SHEMOS (Exodus, 1:1-6:1) — “The Secret Password”

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. (See “Mother Goose Lied to Us!”.) Now, as an eighty year-old man, he has returned to Egypt with an announcement:

“…The G-d of your ancestors has appeared to me, the G-d of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, I have surely remembered you and what is being done to you in Egypt…I will bring you up from the affliction of Egypt…to a Land flowing with milk and honey…You and the Elders are to go to the king of Egypt… and tell him… ‘Please let us go…to the wilderness to bring offerings to our G-d.’” (Exodus, 3:16-18)

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:

The People believed; they heard that G-d had remembered the Children of Israel and that He saw their affliction.  They bowed their heads and prostrated themselves.  (Ibid, verse 31)

How did they know?  What credibility did this Jewish-born Egyptian prince-turned killer-turned fugitive bring on his return from exile?  Why were they so willing to accept Moses’ claim of prophecy?

Let’s rewind a few generations back to the beginnings of Egyptian enslavement:

Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die.  But G-d will surely remember you and bring you up out of this land to the Land which He promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”  (Genesis, 50:24)

Joseph was telling his brothers how to know when it’s time to go.  Notice the similarity in phraseology.  Joseph said, “G-d will surely remember you.”  Moses told them that G-d had said, “I have surely remembered you…”

Before his death, Jacob gave a message to Joseph, which he, in turn, passed on to his brothers.  “You will know that the time for your redemption has come when someone arrives and quotes G-d saying, ‘I have surely remembered you.’”

The leaders of each generation passed this information on to the leaders of the next generation.  Some day, someone will show up with this prophecy.  Then we’ll know it’s time to go.

That somebody was Moses.  Hence: “The People believed; they heard that G-D HAD REMEMBERED the Children of Israel and that He saw their affliction.”

Of course they believed it.  He knew the secret password!

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A basic tenet of the Jewish Faith is the belief that there will be a redemption.  G-d will, at the appropriate time, send the Messiah to lead us back to the Land that flows with milk and honey. He will encourage us to observe every Mitzvah.  He will bring about the end of all wars.  He will preside over the building of the Third — this time permanent — Temple in Jerusalem.  We are waiting.  We’ve waited a long time.

Over the millennia many have claimed to be the Messiah.  They have come to the People of Israel purporting to lead us to Redemption.  It hasn’t happened.

The most famous of these men celebrates his birthday every December.  The Messiah is supposed to support the observance of every Mitzvah, changing nothing.  He didn’t do that.  The Messiah is supposed to bring world peace. He didn’t do that either.  The Messiah is supposed to rebuild the Temple.  After two thousand years, the Temple still lies in ruins.  We still await the Messiah.  He obviously didn’t know the password.

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But we do.  The Torah says that if a prophet tells us to violate a Torah Commandment, even if that prophet is capable of performing miracles, we are to ignore that prophet.

G-d gave us a Torah.  He expects us to follow what it says.  G-d wants you and me to maintain a strictly Kosher home.  G-d wants you and me to strictly observe the Sabbath.  G-d wants you and me to give generously to charity and to pray.

I’ve often wondered whether there is still a secret password.  Did the Sages of yesteryear transmit a confidential message to their successors?  Have today’s Sages received a top-secret message from their mentors telling them exactly how to recognize the true Messiah?

I certainly don’t know.  But there is one thing I do know.  There is a very long list of things that I want our Father in Heaven to do for me, my family, and my People.  Contrasted with that list is a list of a mere 613 Mitzvah that G-d wants me to do for Him.  Would it not be the epitome of arrogance to expect the world from G-d while ignoring His Commandments?  It appears to me that if I want my Creator do for me what I want, the very least I can do is what He asks of me.

And that’s no secret.

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.

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 From the Archives 

“My Grandson’s Bris – 2” (2010) 

Read More.

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“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.

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“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.

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“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.

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“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.

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 “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.

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“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.

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“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.

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“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.

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“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.

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

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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.

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Published in: on January 18, 2006 at 11:18 am  Leave a Comment  

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