Weekly Portion: Shemot (Exodus 1:1-6:1)

This week’s portion tells a story often repeated throughout history: The Jews become prominent and numerous. There arises a new king in Egypt “who did not know Joseph” (meaning he chose not to know Joseph or recognize any debt of gratitude). He proclaims slavery for the Jewish people “lest they may increase so much, that if there is war, they will join our enemies and fight against us, driving (us) from the land.”

Moshe (Moses) is born and immediately hidden because of the decree to kill all male Jewish babies. Moses is saved by Pharaoh’s daughter, grows up in the royal household, goes out to see the plight of his fellow Jews. He kills an Egyptian who was beating a Jew, escapes to Midian when the deed becomes known, becomes a shepherd, and then is commanded by God at the Burning Bush to “bring My people out of Egypt.” Moses returns to Egypt, confronts Pharaoh who refuses to give permission for the Israelites to leave. And then God says, “Now you will begin to see what I will do to Pharaoh!”

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Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states:

“And the daughter of Pharaoh came down to wash herself at the Nile, and her maidens walked along by the side of the Nile; and she saw the box (containing Moses) amongst the rushes. And she stretched out her arm and she took it” (Exodus 2:5).

What lesson is there for us to learned from her action?

Rashi cites the Sages that Pharaoh’s daughter’s arm stretched out very long and she miraculously was able to save the infant Moses.

A number of communal activists were at a meeting which was headed by Rabbi Meir Shapiro, the Rosh Hayeshiva of Lublin. The topic of the meeting concerned saving people’s lives. There were some people at the meeting who said, “What needs to be done is simply impossible. There is no way that we could possibly be successful.”

Rabbi Shapiro cited the Sages who explained our verse that a miracle happened to enable Pharaoh’s daughter ‘s arm to stretch so far as to reach Moshe and save him. The question arises, “Why did she stretch out her arm in the first place? Didn’t she realize that it was impossible for her to reach Moshe?”

He replied that a person must always try to do everything he can to save someone. Even if you think that your efforts on behalf of others cannot possibly succeed, still make a sincere effort to try anyway. You will be surprised to find that you will frequently accomplish much more than you imagined. “This applies to us,” said Rabbi Shapiro. “We must do everything we can even if we do not really believe that we will be successful. The Almighty often helps and the efforts put in prove to be fruitful.”


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