Short Vort on Parshat Shemot 5776 2016 – Standing up for what’s right

We read about the man Moshe and his personality. One thing we see outstanding is his inability to accept injustice. He sees an Egyptian beating a Jewish man and he promptly supports the Jew. One would think his reasoning was that he could not see a Jew being beaten.

The next day he sees two Hebrews fighting. Again he interferes, arguing: לָמָּה תַכֶּה רֵעֶךָ, “Why would you strike your fellow?” (Ex. 2,13) Again we would think he objected because they were two Jewish people fighting.

We see later he objects when non-Jews are harming other non-Jews. He was at the well in Midian and saw that Yitro’s daughters came to water their father’s sheep. The shepherds came and drove them away. וַיָּקָם מֹשֶׁה וַיּוֹשִׁעָן,  “…and Moshe got up and saved them and watered their sheep.” (Ex. 2,17)

These incidents indicate that Moshe objected to any injustice no matter who was involved. This is a true Jewish approach. We certainly cannot keep still when we see Jews are being harmed, but we also feel the injustice when even non-Jews face unfair treatment.

When we see a wrong being perpetrated it is our duty to speak up and to take action to rectify the injustice.


Dvar Torah on the Parsha – Shemot 5775 – What’s in a name…

When Yaakov and his family left Canaan to come to Mitzrayim the names of all the people coming were enumerated. In this week’s Sidra, when we are told they arrived at their destination, their names are again itemized.

Most people know the reason Chazal give for this duplication. They tell us that this is to inform us that all the years the Jews lived the Egyptian Galut they did not abandon their Jewish names. That was one of the reasons they were redeemed.

Rabbi Moshe Soffer, who lived 200 years ago, complained about the Jews of his time. They gave their children Jewish names but did not use them except when they had to make a prayer for their health or, Heaven forbid, when they had to recite a Kel Maleh for them after they were deceased.

We are told in the Torah that when Yosef was appointed Viceroy over Egypt, Pharaoh gave him an Egyptian name. He called him Tzafnat Pane’ach. The only time Yosef is referred to by this name is when it was given to him. We never hear again in the entire narrative of Yosef in Egypt that he was called by that name. He kept the name Yosef and used it all his days.

This was the strength of the Jews of Mitzrayim. This is why they were redeemed by Hashem through miracles and in a supernatural way.

Weekly Dvar Torah on Parshat Shemot 5774 2013

Moshe went to see how his brethren were faring and he noticed that an Egyptian was striking a Hebrew man. He killed the Egyptian and buried him in the sand. וַיִּשְׁמַע פַּרְעֹה אֶת הַדָּבָר הַזֶּה “Pharaoh heard about this matter…”. (Ex. 2,15) The Torah tells us that when Pharaoh heard this he wanted to kill Moshe and Moshe had to flee to Midian.

Jews were being beaten and killed daily. This Pharaoh did not hear. When one Egyptian was killed Pharaoh heard of it. This is the story of generations. When Jews are slaughtered all over the world no one takes heed. When a Holocaust occurs no one is concerned. When one Egyptian is killed it makes an impression.

Thousands of Jews have been killed in Israel by terrorists and no one in the world lifted their voice in protest. When Israel protects itself and kills a terrorist the world is up in arms. This started with Pharaoh and continued throughout the centuries down to our own days.

Dvar Torah Parshat Shemot 2013 5773

The Book of Shemot begins by telling us that Yaakov and his children came to Egypt. Then it says: וְיוֹסֵף הָיָה בְמִצְרָיִם, “…and Yosef was in Egypt.” (Ex. 1,5) Though Yosef was the viceroy in Egypt and though they gave him the name צָפְנַת פַּעְנֵחַ, he nevertheless did not give up his Jewish name. The Torah testifies that he was still Yosef in Egypt. When his two sons were born he gave them Jewish names, Ephraim and Menasheh.

This practice of giving children Jewish names in Egypt helped keep them together as a people. Chazal tell us this is one of the reasons for their redemption.

A name is a great way of identifying a person as a member of a people and it is a dominant influence in keeping a Jew within the Jewish fold. A non-Jewish name can often be the first step of losing one’s Jewish identity.

It is unfortunate that many Jews living in the Diaspora find it proper to give their children a common name used in the country and do not bother to also give them a Jewish name. While this may not be the reason but it is one step that can lead to assimilation.

No matter what name a Jewish child is given so that there is no embarrassment living in a non-Jewish environment, there should also be a Jewish name and the child should know what it is.

Dvar Torah Parshat Shemot 5772 2012

Chazal said quite often that what happened to our Patriarchs was a sign of what will eventually happen to their descendants. The same is true about what happened to our forefathers in Egypt when they developed into a nation. What happened to them reoccurred time and again in the long history of our people in many countries and many lands.

When Yaakov and his family came to Egypt they were received royally. They were granted permission to settle in any part of the land they desired. Yosef was asked to pick any of the sons who were capable of holding high positions in the country. Yosef held the highest position in the nation next to Pharaoh himself. The Israelites were highly respected and honored.

This esteem and recognition did not survive. Soon a complete reversal occurred. A new regime came into power that did not recognize how Yosef had saved Egypt. The Israelites suddenly became aliens in Egypt, feared that they would become disloyal to the country. The aliens are turned into slaves and a decree is issued to cast all first born into the Nile.

One would think, with such fear of the people and with such hatred of this population, the citizens of the land would be happy to see them leave. This was not, however, the case. When Moshe came and asked that they be granted permission to leave the country temporarily, he was refused. Why? They were too important for the economy of the country with their slavery.

What happened to our people in Egypt has been repeated on numerous occasions. We have seen this throughout our history and even in our lifetime.

Dvar Torah Parshat Shemot 5771 2010

Moshe approached the burning bush and heard the voice of Hashem calling him. His reaction, the Torah tells us was: VAYASTER MOSHE PANAV, “…Moshe hid his face…”. (Ex. 3,6) Chazal tell us that this action had its consequences.

At a later date, after the Children of Israel had transgressed with the Golden Calf, Moshe started pleading on their behalf for forgiveness. He asked Hashem to reveal His glory to him. According to Chazal Hashem denied this request saying, “When I wanted to reveal Myself to you at the bush you hid your face. Now that you want, I will not.”

We often encounter opportunities in various different ways and in different fields. We find this in business, in our relationship with others, in our studies and in almost every field of endeavor. It is tragic though that we overlook these opportunities, either for lack of recognizing them or for simply ignoring them. The opportunity usually does not appear again.

One must be ever mindful of the prospects that face them and take advantage of them when they occur.

Dvar Torah Parshat Shemot 5770 2010

Pharaoh had decreed that every Jewish male child was to be cast into the Nile River. When Moshe was born his mother, Yocheved, tried to hide him in her home as long as she could. When it became impossible to keep him longer she was forced to put him in a Tevah, a box, and placed him in the Nile.

The questioned asked is, “How did she do such a thing?” Did she not think that the Tevah could be overturn by a wave and Moshe would be cast into the waters? Even if that would not happen, did she not imagine that some Egyptian would find him and kill him?

The answer is that she certainly thought of those possibilities but in truth she had no other solution. She was forced to do something and this was the best chance she had to save Moshe. She did what she could and she placed her faith in Hashem that He would spare her son.

Many times we are faced with a dilemma and can see no solution to a problem that confronts us. We are not to despair. We are to take a lesson from Yocheved and do the best we can. We must, however, not lose faith in Hashem but must trust that He would help.