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ועתה הנה צעקת בני ישראל באה אלי

And now, behold! The outcry of Bnei Yisrael has come to Me. (3:9)

There is tefillah, prayer, and there is tze’akah, crying out, yelling or effusive prayer laden with emotion and expression. Tze’akah is the prayer one offers when he is literally up against the wall with nowhere to go. He sees no way out, no form of salvation. Imagine one is walking in a forest when he suddenly chances upon a bear. He screams. Will the scream make a difference? Bears are really not moved by the screams of a human being. Nonetheless, when one realizes that this is it, he has no way out – he screams. Klal Yisrael was in…

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ויאמר ד' ראה ראיתי את עני עמי אשר במצרים

Hashem said, “I have, indeed, seen the affliction of My people that is in Egypt.” (3:7)

Chazal (Midrash Rabbah Shemos 3:2) note the double usage of the word ra’oh, see (ra’oh ra’isi). They explain that Hashem told Moshe Rabbeinu, “Moshe, you see a re’iyah achas, one sight, but I see two reiyos, two sights. You see the nation coming to Har Sinai and receiving the Torah. I, too, see them coming to Sinai and receiving My Torah. (This is the meaning of the first ra’oh.) However, I also see the sight of the incident of the eigel, Golden Calf.” Hashem’s message to Moshe is intriguing and surely laden with profound meaning. Simply, Hashem intimated to Moshe…

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וימת מלך מצרים ויאנחו בני ישראל מן העבודה ויזעקו

It happened that the king of Egypt died, and Bnei Yisrael groaned because of the work, and they cried out. (2:23)

What about the Egyptian king’s death provoked Bnei Yisrael’s pain and initiated their crying out? Horav Yitzchak, zl, m’Volozhin explains that as long as Pharaoh was alive, the Jews attributed all of their tzaros, troubles, to his wicked leadership. They hoped that when he would hopefully leave this world, the evil decrees would end. When he died, however, and the evil continued unabated, they realized that they could only turn to Hashem. The nature of man is to attribute everything that occurs in his life to natural causes and place their hopes on its positive conclusion. The believing Jew, however,…

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כי לא כנשים כמצריות העבריות ... בטרם תבוא אליהן המילדת וילדו

Because the Hebrew women are unlike the Egyptian women … before the midwife comes to them, they have given birth. (1:19)

Pharaoh had instructed Shifrah and Puah, the Jewish midwives, to murder the male infants. They, of course, did not listen to the evil despot, claiming that by the time they arrived at the homes of the Jewish women, the children had been born. Horav Shabsi Frankel, zl, quotes an original thought from his father-in-law, Horav Yosef Nechemiah Kornitzer, zl, which presents us with a deeper meaning to the dialogue that ensued between Pharaoh and the me’yaldos, midwives. Understandably, these holy women were not prepared to commit the unthinkable. Their task was to bring on life, not to shorten it. They…

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הבה נתחכמה לו פן ירבה

Come, let us outsmart it lest it become numerous. (1:10)

Pharaoh no longer remembered how Yosef had brilliantly led the nation through a major economic crisis. He looked around and saw that the immigrant family of seventy Jews that had originally come from Canaan had now become a nation of thousands, growing exponentially. They had become too numerous and too strong. Something had to be done about them. He foolishly thought that he could contend with Hashem and control the destiny of Klal Yisrael. He was clearly wrong. When our nation received the Torah at Har Sinai, the Torah records the event. Va’yehi kol ha’shofar holeich v’chazeik me’od, “The sound…

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שלח נא ביד תשלח

Send by the hand of whomever You will send. (4:13)

Rashi comments: “By the hand of he whom You are accustomed to send as Your messenger.” This refers to Aharon HaKohen, who heretofore was Hashem’s emissary and leading spiritual leader of the enslaved Jews in Egypt. Moshe Rabbeinu was reluctant to accept the leadership position of Klal Yisrael, lest he infringe in any way upon his older brother’s current role as leader. Horav Shneur Kotler, zl, related (as quoted by the Tolner Rebbe, Shlita) that his father, the venerable architect to Torah in America, Horav Aharon Kotler, zl, had, throughout his life, never been bested by anyone (his vast erudition…

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ויגדל משה ויצא אל אחיו וירא בסבלתם

Moshe grew up and went out to his brethren and observed their burdens. (2:11)

Pharaoh did not enslave the members of Shevet Levi, which, considering his evil character, is an anomaly. He was a cruel despot who had no regard for the feelings of others. He considered himself to be a deity, fearing and respecting no one. Why would he be lenient towards Shevet Levi? Horav Yonasan Eibeshutz, zl, offers a practical explanation which goes to the core of the concept of nosei b’ol im chaveiro, sharing the yoke/empathizing with (the plight of) one’s fellow. Pharaoh’s astrologers told him that the man who would be the Jews’ savior would hail from Shevet Levi. Pharaoh…

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ותרא את התיבה בתוך הסוף ותשלח את אמתה ותקחה

She saw the basket among the reeds, and she sent her maidservant and she took it. (2:5)

Rashi cites Chazal (Shemos Rabbah 1:21), who expound that amah (translated above as maidservant) means arm (she stretched out her arm), and, according to their interpretation, her forearm became long (stretched) many amos (cubits) to enable her to reach the basket and draw the basket out of the water. Bisyah’s (daughter of Pharaoh) behavior begs elucidation. Apparently, she was a few cubits away from the basket. What possessed her to think that she could just stretch out her hand and reach the basket? She experienced a miracle, since, by natural convention, she should not have been able to reach the…

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ויהי כי יראו המילדות את האלקים ויעש להם בתים

And it was because the midwives feared G-d that He made for them houses. (1:21)

The meyaldos, midwives, risked their lives to save and sustain the Jewish infants. Pharaoh was a mass murderer; he would have had no problem adding two more Jewish women to his list of victims. Yet, the Torah underscores not their act of saving the children, but that their behavior was the result of a deep-rooted sense of yiraas Shomayim, fear of Hashem. Imagine, if a Jew who had saved his fellow’s life at great risk to himself is presented to us. Would we laud his yiraas Shomayim or his life-saving efforts? Why does the Torah focus on their fear of…

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וימת יוסף וכל אחיו וכל הדור ההוא

Yosef died, and all his brothers and that entire generation. (1:6)

The Midrash (Shemos Rabbah 1:8) teaches that as long as any member of the original seventy souls that comprised Yaakov Avinu’s family that descended with him to Egypt was alive, the Egyptians did not enslave them. In other words, shibud Mitzrayim, the bondage to which the Jews were subjected, did not begin right away. Why was this? How did the group of seventy protect their descendants? Horav Aharon Cohen, zl (Rosh Yeshivas Chevron), explains that every member of that unique group enjoyed a close, personal relationship with the Patriarch. As a result, he had greatly influenced and inspired each of…

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