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ויקח משה את אשתו ואת בניו וירכיבם על החמור וישב ארצה מצרים

So, Moshe took his wife and sons, mounted them on the donkey and returned to the land of Egypt. (4:20)

Rashi teaches that this was no ordinary donkey. It was the donkey that Avraham Avinu saddled for the Akeidas, Binding, of Yitzchak. It is also the donkey that Moshiach Tziddkeinu is destined to be revealed upon, as the pasuk in Zecharyah (9:9) says, Ani v’rocheiv al ha’chamor, “A humble man riding on a donkey.” What is Rashi teaching us? What is to be gleaned from the fact that Moshe Rabbeinu’s donkey was none other than the same donkey that Avraham saddled to go to the Akeidah? Horav Chaim Stein, zl, explains that we should understand this in the context of…

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ויאמר כי אהיה עמך וזה לך האות כי אנכי שלחתיך

And He said, “For I shall be with you, and this is your sign that I have sent you.” (3:12)

Moshe Rabbeinu claimed that he was unworthy to lead the Jews out of Egypt. Hashem countered that he was worthy of great things. He gave him a sign. What was that sign? The Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh explains that Hashem intimated, “You ask what is the sign? The mere fact, Ki Anochi shilachticha, that I have sent you, is your greatest sign. For had you not have been worthy, I would not have sent you! So what room do you have for the concern regarding your worthiness?” Horav Yitzchak Zilberstein, Shlita, applies the words of the Ohr HaChaim to assuage the…

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ויפן כה וכה... ויך את המצרי ויטמנהו בחול

He turned this way and that… so he struck the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. (2:12)

Moshe Rabbeinu felt that this Egyptian had perpetrated a grave injustice. As such, he took the initiative and punished him. Shortly after the passing of the Chazon Ish, who was the preeminent Torah giant of his generation, Horav Eliyahu Meir Bloch, zl, Rosh Yeshivas Telshe, was maspid, eulogized him, in Cleveland. Sadly, only a small group of lay people attended the Rosh Yeshivah’s hesped. Rav Eliyahu Meir felt strongly and took umbrage over the fact that they chose not to pay their respects to the memory of the gadol hador. He felt this was a chillul Hashem, desecration of Hashem’s…

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ותיראן המילדות את האלקים ולא עשו כאשר דבר אליהן מלך מצרים

But the midwives feared Hashem, and they did not do as the king of Egypt spoke to them. (1:17)

Leadership has its challenges, and, unless one is strong and persistent, he will fail. Humility should be intrinsic to every leader’s character. When one assumes that he is infallible, he is unaware of his tragic flaw. One who is aware of his faults, who understands his imperfections, will work on them, seeking every avenue to correct his shortcomings. Nonetheless, a position of leadership demands tremendous self-confidence. In some instances, humility comes into play, especially when the leader feels inadequate for the position. Sometimes, one is compelled to adopt a role for which he may not feel entirely suited. This may…

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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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