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Who is the man who has built a new house and has not inaugurated it? Let him go and return to his house. (20:5)

The Kohen  proclaimed that certain individuals who were not suited to fight should leave the field, lest their fear shake them up so that it would affect the entire army.  Three men are singled out by the Torah: he who has a newly built house that has not been inaugurated; he who has planted a vineyard and has not redeemed its fruit of the fourth year; and he who has betrothed a woman and not yet married her.  The Torah posits that these individuals fear that they will not complete the job they had begun. A number of lessons can…

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Every son that will be born, into the River shall you throw him. (1:24)

Chazal tell us that Pharaoh’s astrologers foresaw that the Jewish savior’s downfall would occur as a result of water. They were even able to pinpoint the exact day on which Moshe would be born. Pharaoh’s own daughter, who found Moshe, took him home and raised him in the royal palace. Following the advice of his astrologers, on the day that Moshe was born, Pharaoh issued an edict to drown all male infants upon birth. The astrologers claimed that the threat of a Jewish savior had been averted. They were, of course, wrong, since Moshe’s death was not caused by drowning,…

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And Pharaoh commanded his entire people saying, “Every son that will be born–into the River shall you throw him.” (1:22)

Pharaoh thought that the way to prevent the emergence of a Jewish leader was to drown all baby boys. Indeed, his astrologers had told him that the downfall of the Jewish savior would be effected through water. As a result of this decree, Amram, who was the gadol ha’dor, the spiritual leader of that generation, separated from his wife, Yocheved. Ostensibly, all Jewish men followed suit. Rather than bring boys into the world to be drowned by Pharaoh, they left their wives. Miriam, however, yet a young child, challenged her father Amram’s decree. She claimed that his decree to separate…

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They embittered their lives with hard work…All their labors that they performed with them were with crushing harshness. (1:14)

We memorialize the bitterness of Egypt, the harsh labor and persecution, with the marror, bitter herbs, which we eat on Pesach night. Chazal teach us that while there are a number of vegetables that are suitable for the mitzvah of marror, leaf lettuce is preferred. Among the vegetables, leaf lettuce provides the most apt comparison with the type of labor to which the Egyptians subjected the Jewish people. At first, the Egyptians convinced the Jews to work with them. Later on, they embittered their lives with harsh labor. At first, the lettuce seems almost sweet to the palate, but subsequently,…

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And they appointed taskmasters over it in order to afflict it with their burdens. (1:11)

By inflicting hard labor upon the Jews, the Egyptians’ goal was simply to destroy their dignity, to hurt them emotionally as well as physically. Horav Shimon Schwab, z”l, comments that the purpose of placing taskmasters over the Jews was to degrade and humiliate them, to convey to them that they could not be trusted to perform their job adequately without supervision. They were telling the Jews that they were crude and undignified; their integrity was lacking and their work ethic unsuitable. Is there anything worse than such a loathsome form of emotional abuse? Indeed, the intention of the Egyptians was…

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Come let us outsmart it lest it become numerous….and it too, may join our enemies. (1:10)

Chazal tell us that Pharaoh had a council composed of three advisors, Bilaam, Iyov, and Yisro. Bilaam was the one who suggested the diabolical scheme to enslave the Jews. Iyov remained silent; he was later punished for his silence with ordeals of terrible pain and anguish. Yisro fled Egypt, rather than acquiesce to the evil advice. He was rewarded with the promise that his descendants would one day sit in the Sanhedrin. This well-known Midrash assumes a new meaning when one considers the nature of each of the three advisors and the inconsistency of their advice with his own personal…

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