Past Weekly Shabbat Message
Jewish Heritage
Rabbi Dovid Saks
(Torah Portion Shemos) Rising Above!
One who studies Torah will inevitably come across ideas that will bring him to appreciate and understand nuances that will clarify and enrich his life both in thought and in practice.

Something struck me for the first time as I began the book of Exodus, which deals with the enslavement of the Jews in Egypt, a story we are all familiar with.

Moshe was born during the period when Pharoh decreed that all males be thrown into and drowned in the Nile. Moshe was hidden for three months and then his sister Miriam placed him in a floating basket on the Nile.

Basya, Pharoh's daughter noticed the basket and retrieved it. She recognized that the child was Jewish, yet instead of killing him, she had compassion and adopted the child. Miriam then arranged that Moshe's own mother nurse him. In fact, it was Basya who named him Moshe.

Up until he was twenty years old, Moshe was raised in the comforts of the palace. The Torah then tells us that he went out to look out for his brethren. Moshe helped them with their workload and even petitioned Pharoh that they get a day off, choosing the seventh day, the holy day of Shabbos as their day of rest.

The Torah tells us that Moshe witnessed an Egyptian beating a Jewish man, and Moshe, by uttering a divine expression, killed the Egyptian.

The next day, Moshe witnessed two brothers quarrelling. One brother raised his hand to hit the other. Moshe protested, "Why are you striking your brother?"

The brother who Moshe addressed responded, "Who made you an authority to boss us around? Are you going to kill me like you killed the Egyptian yesterday?"

When he said this, Moshe's identity became known to the authorities and he became a fugitive, having to escape Egypt for his life. After fleeing to the Land of Midyan, Moshe was away from his family and people for almost sixty years.

Our Sages tell us that Dasan and Aviram were the two brothers who were fighting. Interestingly, Dasan and Aviram actually took responsibility for their Jewish brethren, but they had an issue with Moshe and caused him to flee for his life.

I began to wonder how the average person might have reflected on these events if he were placed in the same situation as Moshe. I came up with a few approaches. 1) One might harbor severe animosity towards Dasan and Aviram for informing the authorities. 2) One might also harbor animosity towards Dasan and Aviram's religious beliefs and religion. 3) One might place his trust in the Almighty, knowing that He has a plan and that all is ultimately for the good.

The Torah tells us that it took the Almighty seven days to convince Moshe at the Burning Bush to lead the Jews and take them out of Egypt. Because of his humble nature Moshe gave every excuse not to take the position of leadership. He never placed the blame on others nor showed his dissatisfaction with the way he was dealt with years before.

Moshe, the true servant of G-d, exuded belief and trust in G-d's plan, and thereby was able to get through those sixty difficult years of being separated from his family and people.

When Moshe was finally instructed by G-d to return to Egypt, G-d told him not to worry, "Because the men (Dasan and Aviram) who wish to seek your life have died."

Rashi quoting our Sages tells us, that in truth, Dasan and Aviram were still alive, however, the Talmud explains that a person who is destitute is considered as if he is dead, and Dasan and Aviram had become penniless, thus they were considered as dead and without influence.

The Vilna Goan explains in a fascinating way how our Sages knew that Dasan and Aviram were still alive. If Dasan and Aviram were actually dead, the verse should have said, "Who wished to seek your life." Why did the Torah uses the current form, "Who wish to seek your life"? This is to indicate that they were still alive and wishing that Moshe would be killed. However, they were stripped of their resources and had no influence in having Moshe killed upon returning to Egypt.

Perhaps there is another way to explain why the Torah uses, "who wish to seek your life," rather than, "who wished to seek your life." The Torah may be teaching us that although Dasan and Aviram are no longer a threat to your life, still, their wicked intent and actions that transpired many years back might still negatively impact on your soul, if you would recall those past memories and feel the same animosity towards them or their beliefs.

People who have been dealt with wickedly, wrongly or inconsiderately, often recall those horrible feelings, and feel as it is happening anew.

Moshe our leader taught us that the way to endure these challenges is to remain focused on our mission to believe in G-d and serve Him, by studying our Torah and focusing on its principles.

Had Moshe wallowed in self pity, anger and angst all those years, or had he have let the awful memories abort his plans of returning to Egypt, he would never have realized his ultimate calling to be the greatest leader of the Jewish people!

Wishing you a most enjoyable & uplifting Shabbos, Rabbi Dovid Saks