Sefer Shmot , the chumash of “Galut and Geula” , portrays not only the historic redemption of Am Yisrael from Mitzrayim, but also contains the essential information necessary for us to pay attention to regarding galut and geulah in general and to our own transition from galut to geulah in the past one hundred years.
“Geulat Mitzrayim is the source of all the geulot גאולת מצרים שורש לכל הגאולות – “
Even just a superficial reading of the first two chapters of this week’s parsha reveals vital elements needed to initiate a process of redemption.
First of all there must exist a desire to be redeemed.
“וַיְהִי בַיָּמִים הָרַבִּים הָהֵם וַיָּמָת מֶלֶךְ מִצְרַיִם וַיֵּאָנְחוּ בְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל מִן הָעֲבֹדָה וַיִּזְעָקוּ וַתַּעַל שַׁוְעָתָם אֶל הָאֱלֹהִים מִן הָעֲבֹדָה:
Now it came to pass in those many days that the king of Egypt died, and the children of Israel sighed from the labor, and they cried out, and their cry ascended to G-d from the labor.”
Second of all there must be a redeemer, and so we read about the birth of Moshe and his miraculous survival. We learn about the long period of time that can transpire between the start of the geulah and its fruition. We also read about the revelation of Hashem to Moshe and his appointment and acceptance of his mission. We learn as well about the difficulties and ups and downs that can accompany the process and many other elements as well.
What is common to of all the above is a sense of greatness – Am Yisrael davening, Moshe Rabeinenu’s birth, revelation, confronting Paro, etc. The Maharal of Prague even points out that the reason the Torah initially describes the birth of Moshe in a non-personal way, without the names of his parents , is because it is emphasizing the “klali” – general national aspect of the birth of Moshe – in contrast to the personal, private aspect of his birth. Indeed geulah is a major concept that reflects on major developments.
However, a closer look at events prior to the above-mentioned ones, reveal another element in this process which apparently is also necessary.
In response to the crying out of Bnei Yisrael to Hashem, mentioned above, the Torah says:
“Hashem heard their cry, and Hashem remembered His covenant with Avraham, with Yitzchak, and with Ya’akov.
And Hashem saw Bnei Yisrael, and Hashem knew.“
On the words “And Hashem saw Bnei Yisrael“, Rashi comments:
וידע א-להים: נתן עליהם לב ולא העלים עיניו:
He focused His attention upon them: and did not conceal His eyes from them.
For Hashem to pay attention and not to ignore Bnei Yisrael’s plight is certainly a prerequisite for geulah. This attribute though, is first displayed in the narrative of Yetziat Mitzrayiom not by Hashem, but by a very young little girl. According to one opinion in Chazal, the midwives, Shifrah and Puah mentioned in our Parsha, were Yocheved and Miriam. When they confronted Par’o, Miriam was less than seven years old, yet Chazal explain that Miriam is referred to as Puah since she showed – displayed (from the word le’ho’fi’ah) her countenance in front of Par’o when he told them to kill the male infants.
פועה נ- שהופיעה פנים כנגד פרעה, וזקפה חוטמה בו ואמרה לו אוי לו לאותו האיש כשיבא האלקים ליפרע ממנו, נתמלא עליה חמה להרגה“
Puah –that she shamelessly confronted Par’o, stuck her nose in his face (literal translation) and said, ‘woe to that man when G-d will come and exact payment from him for his actions’. Par’o became infuriated by her to the point of wanting to kill her.
Miriam, a young, young girl, saw a terrible injustice and did not turn her eyes from it. She confronted it head on even at the risk of her own life.
And she doesn’t stop there. Chazal relate that when Par’o decreed that all the male infants must be cast into the river, Amram separated from his wife Yocheved.
Amram was separated from Yocheved because of Par’o’s decree and he remarried her. This is the meaning of “went”, that he followed [lit., he went after] his daughter’s advice that she said to him, your decree is harsher than his. Whereas Par’o issued a decree only against the males, you issued a decree against the females as well for none will be born. He then took her back and married her a second time.
Miriam, six years old at the time, sees a harsh reality around herself but does not turn away. She faces her father, who was the Gadol Hador, and manages to convince him that he is wrong. She is directly responsible through her actions for the birth of Moshe Rabeinu.
Her refusal not to turn away is seen as well when she remains to see what will happen to her baby brother who has been placed in the river. She hasn’t given up, and is waiting for an opportunity to save him, as indeed she helps to do.
Although the Torah is called by the Ne’vi’im, Torat Moshe, and once Moshe is born the Torah focuses on him mostly, there is actually very little biographic information about Moshe’s life. We are told basic information about Moshe’s birth and infancy. We know of two days in his youth when he became a teenager. Then he disappears from the scene for over sixty years – information about a few days in Midyan, reappears for geulat Mitzrayim, Matan Torah and the first two years in the desert. The following thirty seven years in the desert after the sin of the spies is not elaborated on at all, and then we have Moshe’s speech in the last year of his life. The personal information of Moshe’s life is very scarce. Yet there are three incidents in his life which the Torah tells relates and they all share that same underlying quality: not to turn away – לא העלים עיניו.
The moment Moshe grows up, according to the Ramban possibly twelve or thirteen years old, and once he reveals his Jewish identity, he immediately goes out to see and inquire about his brothers (and sisters) suffering, even though this would probably have jeopardized his position in the house of Par’o – לא העלים עיניו.
He sees an Egyptian hitting his brother and he immediately takes action, despite the fact that it could instantaneously cause him to turn from prince to fugitive in Mitzrayim – לא העלים עיניו.
The very next day he goes out again and sees a Jew hitting another Jew, and responds immediately in the defense of the one being attacked, – לא העלים עיניו.
The next incident reported is the confrontation of Moshe with the shepards of Midyan who attacked the daughters of Yitro. Despite being on the run from Par’o, and needing to keep a low profile, Moshe sees an injustice and cannot put up with it – לא העלים עיניו.
These are the stories of Moshe’s life that the Torah chose to tell us, all highlighting the mesirut nefesh of Moshe Rabeinu to fight against injustices
The Rambam in his Guide to the Perplexed, goes as far as to say that this quality is in fact the first stage of prophecy:
The first degree of prophecy consists in the Divine assistance which is given to a person, and induces and encourages him to do something good and grand, e.g., to deliver a congregation of good men from the hands of evildoers; to save one noble person, or to bring happiness to a large number of people; he finds in himself the cause that moves and urges him to this deed. This degree of Divine influence is called “the spirit of Hashem”; and of the person who is under that influence we say that the spirit of Hashem came upon him, clothed him, or rested upon him, or that Hashem was with him, and the like.
All the judges of Yisrael possessed this degree… This faculty was always possessed by Moshe from the time he had attained the age of manhood: it moved him to slay the Egyptian, and to prevent evil from the two men that quarreled; it was so strong that, after he had fled from Mitzrayim out of fear, and arrived in Midyan, a trembling stranger, he could not restrain himself from interfering when he saw wrong being done; he could not bear it.
Though the events that unfold in our parsha and the following parshiot are of great magnitude and importance, involving the redemption of Am Yisrael, these events started and were made possible by, amongst others, the actions of two young children that were not prepared to stand- by and observe injustices and not respond.
We as well pray to Hashem not conceal His face and not to turn away, but just like in Mitzrayim, we must not turn away also!