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Parashas Shemos


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Jacob and his sons had died and the spiritual mission of Israel now rested with their children and their grandchildren.

While Jacob and his sons were still alive, the crushing persecution did not set in. Jacob and his sons were following the Torah too wholeheartedly for this too happen.

As Jacob and his sons died, adherence to the Torah lessened with the generation of his sons and grandsons, who became more assimilated in Egyptian culture and gave up many of the values of their ancestors.

The children of Israel multiplied greatly and the King of Egypt, Pharaoh, became concerned about their size, fearing that if a war would arise, the Children of Israel could join the enemy side.

Because of his fear, Pharaoh enacted a heinous policy to kill all sons born to the Children of Israel, hoping that the remaining girls of the Israelites would then be completely absorbed by Egypt.

He told the midwifes Shifra and Puah to kill each son born to the Israelite women.

Since the midwives were G'd-fearing, they did not obey Pharaoh's command.

The midwives are understood to be Jochebed and her daughter Miriam.

When Pharaoh confronted the midwives about their failure in carrying out his design, they said that the Hebrew women were experts in delivering babies and would already have given birth and delivered their children by the time the midwives arrived.

Pharaoh then passed a decree that all Hebrew children are to be drowned by the Egyptians.

Jochebed gave birth to a son, who would be called Moshe, and she managed to hide him for three months but then had to give him away.

She made a wicker basket using pitch and clay and put it into the river.

The boy was found by Pharaoh's daughter, who decided to adopt him.

The boy's sister, Miriam, observed all this and offered to get a wet nurse for the boy.

This wet nurse turned out to be the boy's mother, Jochebed.

Pharaoh's daughter called the boy Moshe.

Moshe grew up and one day he saw an Egyptian man treating a Hebrew person harshly.

Moshe intervened and struck the Egyptian.

The next day, Moshe tried to mediate in a fight between two Jewish people.

One of them asked whether he was going to strike them down the way he struck down an Egyptian the day before.

Pharaoh learnt what Moshe had done and started looking for him.

Moshe ran away, aware that "the matter was known".

He moved to Midian. Here, he defended seven women at a fountain, who had come to withdraw water but had been disturbed by some men, who wanted to draw water before them.

Surprised that they returned early from withdrawing water, their father Reuel (Jether) inquired how they were able to return so quickly.

His daughters told him of the man, Moshe, who defended them at the fountain.

Reuel invited Moshe for dinner.

Moshe decided to live with them and settled there, took Zipporah, daughter of Reuel, for a wife and they had a son, Gershom.

One day, Moshe was shepherding his father-in-law's sheep. He was near the mountain of G'd, and saw a burning bush, a bush that was aflame, yet not consumed by the flames.

He looked away for a moment, and then looked back, and he saw an angel of Hashem talk to him from the burning bush.

Hashem heard of his people's crying out and wanted to send Moshe as their redeemer.

Moshe argued that the people would not belive him, as response G'd told him to throw his staff on the ground. When Moshe did so, the staff turned into a snake.

Hashem told Moshe to grab the snake by its tail, and the snake turned back into the staff.

As a second sign for Moshe to show the Israelites so they would believe that G'd sent him, Moshe's hand became snowy like tzaraas when he drew his hand close to his body and became normal in appearance again whe he moved the hand back to his body a second time.

As a third sign, G'd told Moshe that if he took some water from the river Nile it would turn into blood.

Despite all this, Moshe did not feel confident in his ability to speak in front of the people.

In his anger, Hashem told Moshe to meet his brother Aaron.

Moshe would be the actual leader and tell Aaron what Aaron should share with the Children of Israel, in some sense Aaron became Moshe's spokesman, or Moshe's voice.

Moshe told his father-in-law that he would like to return to Egypt to his people.

On the way back to Egypt, Moshe got attacked by an angel and almost died. His wife saved him by circumsizing their son.

Moshe met his brother Aaron at the mountain of G'd.

Together they talked to the elders, who were convinced G'd sent them.

Moshe and Aaron went to Pharaoh to ask him to send out the Children of Israel for three days, so they could bring offerings for Hashem.

Otherwise they said they might die. Moshe and Aaron did actually say that they themselves would die even though G'd said that the Egyptians (or their first born) would die – Moshe and Aaron did this to show respect to Pharaoh.

Because Pharaoh felt slighted by this, he decided to increase the work that the Children of Israel would have to do.

From now on, the Children of Israel would have to get straw for their bricks themselves while maintaing the same quota.

The Jewish were upset with Moshe and Aaron.

G'd assured Moshe that He would now show Moshe what He would do to Pharaoh.

If Moshe had not refused his mission when G'd told him to speak in front of the Children of Israel, Moshe would have been both the great teacher and leader of the Jewish people that he turned out to be and on top of this he would also be a Kohen. Moshe is said to be the most humble person that ever existed and he is also said to have been born with a speech impediment, and this might have been a reason he did not feel so comfortable of his ability to speak. Moshe should have been aware though that G'd knew about this, and that G'd would help him achieve whatever G'd wanted him to achieve.

Similarly, Jeremiah and Amos are examples for other prophets that first refused to carry out the missions that G'd had assigned them.

By refusing, Israel would gain to illustrative leaders: Moshe, the great teacher, and Aaron, his brother, who would later become the Kohen Gadol.

Another takeaway from this affair is that it is always a good idea to consult with others before making major changes in one's life – just as G'd told Moshe to meet his brother Aaron, right after Moshe had refused the mission G'd had given him.

There is also an interesting parallel to note regarding Pharao's wicked plan to kill Israel's boys. Since Israel is G'd first born, and Pharaoh intended to do harm to G'd's first born, G'd would as a consequence inflict suffering on all the first born sons of Egypt when he carried out the final plague against Egypt.

Rabbi Moshe Perets
Brian Miñoza Dela Justa


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