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הלהרגני אתה אומר כאשר הרגת את המצרי

Do you propose to murder me, as you murdered the Egyptian? (2:14)

Moshe Rabbeinu’s conversation with Dassan and Aviram, his two nemeses, appears superfluous. Do we really need to know about their dialogue to the extent that it is recorded in the Torah? While it is true that Chazal derive from the word omer, say/propose, that Moshe killed the Egyptian with his power of speech, by using the Shem ha’Meforash, Ineffable Name, this exposition could have been written in its proper place when he actually intervened and killed him. It seems as if the entire dialogue is unnecessary. Horav Arye Leib Heyman, zl, posits that Dassan and Aviram’s statement was about themselves…

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כל הבן הילד היארה תשליכהו

Every son that will be born – into the River shall you throw him. (1:22)

At first glance, we view Pharaoh’s evil decree to drown the Jewish male infants as his way of protecting himself and his people from the presaged birth of the Jewish redeemer. How foolish he was to even dream that he could stand up to Hashem. Ironically, it was Pharaoh’s own daughter who rescued Moshe Rabbeinu, and the future Jewish leader and redeemer grew up and was raised in Pharaoh’s palace. This is the accepted reason the commentators give. In his paranoia and narcissism, Pharaoh thought that he could prevent the inevitable. Alternatively, we might suggest another reason for murdering the…

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ותיראן המילדות את האלקים ולא עשו כאשר דבר אליהן מלך מצרים ותחין את הילדים

And the midwives feared G-d; they did not do as the King of Egypt told them, and they kept the male offspring alive. (1:17)

To stand up to the most powerful ruler in the world was truly an act of great courage. Shifrah and Puah were two (physically) weak and defenseless women who were brave enough to defy a despotic, ruthless ruler who had enslaved hundreds of thousands of their co-religionists. Vast armies would tremble before Pharaoh. Yet, these two women were not afraid of Pharaoh, because they answered to a higher Authority; they feared Hashem. Their great yiraas Shomayim engendered within them a total abrogation of fear of men. Thus, they felt sufficiently confident and resolute in their yiraas Shomayim to defy Pharaoh….

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אלה שמות בני ישראל הבאים מצרימה

And these are the names of Bnei Yisrael who were coming to Egypt. (1:1)

The parsha commences by mentioning the names of the tribal ancestors. Although they had previously been recorded during their lifetime, they are once again repeated after they have passed from the scene because of their dearness to Hashem. They are likened to the stars of the sky, which Hashem brings out and brings in by name. He counts and enumerates them at both opportunities. This indicates that the forefathers, like the stars, are precious to Hashem. Actually, Hashem took a census of Klal Yisrael three times: when they were liberated and left Egypt; after the Golden Calf debacle during which…

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ותפתח ותראהו את הילד והנה נער בכה ותמחל עליו ותאמר מילדי העברים זה

She opened it and saw him, and behold! A youth was crying. She took pity on him and said, “This is one of the Hebrew boys.” (2:6)

Rashi explains the transformation in the description of the child in the basket from yeled, boy (infant, young child), to naar, youth (implying that he was far from infancy), by asserting that while the child was an infant, his voice was that of a youth. Why did Hashem change the tenor of the infant’s voice to make it seem as if it were emanating from someone much older? The commentators offer a number of explanations, many of which have appeared over the years on these pages. Horav Tzvi Hirsch Ferber, zl, who was Rav in London’s West End over a…

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ותשלח את אמתה ותקחה

And she sent her maidservant and she took it. (2:5)

The Midrash translates amasah as “her arm” (not “her maidservant”). Thus (since she was not close to the basket), she stretched out her arm to reach the basket, and her arm miraculously became sufficiently elongated to reach the basket. The Kotzker Rebbe, zl, derives from this episode that one should do whatever possible, to never give up, to never say, “I cannot do it. It is impossible.” One should make the attempt; perhaps he will achieve success. Bisyah was distant from the basket. She tried to reach it, and Hashem enabled her. Never say “never,” because everything is in Hashem’s…

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ותרא אתו כי טוב הוא ותצפנהו שלשה ירחים

She saw that he was good, and she hid him for three months. (2:2)

Yocheved conceived and gave birth to Moshe Rabbeinu. The Torah informs us that the infant Moshe remained with his mother for three months. Interestingly, the Torah does not mention his mother giving him a name. One would think that over the three-month period, Yocheved would have named her son. Horav Mordechai Gifter, zl, offers an insightful explanation. A name is far more than just a title of reference. A name represents its bearer, his very essence, character and abilities. A name defines a person. This, however, can only be said of the average person who, by excelling in certain areas…

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ויהי כי יראו המילדות את האלקים ויעש להם בתים

Because the midwives feared G-d, He gave them houses. (1:21)

Rashi explains that these houses were the houses of Kehunah, Leviyah and Malchus. Horav Yisrael Belsky, zl, expounds on Rashi, demonstrating that what appears to be a homiletic interpretation (bayis/house is a structure of wood and stone – not a family. Thus, one must apply an interpretive approach in order to translate bayis to be a family) is actually the definitive meaning of the word. The Torah here defines bayis as the continuation/extension of the family unit: Bais Aharon barchu es Hashem, “House of Aharon, bless Hashem.” When we say this, we are expressing the fundamental nature of the descendants…

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ויקם מלך חדש אשר לא ידע את יוסף

And there arose a new king who did not know Yosef. (1:8)

Galus, exile, is interpreted to mean displacement. A person in exile is a displaced person. A person in exile is no longer himself; as he is an expatriate from his home, his self-image is distorted. A Jew in galus is a galus Jew who is devoid of the treasures and qualities that had been a part of his life prior to his forced emigration from Yerushalayim – or, at least, he should feel that way. The fact that we no longer feel (or ever really felt) that we are missing our “home” is, in and of itself, another and –…

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ויאמר אל עמו הנה עם בני ישראל רב ועצם ממנו

He said to the people, “Behold! The people, Bnei Yisrael are more numerous and stronger than we. (1:9)

Wherein lies our strength? What are the characteristics of Judaism and its people that catalyzed fear in Pharaoh? We are: united with Hashem; united with family; united in ourselves; secure in our beliefs and in our distinctiveness. When Haman sought to eradicate the Jews of Persia, he told Achashveirosh, V’daseihem shonos mikol am; ‘Their laws are different from every other people’ (Megillas Esther 3:8). Horav Bunim, zl, m’Peshicha interprets this to mean: “Their ‘law’ is to be different/to be distinct from all peoples.” Our distinctiveness is what has preserved us as Jews throughout the millennia. Those who assimilated did not…

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