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ויאנחנו בני ישראל מן העבודה ויזעקו ותעל שועתם אל האלקים... וישמע... ויזכר אלקים את בריתו את אברהם את יצחק ואת יעקב

And Bnei Yisrael groaned from the labor, and they cried out, and their outcry rose up to G-d… and G-d heard… and G-d remembered His covenant with Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov. (2:23,24)

The Jews had been suffering for years from the back-breaking labor forced upon them by the Egyptians. They must have cried, groaned and moaned before. Now, the covenant with the Patriarchs came into play. This was not a new covenant. It had been around for quite some time. Why now? What change transpired that now, after all this time, Hashem listened, remembered and responded to these pleas? Horav Yisrael Belsky, zl, recounts from a Shabbos Shuvah drashah, lecture, rendered by Horav Yonasan Shteif, zl, that responds to this question. Golus comes in two forms: physical and spiritual. Physical bondage is…

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ותרד בת פרעה לרחץ על היאר

Pharoah’s daughter went down to bathe by the river. (2:5)

The Baal HaTurim writes that the last letters of va’teired bas Pharaoh – daled, saf, hay, spell dassah, her religion. This teaches us that Bisyah, daughter of Pharaoh, was not taking a random trip down to the river. She went there to immerse herself as her concluding step toward converting to Judaism. This comment is already stated in the Talmud (Sotah 12b), “She went down to the river to wash herself off from her father’s idols.” Horav Gamliel Rabinowitz, Shlita, asks an intriguing question. Of all times to join the Jewish People, this was not the most propitious. No people…

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בטרם תבוא אליהן המילדת וילדו

Before the midwife comes to them, they have given birth. (1:19)

The midwives explained to Pharaoh that the Jewish women were unique in that they gave birth even prior to the arrival of the midwife. Thus, the midwives were powerless to prevent the male infants from entering the world. Certainly, Pharaoh did not want them to commit a wanton act of murder. Horav Ovadia Yosef, zl, related the following incredible incident. One Erev Pesach, a young father who lived on a Moshav south of Yerushalayim came to him with a six-year old boy. “Kavod Horav, will the Chacham bless my son? After all, he was born because of ‘you,’” the young…

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ותיראן המילדות את האלקים ולא עשו כאשר דבר אליהן מלך מצרים

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

The Torah lauds the midwives, Shifrah and Puah, for defying Pharaoh’s diabolical decree, maintaining that their inner strength and courage were the product of their profound yiraas Elokim, fear of G-d. Two weak, defenseless women stood up to the most powerful despotic ruler in the world and refused to murder the Jewish infants. True, they gave excuses, but anyone with a modicum of intelligence knew that what they claimed could not have been true all the time. Their yiraas Shomayim, fear of Heaven, knowing fully-well that Hashem is above everyone and no excuses or mitigating, extenuating circumstances can rationalize transgression…

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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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