SHEMOS (Exodus, 1:1-6:1) — “Mother Goose Lied to Us!”

Moses was pained over the status of his nation.  They were persecuted and afflicted.  The Israelites weren’t just slaves who were forced to work; they were treated like animals.  Moses couldn’t understand why the Children of Israel were suffering so greatly.  He couldn’t understand why G-d had not yet taken His People out of Egypt.  Was He angry with them?

One day Moses saw an innocent Israelite being beaten by an Egyptian.  Moses had to act.  He killed the Egyptian and hid the body in the sand.

The next day, Moses witnessed another upsetting episode.  Dathan and Abiram, two brothers who were destined to become Moses’ biggest antagonists, were arguing.  The debate was rapidly deteriorating; it was about to come to blows!  Moses was appalled.  How could fellow Jews hit each other?  Again, he felt the need to intercede:

He said to the wicked one, “Why will you hit your companion?” (Exodus, 2:13)

As upsetting as it was to observe this fight, Moses was totally unprepared for the even more shocking response: “Who made YOU a man, a ruler and a judge over us?  Are you going to kill me, like you killed the Egyptian?!”  Moses was frightened, and he thought, “Indeed, the matter is known.” (Ibid.14)

“Indeed, the matter is known.”

A simple reading of these verses indicates that Moses’ fear was for his own safety.  He was, after all, about to become a fugitive.  However, the Midrash tells us that Moses had a much greater concern.  He was worried “because he had seen evil informers among Israel.  He said… ‘Perhaps they don’t deserve to be redeemed!…I used to wonder…what sin did Israel do that they should be tyrannized with crushing labor?  But now I see that they deserve it!’ ” (Rashi)

“Indeed, the matter is known.”

Moses, upon seeing the raw evil of gossip-mongering among his people, concluded that they DESERVED to be slaves.  By spreading rumors about each other (even TRUE rumors!) they were committing a terrible sin.  But is that the only evil that Moses saw?  Let’s return to verse 13: “He said to the wicked one, ‘Why will you hit your companion?”

“He said TO THE WICKED ONE…”  Which one was “the wicked one?”  Rashi quotes the Talmud (Sanhedrin 58b) that anyone who raises his hand to hit another person is deemed “wicked.”

——————————————————————————-

Let me ask you a question.  What is worse, gossip or physical violence?  People talk about people all the time.  It’s crude, it’s petty, and it’s not nice.  But it doesn’t bruise and it doesn’t injure.  Isn’t it worse to physically attack someone?

Why did Moses wait until he saw that the Israelites were gossipers before he concluded that they were evil?  Couldn’t he have drawn that conclusion from the evil he saw in a fistfight between two brothers?

The answer, I believe, is obvious.  As bad as it is to hit another person physically, it is, in one sense, even worse to strike him verbally.  Perhaps the reason is that it is easy to delude oneself.  As long as I don’t strike you physically, I haven’t left a scar, so it’s not so bad.  The truth, however, is that not all scars are tangible.  Biting words of criticism and ridicule can leave scars that are even more insidious than a simple punch in the nose could ever accomplish.  Such behavior is pure evil.

The truth is that Mother Goose lied to us.  Yes, sticks and stones CAN break bones…but it takes words to REALLY get us into trouble.

Have a great Shabbos.

Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz

To leave a comment about this article, or to read other readers’ comments on this article, scroll down past the archive links.

———————————————————————————

 From the Archives 

“My Grandson’s Bris – 2” (2010) 

Read More.

——————————————————————————

“My Grandson the Priest” (2009) 

… Jethro recognized that Moses was an Israelite; he proposed a match with one of his daughters.

But there was a catch…Jethro would only agree to allow Moses to marry his daughter on the condition that the oldest son would be raised to be a priest of idol worship.

Pretty amazing, no?  Want to hear something even more amazing?  Moses agreed!! …

Read More.

———————————————————————————

“Mrs. Moses: Certified Mohelet??!” (2008) 

Several years ago I was driving in the car listening to a discussion on the radio about circumcision.  Being a Mohel myself, I was, of course, very interested in the conversation.  I listened with curiosity and apprehension.

I get very uncomfortable when religious Jews call radio shows.  It is very difficult to explain a profound religious concept in a cogent and articulate manner when the host has his own ideas and can cut you off in mid-sentence.  Yet, the calls were coming in, and the host maintained that circumcision is done for health reasons.

Then an Italian lady called and said that she had her boys circumcised for health reasons, and was glad she did.  He said, “Thank you, dear,” and hung up.  Then he asked, “Hey, I wonder if a lady is allowed to be a Mohel.”

I braced myself for the responses.  A short time later, the host said, “Our next caller, from RocklandCounty, is Moysheh.  Hello, Moysheh.”

“Hello, Mr. Grant.  This is Moishe-the-Moyel from Monsey!”…

Read More.

———————————————————————————

“Mrs. Moses Goes Home to Father” (2007)

… Moses was about to get a promotion.  He was about to become the Shepherd of Israel.   G-d assigned Moses the crucial task of leading his People out of Egypt.  There was, however, a problem.  There was the matter of his pre-nuptial agreement…

At one point, Zipporah decided to pack up the boys and go home.  There are various reasons given by the Commentaries.  The Chasam Sofer suggests that all was not well in the ben-Amram family…

Moses’ wife …went home.  … She would not accompany him to Egypt…

So what changed her mind? …

Read More.

———————————————————————————

“The Secret Password” (2006)

What are the credentials of a savior of Israel? Imagine the scene:

The Sages of Israel have been summoned to a meeting. They have been enduring unspeakable horrors due to the agonizing slavery that his been placed upon them by their Egyptian taskmasters.  The meeting has been called by a fugitive, a wanted man.  Moses, the twelve-year-old son of Amram the Levite had absconded from Egypt to escape a murder conviction.  Now, as an eighty year-old man, he has returned to Egypt with an announcement…

Do we listen to Moses? Is he for real?  Is he on the level?  We haven’t seen this fellow in sixty-eight years! Suddenly he shows up with a Messianic proclamation, and he expects us to risk our skins by going to the Pharaoh with such an outrageous request!?

They bought it…

Read More.

———————————————————————————

 “Pain in the Ukraine” (2004)

… A Mohel went to the Ukraine to usher Jewish men into the Covenant of Abraham.  As a fifteen-year-old Yeshiva student lay on the table, the Mohel read his medical chart.  The boy, as it turned out, was allergic to the anesthesia that the Mohel had brought from the U.S…  The Bris would have to be delayed… No, insisted the boy.  He wanted to have his Bris!  He would not get off the table.  He was adamant.  He was already fifteen years late; he would wait no longer!…The Mohel set out to do his holy work.  There was skin tissue to cut, and wounds to suture and cauterize.  The young man just lay there and endured it all.

He tried to be stoic and motionless.  Throughout the excruciating pain, he was silent.  But finally, he could be silent no more. It was just too painful.  He let out a blood-curdling scream…

Read More.

 ———————————————————————————

“Watch Your Step!” (2004)

… I walked into my Bible class at one of the facilities where I am a chaplain, and presented them with a provocative question.  “How do we know,” I asked, “that G-d gave the Torah to Moses on Mount Sinai?”

I wasn’t quite prepared for the response.  A little lady with a kerchief on her head — I’ll call her “Mrs. Cohen” — who almost always sat quietly through my various classes, called out, in a very German accent, “Because it says so in the Tow-raw!” (For those unfamiliar with the German pronunciation: Tow-raw — “Tow,” rhyming with “now”, and “raw,” rhyming with “saw.”)

I was frustrated.  She broke my momentum.  Sure, I thought, SHE believes that, but what about every one else?

“Yes, of course,” I continued, “it says so in the Torah.  But how do we know that the Torah’s description is actually what happened?”

“Because it says so in the Tow-raw!”

I gave up…

Read More.

———————————————————————————

“A Tale of Two Kings” (2002) 

[TORAH TALK IN THE JEWISH PRESS:  This message from 2002, updated for the 2007 political season, appeared as an Op-Ed in the Jewish Press.]

…The Egyptians were concerned about the growth of the Jewish population. The Israelites were increasing by leaps and bounds. … The Egyptian people demanded that their king address their “Jewish Problem.”

The king, who at first had demonstrated a bit of integrity, refused. He couldn’t bring himself to take action against Joseph’s people. Joseph had been so good to Egypt. The masses wouldn’t take no for an answer. They ousted the king.

Spending three months as an ex-king was more than he could bear. Thus, “a new king arose over Egypt, who didn’t know Joseph.” The “new” king with a new attitude conveniently “didn’t know,” or, at least ACTED as if he didn’t know Joseph. The persecution began…

Read More.

———————————————————————————

“Mother Goose Lied to Us!” (2002)

Moses was pained over the status of his nation.  They were persecuted and afflicted.  The Israelites weren’t just slaves who were forced to work; they were treated like animals.  Moses couldn’t understand why the Children of Israel were suffering so greatly.  He couldn’t understand why G-d had not yet taken His People out of Egypt.  Was He angry with them?…

 Read More.

———————————————————————————

“A Helping Hand” (2001)

…Bisya adopted the child and raised him in the palace.  She named him Moshe, “because I drew him (“MISHISIYHU” in Hebrew) from the water.”  (Exodus, 2:10) … the name “Moshe” seems to be grammatically incorrect.    A more accurate name would be “Mashui,” which would mean “one who is drawn.” …

Read More.

———————————————————————————

This is the weekly message at www.torahtalk.org.   Copyright © 2000-2013 by Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz.  May be reprinted. Please include copyright information.

———————————————————————————

Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz is a Mohel (www.Brisrabbi.com)  and chaplain in Monsey, New York. For information about scheduling a Bris or a lecture, or just to say hello, call (800) 83MOHEL.

———————————————————————————

If you enjoyed this e-mail, send it to a friend.

To subscribe to this mailing, send an e-mail to Torahtalk@gmail.com, and type “Subscribe” on the subject line.   To unsubscribe, type “Unsubscribe” on the subject line.

Advertisements
Published in: on January 2, 2002 at 12:22 pm  Leave a Comment  

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: