Dvar Torah on Parshat VaEra 5776 2016 – Israel’s here for you

The Children of Israel had been enslaved in Egypt for many years. Suddenly Hashem sends Moshe to help redeem them. What happened to bring this about? We are told in this week’s Torah that Hashem says to Moshe: וְגַם אֲנִי שָׁמַעְתִּי אֶת נַאֲקַת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, “And I have also heard the groaning of the Children of Israel…”. Ex. 6,5.

This seems to imply that until the people themselves began to complain there was no need for redemption. The people had become well-adjusted living in Egypt and even when they were enslaved they were still determined to stay there. They had no desire to leave the land. It was only when conditions became unbearable that they started to cry out to Hashem for help.

This same attitude prevailed when it became possible for Jews to leave Babylonia. Some people left, but others were so ensconced there that they preferred to stay.

Again history repeated itself in modern times when Israel became a reality for Jews living all over the world. Many left their Galut environment and made Aliya. Others were forced to leave their countries because of persecution or because life was made too uncomfortable for them and they were forced to leave.

Many Jews have contemplated making Aliya but hesitate for one reason or another. The best way to come to Israel is when they feel that they belong there. Israel hopes they will come soon.

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Dvar Torah on Parshat VaEra 5775 2015

In last week’s Portion we read that Moshe spoke to Pharaoh to let the Israelites leave and return to their own country. Pharaoh refused and imposed greater hardships upon the people. This depressed Moshe and he complained to Hashem.

This week we read again that Hashem tells Moshe to speak to the people to inform them that He is about to release them from bondage and take them back to their land. The Torah tells us that when Moshe spoke to them they did not heed him: מִקֹּצֶר רוּחַ וּמֵעֲבֹדָה קָשָׁה, “…because of shortness of breath and hard work.” (Ex. 6,9)

This is usually taken to mean that the Children of Israel did not accept Moshe’s words because of their shortness of breath or impatience due to their hard work in bondage.

The Ralbag, a biblical commentator of the 12th century, gives a unique and different meaning to these words. He implies that they did not accept Moshe’s words because of the shortness of breath of Moshe. They saw that he was depressed as a result of his first conversation with Pharaoh. They assumed that since he was so dejected from that outcome he will not be able to accomplish his mission.

A leader must have full confidence in what he wants to accomplish in order to succeed. If he goes about his tasks with half a heart and little spirit he will not succeed. Leaders must be forceful and decisive in their actions.

Dvar Torah Parshat VaEra 5774 2013

In the first Sidra of the Book of Shemot we read about the birth of Moshe. Nowhere in the Sidra is the name of his parents mentioned. In this week’s Sidra we are first told that his parents were Amram and Yocheved. וַיִּקַּח עַמְרָם אֶת יוֹכֶבֶד, “Amram took his aunt Yocheved as a wife and she bore him Aharon and Moshe…” (Ex. 6,20)

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein gives a very interesting explanation for this. He says that their names were not mentioned until Moshe had been chosen to be the redeemer of the Jews. This is a lesson for parents who are privileged to have exceptionally gifted children.

Even if their children are brilliant and display potential abilities, the parents cannot be certain that they will automatically turn out to be successful. They must invest in them much energy and guidance to direct them in the proper road to success. It is only after the children have succeeded and reached their potential that the parents can take credit for their success.

Moshe’s parents were not named until the Torah reveals the position Moshe had attained. Only then were Amram and Yocheved mentioned.

Dvar Torah Parshat Va’Era 2013 5773

In last week’s Sidra, Moshe and Aharon appeared before Pharaoh as Hashem had commanded them to do. Moshe asked with the now famous word, “Let my people go”. Instead of complying with this request, Pharaoh toughened the burden of the people.

Moshe’s reaction was surprising. He spoke harshly to Hashem and complained: “Why have You done evil to this people? From the time I came to Pharaoh …he did evil to this people.”(Ex. 5,22)

Rashi in this week’s Portion (Ex. 6,9) refers us to the Rabbinic passage in Sanhedrin in which Hashem bemoans the fact that our forefathers are gone. “Alas for those who are gone and are no more to be found. I said to Avraham: Walk through the land…I will give it to you. Yet when he sought a place to bury Sarah, he did not find one but had to purchase it. Nevertheless, he did not question me.

“I said to Yitzchak: Dwell in this land and I will be with you. Yet when his servants dug wells they were disputed. Nevertheless, he did not question me.

“I said to Yaakov: The land upon which you lie I will give to your seed. Yet when (he returned to the land of his father and ) he had to pitch his tent he did not find a place until he purchased it. Nevertheless, he did not question me.

“Yet you say to me: You have not delivered Thy people.”
The question is: Did Moshe fall below the stature of Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov?
The answer is that the trials and tribulations of our forefathers were all for private matters that affected them personally. With Moshe the situation was different. Here the matter affected the Jewish people. It affected the well-being of all the Jews living and slaving in Egypt. Under such conditions a good leader cannot keep still. A true leader must speak up and take action. Moshe, being the ultimate leader, had to act.

Dvar Torah Parshat VaEra 5772 2012

In the Portion we read this week we come across seven of the ten plagues that were brought by Hashem upon the Egyptians. Nine of the ten plagues did not succeed in convincing Pharaoh to free the Bnei Yisrael. It was only the last one that had the desired effect. The question raised is, why the other nine plagues were necessary.

In fact, however, Hashem Himself gives the answer to this question. Hashem tells Moshe that He will bring these plagues and Pharaoh will not pay attention to them. Hashem says, “…I shall multiply My signs and My wonders…” VELO YISHMA ALECHEM PAROH, “And Pharaoh will not heed you…”. VEYADU MITZRAYIM KI ANI HASHEM, “And Egypt will know that I am Hashem…”. (Ex.7, 3-5)

In next week’s Portion Hashem tells Moshe He is bringing these plagues: ULEMA’AN TESAPPER BE’OZNEY VINCHA UVEN BINCHA, “And so that you will relate in the ears of your son and your son’s son…”. (Ex. 10,2) Hence we see two reasons for all the plagues; to show the Egyptians the might of Hashem, but also to convince the Israelites and future generations.

We Jews know our history but we have to be convinced that Hashem is the One who actually made us a nation and sees that we survive. So that we never forget, we have many Mitzvot in which we are reminded ZECHER LEYETZIAT MITZRAYIM. Most of our holidays are also observed as a reminder of this great historical event in our history.

Dvar Torah Parshat VaEra 5771 2011

In mentioning the genealogy of Moshe and Aharon the Torah says: HU AHARON UMOSHE, “This was Aharon and Moshe to whom Hashem said, ‘Take the Children of Israel out of Egypt…’ ”. (Ex. 6,26)

Rashi comments, quoting the Mechilta, that there are times when Aharon is mentioned before Moshe and there are times when Moshe is mentioned first. This is to tell you that they were both equal. On what is this explanation based?

Rabbi Chaim, Rabbi Soloveitchik’s grandfather, says when appearing before Pharaoh, Aharon did the talking and when Hashem communicated with them He spoke to Moshe.

In the verse quoted above Hashem is speaking, yet Aharon is mentioned first. In the very next verse the Torah says: HEM HAMEDABRIM, “They are the ones who spoke to Pharaoh…”. Yet here Moshe is mentioned first. Since Aharon is mentioned first when Hashem is speaking and Moshe is mentioned first when they are speaking to Pharaoh, hence this indicates that they are both equal.

Dvar Torah Parshat Va’era 5770 2009

We read again this Shabbat the promise by Hashem that the land of Israel will be given to our people. The expression used is that it will be given to us as a MORASHAH, (Ex. 6,8) which translated means “a heritage”. This same terminology is used in another context, when we are given the Torah by Hashem. We are told the Torah is given to us: MORASHAH KEHILAT YAAKOV, “…as a heritage of the Congregation of Jacob.” (Deut. 33,4)

The term MORASHAH or heritage is used in connection with two gifts given to the Jewish people by Hashem. If one looks up the meaning of heritage in a dictionary he will find it means something that is transmitted by a predecessor to an heir. In other words it is an inheritance.

The Hebrew word for inheritance is YERUSHAH. The word used here is MORASHAH. The former means something you get. The latter implies something you give.

That is what we are told in connection with the Land of Israel and with the Torah. We get it as an inheritance from previous generations but we must in turn be prepared to give it over to the coming generations. Both of these two great gifts we get from our fathers but we must do our utmost to give them over to our children.