Category Archives: Shmot

The Savior’s Speech

Ohr Hachayim Exodus: Shmot

The Savior’s Speech

“Be a craftsman in speech that thou mayest be strong, for the strength of one is the tongue, and speech is mightier than all fighting.”

Maxims of Ptahhotep, 3400 B.C.

In the movie, “The King’s Speech,” there is a painfully poignant scene when the prince has to address the nation on public radio. He stutters horribly to his eternal shame. It is hard to imagine a more embarrassing scenario.

It is no wonder then, that Moses, apparently also saddled with speech impairment, begs God not to send him as His delegate to Pharaoh and the Jewish nation. God gives Moses an interesting answer:

“And the Lord said unto him: ‘Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes a man dumb, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I the Lord?” Genesis 4:11

The Ohr Hachayim posits that God is telling Moses that not only does He know that Moses has this handicap, but that it was given to Moses on purpose. And because of this handicap He wishes Moses to overcome it and become the greatest orator in Jewish tradition.

The Ohr Hachayim gives two possible endings to Moses’ speech impediment. One is that thanks to God’s intervention, Moses overcame the physical impediment and was able to speak clearly once he had to.

The other, perhaps more interesting possibility, is that Moses gave all of his speeches while still having some sort of speech defect. God apparently wanting to make a point: that you don’t need to be perfect in every single trait in order to fulfill God’s commands. Even our great teacher Moses, whose main physical function was to speak, did so with a handicap – and did it better than anybody else.

May we appreciate the health we have, and not be bitter over the God-given impairments.

Shabbat Shalom,

Bentzi

Dedication

To Dr. Anthony Beukas, my speech professor at Yeshiva University. I still remember some of his lessons.

Sin-proof

Kli Yakar Exodus: Shmot

Sin-proof

“They attack the one man with their hate and their shower of weapons. But he is like some rock which stretches into the vast sea and which, exposed to the fury of the winds and beaten against by the waves, endures all the violence.” –Virgil

Cynics often berate the power of one person against the masses. That one individual can change the course of history seems statistically improbable. Yet history is composed and inspired by exactly such personalities. Without the steadfastness of Winston Churchill, it is not clear the Nazis would have been defeated. Without the clarity of Abraham Lincoln the course of American history may have taken a different, darker turn. The examples are countless.

The Kli Yakar is of the opinion that one man can inspire others to righteousness. That inspiration, amongst other things, has an interesting side benefit. Protection from sin.

In the beginning of the Book of Exodus, the Bible recounts briefly how the children of Israel descended to Egypt. It adds that ‘Joseph was in Egypt’. The grandfather of all commentators, Rashi, explains that this sentence alludes to Joseph’s righteousness. The righteousness though is only mentioned after his death, for how can we know the full account of a man until after his life has been lived? The righteousness is further compared to the stars that stay forever in the sky after the setting of ones life.

The Kli Yakar then elaborates based on the verse in Daniel (12:3):

“…and they that turn the many to righteousness are as the stars for ever and ever.”

Such people are protected from sin. Why? The Kli Yakar (Exodus 1:1) explains that there should not be a situation where the man who inspired so many, should go to Hell, while his disciples go to Heaven. Hence, protection from sin.

May we have opportunity to inspire others and be inspired ourselves.

Shabbat Shalom,

Bentzi

Dedication

To the many who have inspired me. To those I have the privilege of teaching. Your merit may be the thing saving me from worse destinations.

Harbinger of Light

Exodus: Shmot

Harbinger of Light

Pharaoh's Daughter retrieves baby Moses from the Nile

“638 male babies have been thrown in to the Nile,” the Captain read from his papyrus scroll, “18 male babies have been absconded by their families to further districts, and one male baby is unaccounted for.”

“What does ‘unaccounted for’ mean?” Pharaoh asked in irritation from his throne.

“We have searched every crevice of the family’s home,” the Captain explained apologetically, “and that of their neighbors, their relatives and anyone they are in regular contact with. We have searched behind every bush and under every stone, but the baby is nowhere to be found.”

“What does the family claim?” Pharaoh demanded. “What do they say happened to the baby?”

“They claim the infant has already been thrown in to the Nile, but there is no mention of this in our records.”

“Are you sure?”

“We are certain, O Pharaoh. Our records are impeccable. Our forces have not supervised the throwing of the Amram child into the Nile.”

“Amram, you say,” Pharaoh nodded pensively. “It would have to be his child. He is the leader of the Hebrews. His child would certainly be a candidate to be the destined Redeemer. Where can he be?”

“I can answer that, Father,” a striking young woman declared as she strode into Pharaoh’s audience chamber.

“Daughter, what is the meaning of this?” Pharaoh asked in surprise and annoyance.

“I can report on the unaccounted child that you have not managed to drown yet.”

“Daughter, I know that you disapprove of our activities, however bear in mind that this is for the greater good of Egypt.”

“Pfah,” the daughter made a spitting motion, “you would slaughter innocent babes and still call yourself a hero? You put too much weight in your astrologers’ omens.”

“Daughter, beware of that tongue of yours or we can have the offensive organ removed, even from you, my precious jewel.”

“You would silence the only one who tells you the truth? You are surrounded by these sycophantic mongrels who have twisted your mind with superstition and half-truths. They will lead you and Egypt to nothing but misery.”

“Captain,” Pharaoh turned away from his daughter, “leave us, and on your way out, call for the Royal Executioner, and my advisors.”

The daughter took a step back at mention of the executioner.

“Daughter,” Pharaoh returned his gaze, “do not joust with me in such a tone, and certainly not in front of my underlings. I think perhaps a lesson in respect is in order.”

“How can I respect a cold-blooded murderer?”

“I will show you.”

Moments later the Royal Executioner walked in, followed by Pharaohs advisors, Jeinis and Jimbrei.

“Executioner. What temporary ways do you have to silence a person?” Pharaoh looked meaningfully at his daughter, “I know that tongues do not grow back, but is there something short of cutting a tongue that may teach a long-lasting lesson in etiquette to the Princess?”

“Irons, Pharaoh. Irons are the way.”

“You would close her mouth with irons? While I am tempted by the notion, I would like something less unseemly.”

“No, Pharaoh. I meant hot irons. If we poke her tongue or the inside of her mouth with hot irons, she will not talk for a while, but eventually it will heal.”

“How long will she be silent for?”

“I am not sure. The few times I tried it, the subject died from their wounds, but I would be very careful with the princess. It would take perhaps several months to heal, maybe even a year.”

“A year is very good then. Be careful her beautiful features should not be marred. And if she does not speak again in a year, Executioner, you will lose more than your tongue.”

“But, Father,” the daughter exclaimed in alarm, “I thought you would want to know about the unaccounted child?”

“Yes then. Tell me.”

“Only if you do not unleash your henchman on me.”

“That, my dear, will depend on the nature of your answer.”

“I have the baby.”

“You do? Good work. Hand him to the Executioner and we shall dispose of him presently.”

“No.”

“What do you mean ‘No’?”

“I shall not hand him over. He is my son.”

“Your son? Your son!?” Pharaoh got off his throne and started shouting. “What in the name of Ra are you talking about!”

“I found him in the river. I have adopted him to be my son. By all the ancient laws, he is mine. You can not have him.”

“Have him? I do not want to have him! I want to kill him! He may be the most dangerous thing to the Egyptian empire and you are protecting him?”

“Yes. And if I could, I would protect every single one of those innocent babes who you believe are so dangerous.”

“Daughter! You go too far!!”

“No! I do not go far enough! I will never hand him over. If I could save even one child, I will have done my duty.”

“You would dare? You would dare rebel against your own father’s command? This is treason. I would not spare even you from punishment.”

“I dare. I should have done this long ago.”

“So be it. Executioner! We shall execute the Princess right here and now without delay. I cannot stand even a moment further with this rebellious child. Do it now!”

The executioner hastily grabbed the Princess and a cushioned bench and prepared her for beheading. He forced her kneel on the floor, and then firmly tied her torso to the bench leaving space for her head to hang over the side of the bench. He tied the Princess’ hands behind her back and placed a pan on the floor where her head would fall. Pharaoh paced back and forth seething in anger, yet holding back tears. The executioner then removed his sword and ran his fingernail over its edge to check its sharpness. He spread his legs and raised his sword. He lowered the sword slowly to the Princess’ neck to make sure of the angle and distance needed to make a quick clean cut. He then raised the sword again and tensed his powerful muscles, getting ready to bring it down again, strongly and rapidly.

“O Pharaoh,” Jeinis bowed down, “if I may be so bold as to interrupt.”

“Proceed Jeinis,” Pharaoh raised his hand to the executioner in a halting sign, happy for the reprieve and hoping Jeinis would provide a different solution. The executioner in the meantime slowly lowered his sword.

“From the most recent signs, it seems that the latest crisis is over,” Jeinis continued.

“What do you mean?”

“He means, O Pharaoh,” Jimbrei interjected, “that according to the stars, the Redeemer has already been thrown into the Nile.”

“Already thrown? That is a relief. Is the danger over then?”

“Um, not exactly,” Jeinis mumbled.

“Well is there danger or is there not?”

“Pharaoh knows how difficult it is to read the stars,” Jimbrei intoned. “It seems the need to throw the children into the Nile has passed. The danger from the destined Redeemer is still out there, but it is vague and hard to read. We must remain on watch.”

“But you can stop your drowning of the children?” the Princess interjected, from her tied and kneeling position by the bench.

“Yes, Princess,” Jimbrei answered reluctantly.

“Then there is no reason I cannot keep my son, Father.”

“If it will stop your incessant bickering, blasphemy and rebelliousness, I will let you keep this child – but on one further condition.”

“And what would that condition be?”

“You shall not adopt another one of the Hebrews again. This shall be your one and only child from that people. You shall not afford them protection in this fashion. And if I sense that this child is a threat in any way, it will be the executioners block for him.”

“It is agreed then. Congratulations Father, you are now a grandfather.”

“Spare me the melodrama. Release the Princess,” Pharaoh motioned to the Executioner. “Let us examine this child then.”

“Oh Father, you will love him. He is such a precious child,” the Princess chirped as the executioner untied her and helped her up.

“I shall be the judge of that.”

“I shall bring the baby,” the Princess said as she proudly strode out the hall.

Pharaoh sat back on his throne, relieved. How did I deserve such a difficult daughter? He thought to himself. Though I wish my soldiers were half as brave as she is – then the entire world would be terrified of us, he thought of her with fatherly pride.

“Is it wise to let her keep the child?” Jeinis inquired of Pharaoh.

“If it will appease my judgmental daughter; than it will be worth it.”

“If this is indeed the child of Amram,” Jimbrei added, “it could have curious ramifications.”

“Hmm. Do I want my enemies’ son in my house? If he were a hostage it would be one thing, but as an adopted child, I am less sure.”

“It is good to keep one’s friends close, Pharaoh,” Jimbrei quoted, “but it is better to keep one’s enemies closer.”

“Yes, we shall keep a close eye on the son of Amram. He may yet be of use to us.”

Pharaoh’s daughter, beaming with joy, walked back into the hall with a baby bundled in her arms.

“Here Father, is my son.”

“He, he is beautiful!” Pharaoh stuttered.

“I told you he was special.”

“What is on his skin? He seems to be shinning or glowing. Is this sorcery?”

Jeinis and Jimbrei peered at the baby as well and made various arcane hand motions.

“Get your paws away from my baby!” the Princess embraced the baby defensively.

“We do not sense any magic around the baby – he is truly an outstanding specimen,” Jimbrei concluded.

“Let me have another look at him, daughter.”

“Just move your minions back.”

“Jeinis, Jimbrei, please give the princess some space.” The advisors backed away obediently, though still peering at the child with open curiosity.

The Princess again showed Pharaoh the baby. Pharaoh drank in the sight of the baby and seemed to calm down and even enjoy looking at him. “He is truly beautiful. What is his name?”

“I have called him Moses, for from the water I drew him out.”

Moses. A chill went up Pharaoh’s spine at the mention of the name. Egypt may yet rue this day, Pharaoh thought to himself quietly. The day that we let Moses live and brought him into my house.

* * * * * *

Sources:

The Egyptians were worshipers of the god Ra. In Hebrew “Ra” means evil. The name PhaRAoh, includes the name “Ra”. It could be that the source of the word “Ra” in Hebrew comes from the complete abhorrence of the Egyptian worship of this false god and their intrinsic evil. The Egyptians set the benchmark as far as the Jewish people are concerned for the concept of Evil. From class by David Nativ.

The daughter of Pharaoh went down to bathe in the river. Exodus 2:5. She went down to immerse (i.e., cleanse) herself from the idols of her father (i.e., she immersed for the sake of converting to Judaism). Tractate Sotah 12b

“This is one of the Hebrews’ children.” Exodus 2:6. How did she know? She saw that he was circumcised. Said R’ Yochanan: She prophesied unknowingly: this one alone is cast into the Nile; no others will be cast. The Egyptian sorcerers had divined that the redeemer of Israel would be punished by means of water. After Moses had been cast into the water, they no longer saw that sign, and the decree was cancelled. Tractate Sotah 12b

Said Pharaoh, “I dreamt that all of Egypt was on one pan of the balance, and a lamb was on the other, and the pan with the lamb outweighed all of Egypt.” At once he sent for all the sorcerers of Egypt and told them his dream. Jeinis and Jimbrei, the chief sorcerers, said to Pharaoh, “A male child will be born in the congregation of Israel, by whose hand the whole land of Egypt will be laid waste.” Targum Yonatan, Shemot 1:15

Amram was the head of the Sanhedrin. Shemot Rabbah 1:13

It came to pass when Pharaoh had sent the people out. Exodus 13:17. Said the Holy One, Blessed is He, “You sent out the fathers, but my sons you cast into the Nile. In retribution, I shall cast you into the sea and destroy you, but I will take your daughter and let her inherit the Garden of Eden. Shemot Rabbah 20:4

These are the sons of Bithiah daughter of Pharaoh whom Mered took. Chronicles I 4:18. Mered is Caleb. He rebelled (“mered”) against the counsel of the Spies; she rebelled against the counsel of her father. Let the rebel come and marry the rebel. And one Sage says: He saved the flock; she saved the shepherd. Vayikra Rabbah 1:3

Said the Holy One, Blessed is He, to Bithiah daughter of Pharaoh, “Moses was not your son, yet you called him your son. You, too, are not My daughter, but I shall call you My daughter.” (Bithiah=Daughter of God). Vayikra Rabbah 1:3

* * * * * *

Notes:

This story came out of an attempt to answer a question in my mind:

In the text, Moses’ mother is afraid that her son will be drowned in the Nile together with all the other newborn males. She makes a desperate gambit by hiding him in the Nile itself. As fate would have it, Moses is discovered by the Princess, who then returns the baby to the mother for nursing and who is subsequently returned to the Princess once he is weaned, perhaps even years later.

How could Moses have returned home without danger of being taken by Egyptian forces?

The answer in my mind is that there must have been some special dispensation with royal approval. The midrash points out that the edict was revoked after Moses had been placed in the Nile by his mother as this confused the Egyptian astrologers. However, there must have been a period of time between the hunt for Hebrew babies and the revocation of the edict. Hence the scene of the Pharaoh’s daughter attempting to protect Moses, which is also supported by the midrash.

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Exodus: Shmot

Harbinger of Light

“638 male babies have been thrown in to the Nile,” the Captain read from his papyrus scroll, “18 male babies have been absconded by their families to further districts, and one male baby is unaccounted for.”

“What does ‘unaccounted for’ mean?” Pharaoh asked in irritation from his throne.

“We have searched every crevice of the family’s home,” the Captain explained apologetically, “and that of their neighbors, their relatives and anyone they are in regular contact with. We have searched behind every bush and under every stone, but the baby is nowhere to be found.”

“What does the family claim?” Pharaoh demanded. “What do they say happened to the baby?”

“They claim the infant has already been thrown in to the Nile, but there is no mention of this in our records.”

“Are you sure?”

“We are certain, O Pharaoh. Our records are impeccable. Our forces have not supervised the throwing of the Amram child into the Nile.”

“Amram, you say,” Pharaoh nodded pensively. “It would have to be his child. He is the leader of the Hebrews. His child would certainly be a candidate to be the destined Redeemer. Where can he be?”

“I can answer that, Father,” a striking young woman declared as she strode into Pharaoh’s audience chamber.

“Daughter, what is the meaning of this?” Pharaoh asked in surprise and annoyance.

“I can report on the unaccounted child that you have not managed to drown yet.”

“Daughter, I know that you disapprove of our activities, however bear in mind that this is for the greater good of Egypt.”

“Pfah,” the daughter made a spitting motion, “you would slaughter innocent babes and still call yourself a hero? You put too much weight in your astrologers’ omens.”

“Daughter, beware of that tongue of yours or we can have the offensive organ removed, even from you, my precious jewel.”

“You would silence the only one who tells you the truth? You are surrounded by these sycophantic mongrels who have twisted your mind with superstition and half-truths. They will lead you and Egypt to nothing but misery.”

“Captain,” Pharaoh turned away from his daughter, “leave us, and on your way out, call for the Royal Executioner, and my advisors.”

The daughter took a step back at mention of the executioner.

“Daughter,” Pharaoh returned his gaze, “do not joust with me in such a tone, and certainly not in front of my underlings. I think perhaps a lesson in respect is in order.”

“How can I respect a cold-blooded murderer?”

“I will show you.”

Moments later the Royal Executioner walked in, followed by Pharaohs advisors, Jeinis and Jimbrei.

“Executioner. What temporary ways do you have to silence a person?” Pharaoh looked meaningfully at his daughter, “I know that tongues do not grow back, but is there something short of cutting a tongue that may teach a long-lasting lesson in etiquette to the Princess?”

“Irons, Pharaoh. Irons are the way.”

“You would close her mouth with irons? While I am tempted by the notion, I would like something less unseemly.”

“No, Pharaoh. I meant hot irons. If we poke her tongue or the inside of her mouth with hot irons, she will not talk for a while, but eventually it will heal.”

“How long will she be silent for?”

“I am not sure. The few times I tried it, the subject died from their wounds, but I would be very careful with the princess. It would take perhaps several months to heal, maybe even a year.”

“A year is very good then. Be careful her beautiful features should not be marred. And if she does not speak again in a year, Executioner, you will lose more than your tongue.”

“But, Father,” the daughter exclaimed in alarm, “I thought you would want to know about the unaccounted child?”

“Yes then. Tell me.”

“Only if you do not unleash your henchman on me.”

“That, my dear, will depend on the nature of your answer.”

“I have the baby.”

“You do? Good work. Hand him to the Executioner and we shall dispose of him presently.”

“No.”

“What do you mean ‘No’?”

“I shall not hand him over. He is my son.”

“Your son? Your son!?” Pharaoh got off his throne and started shouting. “What in the name of Ra are you talking about!”

“I found him in the river. I have adopted him to be my son. By all the ancient laws, he is mine. You can not have him.”

“Have him? I do not want to have him! I want to kill him! He may be the most dangerous thing to the Egyptian empire and you are protecting him?”

“Yes. And if I could, I would protect every single one of those innocent babes who you believe are so dangerous.”

“Daughter! You go too far!!”

“No! I do not go far enough! I will never hand him over. If I could save even one child, I will have done my duty.”

“You would dare? You would dare rebel against your own father’s command? This is treason. I would not spare even you from punishment.”

“I dare. I should have done this long ago.”

“So be it. Executioner! We shall execute the Princess right here and now without delay. I cannot stand even a moment further with this rebellious child. Do it now!”

The executioner hastily grabbed the Princess and a cushioned bench and prepared her for beheading. He forced her kneel on the floor, and then firmly tied her torso to the bench leaving space for her head to hang over the side of the bench. He tied the Princess’ hands behind her back and placed a pan on the floor where her head would fall. Pharaoh paced back and forth seething in anger, yet holding back tears. The executioner then removed his sword and ran his fingernail over its edge to check its sharpness. He spread his legs and raised his sword. He lowered the sword slowly to the Princess’ neck to make sure of the angle and distance needed to make a quick clean cut. He then raised the sword again and tensed his powerful muscles, getting ready to bring it down again, strongly and rapidly.

“O Pharaoh,” Jeinis bowed down, “if I may be so bold as to interrupt.”

“Proceed Jeinis,” Pharaoh raised his hand to the executioner in a halting sign, happy for the reprieve and hoping Jeinis would provide a different solution. The executioner in the meantime slowly lowered his sword.

“From the most recent signs, it seems that the latest crisis is over,” Jeinis continued.

“What do you mean?”

“He means, O Pharaoh,” Jimbrei interjected, “that according to the stars, the Redeemer has already been thrown into the Nile.”

“Already thrown? That is a relief. Is the danger over then?”

“Um, not exactly,” Jeinis mumbled.

“Well is there danger or is there not?”

“Pharaoh knows how difficult it is to read the stars,” Jimbrei intoned. “It seems the need to throw the children into the Nile has passed. The danger from the destined Redeemer is still out there, but it is vague and hard to read. We must remain on watch.”

“But you can stop your drowning of the children?” the Princess interjected, from her tied and kneeling position by the bench.

“Yes, Princess,” Jimbrei answered reluctantly.

“Then there is no reason I cannot keep my son, Father.”

“If it will stop your incessant bickering, blasphemy and rebelliousness, I will let you keep this child – but on one further condition.”

“And what would that condition be?”

“You shall not adopt another one of the Hebrews again. This shall be your one and only child from that people. You shall not afford them protection in this fashion. And if I sense that this child is a threat in any way, it will be the executioners block for him.”

“It is agreed then. Congratulations Father, you are now a grandfather.”

“Spare me the melodrama. Release the Princess,” Pharaoh motioned to the Executioner. “Let us examine this child then.”

“Oh Father, you will love him. He is such a precious child,” the Princess chirped as the executioner untied her and helped her up.

“I shall be the judge of that.”

“I shall bring the baby,” the Princess said as she proudly strode out the hall.

Pharaoh sat back on his throne, relieved. How did I deserve such a difficult daughter? He thought to himself. Though I wish my soldiers were half as brave as she is – then the entire world would be terrified of us, he thought of her with fatherly pride.

“Is it wise to let her keep the child?” Jeinis inquired of Pharaoh.

“If it will appease my judgmental daughter; than it will be worth it.”

“If this is indeed the child of Amram,” Jimbrei added, “it could have curious ramifications.”

“Hmm. Do I want my enemies’ son in my house? If he were a hostage it would be one thing, but as an adopted child, I am less sure.”

“It is good to keep one’s friends close, Pharaoh,” Jimbrei quoted, “but it is better to keep one’s enemies closer.”

“Yes, we shall keep a close eye on the son of Amram. He may yet be of use to us.”

Pharaoh’s daughter, beaming with joy, walked back into the hall with a baby bundled in her arms.

“Here Father, is my son.”

“He, he is beautiful!” Pharaoh stuttered.

“I told you he was special.”

“What is on his skin? He seems to be shinning or glowing. Is this sorcery?”

Jeinis and Jimbrei peered at the baby as well and made various arcane hand motions.

“Get your paws away from my baby!” the Princess embraced the baby defensively.

“We do not sense any magic around the baby – he is truly an outstanding specimen,” Jimbrei concluded.

“Let me have another look at him, daughter.”

“Just move your minions back.”

“Jeinis, Jimbrei, please give the princess some space.” The advisors backed away obediently, though still peering at the child with open curiosity.

The Princess again showed Pharaoh the baby. Pharaoh drank in the sight of the baby and seemed to calm down and even enjoy looking at him. “He is truly beautiful. What is his name?”

“I have called him Moses, for from the water I drew him out.”

Moses. A chill went up Pharaoh’s spine at the mention of the name. Egypt may yet rue this day, Pharaoh thought to himself quietly. The day that we let Moses live and brought him into my house.

* * * * * *

Sources:

The Egyptians were worshipers of the god Ra. In Hebrew “Ra” means evil. The name PhaRAoh, includes the name “Ra”. It could be that the source of the word “Ra” in Hebrew comes from the complete abhorrence of the Egyptian worship of this false god and their intrinsic evil. The Egyptians set the benchmark as far as the Jewish people are concerned for the concept of Evil. From class by David Nativ.

The daughter of Pharaoh went down to bathe in the river. Exodus 2:5. She went down to immerse (i.e., cleanse) herself from the idols of her father (i.e., she immersed for the sake of converting to Judaism). Tractate Sotah 12b

“This is one of the Hebrews’ children.” Exodus 2:6. How did she know? She saw that he was circumcised. Said R’ Yochanan: She prophesied unknowingly: this one alone is cast into the Nile; no others will be cast. The Egyptian sorcerers had divined that the redeemer of Israel would be punished by means of water. After Moses had been cast into the water, they no longer saw that sign, and the decree was cancelled. Tractate Sotah 12b

Said Pharaoh, “I dreamt that all of Egypt was on one pan of the balance, and a lamb was on the other, and the pan with the lamb outweighed all of Egypt.” At once he sent for all the sorcerers of Egypt and told them his dream. Jeinis and Jimbrei, the chief sorcerers, said to Pharaoh, “A male child will be born in the congregation of Israel, by whose hand the whole land of Egypt will be laid waste.” Targum Yonatan, Shemot 1:15

Amram was the head of the Sanhedrin. Shemot Rabbah 1:13

It came to pass when Pharaoh had sent the people out. Exodus 13:17. Said the Holy One, Blessed is He, “You sent out the fathers, but my sons you cast into the Nile. In retribution, I shall cast you into the sea and destroy you, but I will take your daughter and let her inherit the Garden of Eden. Shemot Rabbah 20:4

These are the sons of Bithiah daughter of Pharaoh whom Mered took. Chronicles I 4:18. Mered is Caleb. He rebelled (“mered”) against the counsel of the Spies; she rebelled against the counsel of her father. Let the rebel come and marry the rebel. And one Sage says: He saved the flock; she saved the shepherd. Vayikra Rabbah 1:3

Said the Holy One, Blessed is He, to Bithiah daughter of Pharaoh, “Moses was not your son, yet you called him your son. You, too, are not My daughter, but I shall call you My daughter.” (Bithiah=Daughter of God). Vayikra Rabbah 1:3

* * * * * *

Notes:

This story came out of an attempt to answer a question in my mind:

In the text, Moses’ mother is afraid that her son will be drowned in the Nile together with all the other newborn males. She makes a desperate gambit by hiding him in the Nile itself. As fate would have it, Moses is discovered by the Princess, who then returns the baby to the mother for nursing and who is subsequently returned to the Princess once he is weaned, perhaps even years later.

How could Moses have returned home without danger of being taken by Egyptian forces?

The answer in my mind is that there must have been some special dispensation with royal approval. The midrash points out that the edict was revoked after Moses had been placed in the Nile by his mother as this confused the Egyptian astrologers. However, there must have been a period of time between the hunt for Hebrew babies and the revocation of the edict. Hence the scene of the Pharaoh’s daughter attempting to protect Moses, which is also supported by the midrash.

“Elementary, My Dear Watson”

Exodus: Shmot

“Elementary, My Dear Watson”

“…when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, “Sherlock Holmes”

As Moses gets ready to return to Egypt and start the process of Redemption, God advises him:

“Return to Egypt, for all the men that were seeking your soul have died.” Exodus 4:19

The prime rabbinic commentator, Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (Rashi), explains that God is referring to the dangerous duo of Datan and Aviram of the tribe of Reuben. They plagued Moses from his first foray in Egypt and through the desert, until their unnatural demise during the story of Korach. The obvious question is why does God refer to them as dead, if they are still very much alive? Rashi answers that they had become impoverished and according to the Torah, someone who is penniless has the status of the deceased.

Rabbi Hizkiyahu ben Manoach (Hizkuni) is not satisfied with the curt answer and proceeds to investigate in detail how Rashi came to such a conclusion. He starts by referencing the relevant Talmudic passage (Tractate Nedarim 64b):

“There are four that are considered as if they are dead:

–          the pauper,

–          the leper,

–          the blind,

–          and one without any children.”

Hizkuni then combs through the biblical text to determine which of the above situations might apply to Datan and Aviram:

In Number 16:14 they tease Moses and say: “Will you poke out our eyes (i.e. do you think we are blind),” ergo – they are not blind.

In Numbers 16:27 it refers to their “wives and sons and children,” ergo – they have children.

And one cannot say that they were lepers, as they were found within the Israelite camp, where lepers were not permitted, ergo – they are not lepers.

So if you eliminate leprosy, blindness and childlessness, and they are still walking around, the only category of “death” that Datan and Aviram can possible fit, though one might think improbable – is poverty.

May God spare us from all forms of “death” and instead give us the opposite: health, vision, children and wealth and may we enjoy “life” with them.

Shabbat Shalom,

Bentzi

Dedication

In memory of Dr. Sherman Weidenbaum, Shlomo Zalman ben Chava, of Waterford, CT., the father of our friend and neighbor, Abby Dishi.

He was a man who combined chesed, creativity, strength, and integrity. He was a master educator, communicator, and friend to the world. For just a little bit about this wonderful man, who lived life to the fullest, click here.

The Diamond in the Cesspool

The Diamond in the Cesspool

The Egypt of our ancestors was apparently one of great moral depravity. Egyptian culture was submerged in a superficial, materialistic, hedonistic, idol worshipping, incestuous reality. A by-product of such a society was many unwanted births and a cheapening of life.

In the beginning of the Book of Exodus, the Children of Israel have evolved from honored guests and royal protégés, to feared enemies and eventually downtrodden slaves. The low point of this progression is perhaps the draconian edict to kill all newborn Jewish boys.

Into this environment Moses is born. Fearing for his life, the mother of Moses takes the desperate measure of placing the three-month old into a basket to float on the river. Moses’ sister, not without hope, keeps an eye on the basket (Exodus 2).

Pharaoh’s daughter spots Moses’ basket while bathing in the Nile. She investigates and is surprised to find baby Moses within.

At this point Rabbi Ovadia Sforno asks as to why Pharaoh’s daughter would claim Moses. Sforno explains that it was apparently common practice for Egyptians to discard unwanted children into the river, and there would be a plethora of abandoned children to be claimed.

Sforno answers that the “goodness” of Moses was “shinning” and was clearly visible for anyone to see. Pharaoh’s daughter said to herself: “This is not some bastard or unwanted child. This is a beautiful Israelite child. He is so stunningly gorgeous that I must claim him for myself.”

Sforno continues to explain that Moses was visibly outstanding because of the “ingredients” put into him. Following is a translation of Sforno’s comment regarding the reaction to the birth of Moses by his mother, that “he was good”:

“She noted that he was more beautiful than normal, and thought that this was for an intended purpose from his Creator, for the beauty of the form indicates the quality of the ingredients and the complete power of the Designer.”

As we all know, Moses was indeed intended for supreme greatness, even amidst the decadence and immorality of Egyptian culture.

May we all transcend the negative environments around us, and like Moses, take the great ingredients that are a part of us – and shine.

Shabbat Shalom,

Bentzi

Dedication

To the recovery of 2nd Lieutenant Aharon Karov of the IDF Paratrooper Brigade. Aharon is from the community of Karnei Shomron. He left to Gaza the morning after his wedding to lead his soldiers. He was critically injured from a blast within a booby trapped home in Northern Gaza. Please pray for him – Aharon Yehoshua ben Chaya Shoshana. May our soldiers be safe, may the wounded recover and may the mourners be comforted.

Unfamiliar terms?

Drawn from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nile

The Nile is a major north-flowing river in Africa, generally regarded as the longest river in the world.[1]

The northern section of the river flows almost entirely through desert, from Sudan into Egypt, a country whose civilization has depended on the river since ancient times. Most of the population of Egypt and all of its cities, with the exception of those near the coast, lie along those parts of the Nile valley north of Aswan; and nearly all the cultural and historical sites of Ancient Egypt are found along the banks of the river. The Nile ends in a large delta that empties into the Mediterranean Sea.

The Nile (iteru in Ancient Egyptian) was the lifeline of the ancient Egyptian civilization, with most of the population and all of the cities of Egypt resting along those parts of the Nile valley lying north of Aswan. The Nile has been the lifeline for Egyptian culture since the Stone Age. Climate change, or perhaps overgrazing, desiccated the pastoral lands of Egypt to form the Sahara desert, possibly as long ago as 8000 BC, and the inhabitants then presumably migrated to the river, where they developed a settled agricultural economy and a more centralized society.

Sustenance played a crucial role in the founding of Egyptian civilization. The Nile is an unending source of sustenance. The Nile made the land surrounding it extremely fertile when it flooded or was inundated annually. The Egyptians were able to cultivate wheat and crops around the Nile, providing food for the general population. Also, the Nile’s water attracted game such as water buffalo; and after the Persians introduced them in the 7th century BC, camels. These animals could be killed for meat, or could be captured, tamed and used for ploughing – or in the camels’ case, travelling. Water was vital to both people and livestock. The Nile was also a convenient and efficient way of transportation for people and goods.

The structure of Egypt’s society made it one of the most stable in history. In fact, it might easily have surpassed many modern societies. This stability was an immediate result of the Nile’s fertility. The Nile also provided flax for trade. Wheat was also traded, a crucial crop in the Middle East where famine was very common. This trading system secured the diplomatic relationship Egypt had with other countries, and often contributed to Egypt’s economic stability. Also, the Nile provided the resources such as food or money, to quickly and efficiently raise an army for offensive or defensive roles.

The Nile played a major role in politics and social life. The pharaoh would supposedly flood the Nile, and in return for the life-giving water and crops, the peasants would cultivate the fertile soil and send a portion of the resources they had reaped to the Pharaoh. He or she would in turn use it for the well-being of Egyptian society.

The Nile was a source of spiritual dimension. The Nile was so significant to the lifestyle of the Egyptians, that they created a god dedicated to the welfare of the Nile’s annual inundation. The god’s name was Hapy, and both he and the pharaoh were thought to control the flooding of the Nile River. Also, the Nile was considered as a causeway from life to death and afterlife. The east was thought of as a place of birth and growth, and the west was considered the place of death, as the god Ra, the sun, underwent birth, death, and resurrection each time he crossed the sky. Thus, all tombs were located west of the Nile, because the Egyptians believed that in order to enter the afterlife, they must be buried on the side that symbolized death.

The Greek historian, Herodotus, wrote that ‘Egypt was the gift of the Nile’, and in a sense that is correct. Without the waters of the Nile River for irrigation, Egyptian civilization would probably have been short-lived. The Nile provided the elements that make a vigorous civilization, and contributed much to its lasting three thousand years.