 years later when the servitude became unbearable that the Jews utilized their power of speech and voice properly and effectively cried out to G-d that they became worthy of redemption. G-d at the Burning Bush then dispatched Moshe to lead the Jews out of Egypt.

Rabbi Zalman Sorotzkin o.b.m. points out that to combat Pharoh and Egypt G-d gave Moshe a G-dly staff and empowered Moshe’s hands to perform miracles before the Jewish people and on Pharoh and the Egyptians. There was no need for armies or weapons, just the trust in G-d’s power, and His promise that He would free the Jews from Egypt.

Interestingly, right before Moshe left to go back to Egypt, G-d informed him that the people who wished to kill him – Dasan and Aviram – were no longer a threat.

Perhaps G-d was telling Moshe the fault you saw during your encounter with Dasan and Aviram which made you understand why the Jews were worthy of enslavement has been eliminated. The Jews are a changed people, calling out to Me and depending on Me, their manner of speech about one another has improved, they are not feuding with each other and they are lending a helping hand for one another rather than lifting a hand against them.

All these factors played a role in G-d expediting our ancestors’ redemption from Egypt. Today too, improving in these areas will expedite our long and eagerly awaited Redemption – with the coming of Moshiach. It will be a time when all people will recognize the Omnipotence of G-d and as a result the Shalom - peace that we desperately need - will reign throughout the world!

Have a most enjoyable, restful and peaceful Shabbos!
Rabbi Dovid Saks