Nu- one sefer down, four to go until Simchas Toirah and we start again. Sefer Bereishis covered 2,000 years in 50 chapters. Sefer Shemois covers less than 200 years in 40 chapters. The majority of Sefer Shemois covers just a few years, the first 16 chapters deal with slavery and freedom, let’s begin.
Zicher you remember that many Parshiois back, way back in Lech Lecho, the RBSO promised Avrum Oveeenu that his children would one day be strangers (he meant slaves) in a nation that does not belong to them…guess what? He didn’t forget and in this week’s Parsha of Shemois, he makes good. Seemingly the RBSO has a long memory and that cannot be good news for most of you.
Lots to cover, not enough time in one shiur so this week we’ll stay focused on Moishe Rabaynuu, events leading to his birth, the women that played a pivotal role in his life, the perverted slithering snake and more, ober (but) first a shtikel background. It pains me mamish that I have to waste mamish an entire page and time during this shiur chazziring (reviewing) this basic information with you. I’m disgusted that while your parents spent tens of thousands on your yeshiva education, all you remember about Parshas Shemois is the farkakte ‘Baby Moshe’ song that you sang in nursery school; aroisgivorfeni gelt (money in the toilet), oy vey!!
Yankiff’s family had been living in Mitzrayim (Egypt) and prospering, mistama shvindeling (ripping off) the goyim wherever they could and had grown from a large family into a nation. Yoisef passed away, as did all his brothers. A new king, who did not know Yoisef, came to rule over Egypt. There is a machloikes (dispute) in the heylige gemorrah as to whether he was actually a new king, or whether it was the same Paroy, who enacted harsh decrees against the Jews, ignoring Yoisef’s great contributions to Egypt, what else is new? Avada you know that we cover the inyan (topic) of Hakaros Hatov quite often. Seemingly Paroy forgot; not nice. He looked at the ever growing Jewish people and began to worry- too many Jews! As Sefer Shmois begins, the Toirah recounts that it all began with a mishpocho (family) of 70 individuals that arrived to Egypt which had grown to a nation of about 3 million people; soon we’ll learn how. Nu, that’s what I call fertility.
Paroy feared a revolt. The supernatural, rapid increase in the Jewish population had made the Egyptians nervous — “there are too many of them, what if they rise up against us” – we need a plan- and Paroy issued a genocidal decree: Kill all the Jewish boys. You hear this Raboyseyee: Paroy thought we the Jews were fighters. What to do? He forced the Jews to do intense back breaking labor in order to crush their spirit and curtail their growth. The Yiddin (Jews) became his slaves and were forced to build two large cities, by hand mamish. Paroy was a genius and understood that Yiddin don’t enjoy manual labor. Of course, it took them 116 years to build these cities because they had frequent brakes for minyan, mishmar, Sunday school, fund raisers for other kings, concerts, Melava Malkas, weekend bar mitzvahs and parlor meetings for visiting Rebbes but when they fell behind, the Egyptians would beat them with whips, something rachmona litzlon (heaven forbid) that some of you chazerrim (pigs) have gotten used to and now pay a hefty price for, oy vey.
Paroy’s astrologers informed him that the male savior of the Jewish people would soon be born. He ordered the Jewish midwives, Shifrah and Pu’ah, to kill all the male babies (by partial birth abortions.) The midwives, at risk to their own lives, ignored Paroy’s decree; no great surprise here, since when do Jewish women listen to anyone, even the king.
Avada the birth of Moishe is the centerpiece of this week’s parsha ober Raboyseyee before we move on, we must take a closer look at his birth, the women in his life and the roles they played in the gantze mayseh (entire story) The heylige toirah tells us that Paroy’s plan to limit the growth of the Jewish people was somewhat stunted by Shifra and Pu’ah. Rashi tells us they were really Yoicheved and Miriam, Moishe’s mother and sister and mistama the first two Jewish midwives/ nurses. This mother-daughter team bravely defied Paroy’s decree to kill all males at birth. Surely you won’t be surprised to learn that according to at least one Medrish, there weren’t Jewish at all; rather, they were Egyptians who were mistama pro life.
It’s takeh shever (difficult) to understand this entire episode. Paroy, the king, gives specific orders and they openly defy him? Let’s see what the midrash says about this mayseh. Says the Midrash Tanchuma; (Talmud, Sotah 11b) azoy: At first, Paroy only insisted that the Jews make the prescribed number of bricks each day. Then he commanded that they should not be allowed to sleep in their homes, so that they should not be able to have children. The taskmasters said to them: “If you go home to sleep, you will lose a few hours each morning from your work, when we send for you, and you will never complete the allotted number.” So they made them sleep on the ground out in the field. Takeh giferlich (terrible).
What did the Neshay Chayil (daughters of Israel) do? They would go down to draw water from the river, and the RBSO would send small fish into their pitchers, which they drew up half full of water and half full of fish. They then set two pots on the fire, one for hot water and the other for the fish. They sold the fish and bought wine, which they carried to their husbands in the field, then, washed, anointed, fed, and gave them to drink. They would then take out their mirrors and look into them with their husbands, teasing them, “Look, I am more beautiful than you” thus arousing their desire and cohabiting with them among the sheepfolds. You hear this Raboyseyee- sounds like one big open field orgy, the forerunner of Woodstock. Doesn’t sound so giferlich (terrible) to me, to you?
What happened next? The women conceived and returned to their homes. When the time of childbirth arrived, they were delivered in the field beneath the apple trees, as it is written: “Under the apple-tree I brought you forth” (Song of Songs 5:5). The RBSO sent a Malach (angel) from the high heavens that washed and straightened the limbs [of the babes] in the same manner that a midwife straightens the limbs of a child. When the Egyptians noticed them, they went to kill them; but a miracle occurred and [the children] were swallowed in the ground. The Egyptians brought oxen and ploughed over them. After they had departed, they broke through the earth and came forth like the herbage of the field. When the children had grown up, they came in flocks to their homes. According to this p’shat, it’s mamish easy to see how they grew in number and why Paroy was scared shitless. Want to hear more?
The children of Israel were fertile and became numerous. Says the Yalkut azoy (like this): While in Egypt, each Jewish woman gave birth to sextuplets. Some say that each pregnancy resulted in as many as 12 and yet others state that each delivered as many as 60; is it any wonder Paroy got nervous, wouldn’t you?
Next we learn that this same Yoicheved gave birth. Moshe was secretly born to his father Amram, and his mother Yoicheved. They hid him in a waterproof basket and set him afloat in the river, mistama (likely) the first Jew to enjoy a river cruise. He was adopted by Basya, the daughter of Paroy, and raised by his own mother, Yoicheved. Rashi quoting the Medrish suggests that Yoicheved was no spring chicken at this time, in fact; she was a spry 130 years old. And how is that she became trugidik (pregnant)? Takeh a kasha (good question) but not one without a teretz (answer): this is the toirah and avada there’s always a medrish with a logical p’shat. Says the heylige gemorah (sotah 12a) that she became young again. Her wrinkles smoothed out, her skin became soft, her period returned and she gave birth not just to Moishe but also to his siblings Aharon and Miriam. Zicher (surely) you’re wondering if giving birth at 130 to Moishe was a miracle, why isn’t this event mentioned in the heylige toirah but in the Medrish and moreover, what was the big deal when Sorah gave birth at 90? Takeh a kasha but again don’t run ahead. In fact Ibn Ezra states that she wasn’t 130. Ramban and others say it is true: was she or wasn’t she- who knows? Whatever her age, no one argues that she gave birth to Moishe. The gemorah discusses this and one day when you oisvorfs are ready, you’ll pick up the gemorah and learn this for yourselves (you’ll also save me a few hours of hard work).
The birth is followed by the scene of Miriam stationing herself on the side to watch what happens to her baby brother as he floats down the Nile. The next possik (verse) introduces Paroy’s daughter Basya who went to bathe in the river. When she saw the basket which contained Moishe floating along, she stretched out her arm, reached and got it, opened it and saw a baby crying. She sent for a wet nurse to feed the baby, but Moishe refused to nurse from an Egyptian. What was he thinking? She tried to nurse him but Moishe wasn’t sucking. Avada you’re wondering why a hungry and thirsty baby wouldn’t want to be nursed by a hot young shiksa princess, or any shiksa for that matter. Mistama (likely) none of you would’ve turned down the opportunity had you been offered the bosom. Obviously this tayva (desire) for sucking on the bosom of a shiksa princess eventually kicks in and not just for a princess, if you know what I mean and nebech you do. Ok- veyter…let’s move on and waste time on these shtusim (narishkeyt- silliness).
Interestingly, Moishe’s refusal to latch onto Basya’s bosom is the source of a famous halocho found in the Rama (Yoreh Deah Siman 81 Sif 7) where he says azoy: He paskens (rules) that a child should not nurse from an Egyptian woman (or any other Akum (shiksa) since it brings to Timtum HaLev (Stuffing up of the Jewish heart) and Teva Ra (bad tendencies), as you well know, rachmono litzlon (heaven forbid). And what’s his source for such a devastating halacha? Answer: the origin is in this week’s parsha where Moishe turned down Basya’s bosom. And just because you’re not Moishe Rabaynuu, that doesn’t mean that you have a free pass for your chazeerish (slime bucket) behavior, if you chap what I’m saying. Now – some state that if you are going to be with a shiksa, that’s ok but you zicher should stay away from her bosoms.
A bit earlier, the Possik tells us that “The woman conceived and gave birth to a son and she saw that he was good [tov] and she hid him for three months.” And what do we learn from this verse? It teaches that Moishe was born circumcised. How does this Midrash derive from our posuk that Moishe was born with a Bris Milah? Since when does the word Tov mean circumcised? I always thought that Tov meant good, didn’t you? Says the medrish azoy: What’s Pshat? We learned elsewhere that ‘Yiftach went to a land that was good [tov]’ (Shoftim 11:3) – Is the Diaspora good? Seemingly in one sense it is. The produce of the Diaspora is exempt from the law of maaser [tithing]. The Toirah equates the fruit of the land to the fruit of the womb. Just as the fruit of the land requires tithing, so too, the fruit of the womb requires tithing. What is the tithe of the fruit of the womb? It is circumcision. Got that? Excellent!
The Yerushalmi teaches us that the word ‘tov’ is only used to describe something that is exempt from the obligation of tithing. However, if a child, the fruit of the womb, also requires ‘tithing’ in the form of circumcision, as we saw in the Midrash, why would the Toirah describe Moishe immediately after birth as being ‘tov’? The Midrash in Shemos therefore concludes that Moishe was born circumcised and was exempt from the obligation of tithing. OK- did you follow all that, I didn’t! What’s the bottom line, did he or didn’t he need a bris? According to the Medrish the answer is no- he was born cut down to size and saved his parents thousands of dollars in catering, stuffed animals, aluminum foil and shul fees- takeh a mentch. And speaking of the bris…just wait to see what I have in store for you on the next page…..it’s mamish off the charts.
Anyway, Moishe grows up, kills one mitzri, and gets into an argument for trying to stop a fight between two other Jews. After being ratted out by one of them (oy vey) and upon hearing that Paroy wants his head, he flees to Midyan. 16 pissukim later The Toirah advances 40 years into the future of this child’s life as we are introduced to Tzipporah, daughter of the Chief of Midyan who Moishe Rabaynu meets at the well (still the best place to meet one’s bashert) and who is given to Moishe as a wife. There he married Tzipporah, the daughter of Yisroy, and had two children Gershom and Eliezer. They all lived happily ever after. But is that what really happened?
Not according to the targum Yoinoson ben Uzeil who says azoy: he says that when Yisroy found out that Moishe was a fugitive from Mitzrayim, he threw Moishe into a pit where Moishe languished for 10 years. During that time, one of his daughters (Tziporrah) took care of Moishe’s needs and eventually became his eishes chayil- wow! What those needs are, he does not say but we imagine that food was also included.
But let’s go back to Basya (Batya) Paroy’s daughter- Moishe’s adoptive mother and Tziporah- his wife. Listen to this amazing piece of Kabolah and you’ll quickly understand why it’s not recommended that people under 40 study it. Why? Because, it blows your mind. Citing the Zoihar Hakoidesh, the midrash tells us azoy: halt kup here (pay attention) as that is not explicitly said in the Chumash- but the midrash has literary license and has this givaldige chiddish. Batya- Paroy’s daughter and Tzippora- Moishe’s wife, – have something else in common besides a relationship with this Moishe. Tzippora and Batya were twin sisters, sold in the market place shortly after birth and separated when two different men, Yisroy and Paroy respectively, purchased them. They have somewhat similar upbringings: Both are raised in homes of royalty (one in an Egyptian palace and the other in the home of the High Priest); both are steeped in homes and lands of Avoida zoroah (idolatry). Each, in their own way, will play significant roles in shaping and molding the man named Moishe who will lead a slave nation to freedom; to nationhood as the RBSO’s chosen people; and ultimately to the establishment of a holy kingdom settled by a holy nation of kings and priests. Their pagan backgrounds, devoid of any “yichus” of an Avrahum, Yitzchok or Yankiff, will actually serve them in their later roles in life. Having “been there, and done that”, their strength of conviction and commitment to the RBSO’s laws and the Jewish people will defy any human power on earth and outshine their peers spiritually privileged to have been born into the covenant. Well, blow me down. So much for Yichus as a priority, perhaps – efsher maybe we need to look in the far East. And as I’ve said in the past, its one thing to mess with the Zohan but one should never argue with the Zohar!
So who is Moishe? He grows up as the grandson of Paroy the most powerful ruler of the mightiest nation on earth. He could easily have grown up to be a totally assimilated, a totally spoiled Egyptian kid. But Paroy’s own daughter has hired Moishe’s own real mother as his nanny and he never loses the connection or the commitment to his people. That is until he’s snake-bitten when in a classic case, he’s outed by a Yid, oy vey — Jews informing on other Jews, not nice. Moishe has to flee for his life. Or, efsher maybe it can be said (merely a theory, not p’shat) that after 80 years Moishe had enough of his own dysfunctional family- an absentee father, a Jewish mother who set him off to sail the Nile (without food nuch der tzei) , a sister who stood by watching and a shiksa Egyptian Princess who saves him and gives him the most popular Jewish name ever- Moishe- to show her Hakoras Hatoiv to the water that saved him (ki min hamayim mishishehu- for I drew him from the water). Seemingly Paroy forgot to be thankful, ober (but) not his daughter. I’d be confused too, you? Maybe his therapist told him to get away, that being in Mitzrayim was bad for him and he took off to Midyan to start anew, ver veist?
Eventually he ends up in the land of Midyan, which is across the Sinai Peninsula. There he meets Yisroy (Jethro), an excommunicated priest who has several daughters, one of whom named is Tzipporah. Moishe and Tzipporah have two sons, Gershom and Eliezer, (about whom we don’t hear much) and he (Moishe) becomes a shepherd, also a job. And now let’s learn what happened to Moishe after the RBSO met him at the burning bush and convinced him to be the messenger to free the Yiddin from slavery. Moishe had just asked his shver (father-in-law) for permission to go, which he granted. Next, he packed up his eishes chayil, his elder son Gershom and his newborn infant Eliezer and they’re on the road to Mitzrayim. Avada you can imagine that they needed to rest along the way and on the way to the inn or at the inn and the toirah tells us this is what happened. Hurch ois (listen up).
|24. Now he was on the way, in an inn, that the Lord met him and sought to put him to death.||כד. וַיְהִי בַדֶּרֶךְ בַּמָּלוֹן וַיִּפְגְּשֵׁהוּ יְ־הֹוָ־ה וַיְבַקֵּשׁ הֲמִיתוֹ:|
|25. So Tzipporah took a sharp stone and severed her son’s foreskin and cast it to his feet, and she said, “For you are a bridegroom of blood to me.”||כה. וַתִּקַּח צִפֹּרָה צֹר וַתִּכְרֹת אֶת עָרְלַת בְּנָהּ וַתַּגַּע לְרַגְלָיו וַתֹּאמֶר כִּי חֲתַן דָּמִים אַתָּה לִי:|
|26. So He released him. Then she said, “A bridegroom of blood concerning the circumcision.”||כו. וַיִּרֶף מִמֶּנּוּ אָז אָמְרָה חֲתַן דָּמִים לַמּוּלֹת:|
Ok – I can see that you’re lost; you never go this far into the parsha. Since these pisukkim are found in Shishi, you’re likely already setting up the Kiddush club, also an excuse to sneak out of shul. Or efsher, you’re schmoozing with your chaver about the Giant game, nebech- but do you see what you’re missing? All you remember from the parsha is that Moishe is born and the burning bush, but there’s more- there’s this little incident (now even smaller). You must read the pisukkim above, I’ll wait. So the family is on the way to Mitzrayim for the big meeting with Paroy, Moishe is acting on the RBSO’s command and on the way the Lord wants to kill him!? Tzipporah took a sharp stone, and cut off the orlah (foreskin) of her son, and threw it at his feet, and said, “You’re a bridegroom of blood to me” because of circumcision.” What the hec is going on here? What’s p’shat? Forget about p’shat, what do the words mean? Didn’t the RBSO just finish convincing Moishe that he’s the man for the job, and now death? And what does Tzipporra do- she doesn’t beg or fight, instead she takes a sharp stone and severed her son’s foreskin. Are you confused? Guess what, you’re not alone. The miforshim can’t make sense of it either from the words or even from the Rashi but they do try and here’s a sampling of their thinking, select the p’shat that talks to you.
A- the RBSO wanted to kill Moishe- well – not him and not directly- instead he sent down the angel and he- the angel- acting more like a devil wanted to kill Moishe because he did not circumcise his son, Eliezer, and because he was negligent he deserved the punishment of death. Is this p’shat , Or
B- Ober (but) The Beraisa taught: Rabbi Yosi said: rachmono litzlon (G-d forbid)! Actually, he was not negligent! Moishe thought: “If I circumcise him and set out on a journey, the child’s life will be in danger for three days. On the other hand [However,] I might circumcise him and wait three days, [but,] G-d has commanded me, “Go! Return to Egypt.” Then, why was he punished? Because his first concern was his lodging – p’shat is that Moishe was wasting time arguing for an upgraded desert view. (see Maseches Nedarim): Nu, so what happened? The angel turned into a snake and swallowed him (Moishe) from his head to his thigh [and spit him out] and then again swallowed him from his feet to that place (his penis). At that point Tzipporah, seeing all that was left of her husband was his member, understood that this was on account of [delaying] the circumcision and took matters into her own hands, so to speak. Next: she cut the foreskin – The snake then disappeared. She threw it (the foreskin) at Moishe’s feet saying, regarding her son—“You are a bridegroom of blood to me.” Like that one? No, let’s try another.
C- Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel says it was the baby whose death was sought. And some commentaries (notably Rabbenu Chananel in Yoma 85b) suggest Tzipporah was at fault due to her idolatrous upbringing (efsher maybe Moishe should not have married her at all); what would your father say if you brought home a Midyanite very dark looking shiksa? According to this p’shat, it was the baby that the Malach swallowed feet first till his genital organ, then swallowed the child’s head first, also stopping at the organ. Beware of the one-eyed snake! Ok, also a p’shat. One thing they all agree on: that none of them agree on real p’shat, what else is new? Let’s try one more.
D- Ramban and Targum Yoinoson posit that the child Tzipporah needed to circumcise was Gershom, Moishe’s older son. Huh?? Gershom? How old was he and why wasn’t he already circumcised? P’shat here is that Yisroy made Moishe and Tzipporah promise that they would not circumcise him as long as they lived in Midyan and as long as they were living off the in-laws, they complied.
You must be wondering and takeh some ask why Moishe didn’t perform the bris, why Tzipporah? How would the Vaad react if a female Moiel showed up to do a bris and the metzitzha- OMG! Nu- according to the p’shat that he (Moishe) was swallowed up by the malach/snake, I reckon it would be hard to move about while inside the snake. Moreover, why is the snake making trouble again, didn’t he cause enough tzurus (issues) back in Breishis? Didn’t he learn his lesson when the RBSO cut his legs off for making moves on Cahva with the forbidden fruit?
What can we learn from all of this? Two things. Ershtens (first of all) – imaginations on real p’shat ran wild and all over the place. Secondly: we see that the RBSO is quite serious about the bris milah, serious enough to almost lose the central character of the entire book of Exodus. Where would we be without Moishe Rabaynuu? And we also learn that when it comes to tzadikkim- truly righteous people- the RBSO is exacting to the hairsbreadth- he punishes them for their tiny misdeeds in this world so that they can enter the next world perfectly free of any taint and that Raboyseyee is gevaldige news for all you oisvorfs. Seemingly you have nothing to worry about as your list of chatoim (misdeeds) is so long and over so many years, that the RBSO will (likely) not deal with you in this world, though if you’re lucky, you may get swallowed up once in a while.
A gitten shabbis- happy holidays!