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Posted on December 22, 2021 (5782) By Shlomo Katz | Series: | Level:

Volume 36, No. 13
21 Tevet 5782
December 25, 2021

Sponsored by
the Edeson & Stern families
on the 3rd yahrzeit of Jacob S. Edeson
(Yaakov Shlomo ben Yosef Nosson a”h – 19 Tevet),
beloved husband, father, grandfather & brother,
and on the yahrzeit of
Esther Edeson’s brother, Elliott Salsbury
(Eliyahu ben Nachum a”h – 27 Tevet)

Rikki and Nat Lewin
in memory of her mother,
Rebbetzin Tzviah Ralbag Gordon a”h

Faith Ginsburg
on the yahrzeit of her mother
Lottie Rosenson
(Zlata Chaya bas Avraham Zev a”h – 23 Tevet)

Our Parashah opens, “And these are the names of Bnei Yisrael who are coming to Egypt; with Yaakov, each man and his household came.” Midrash Rabbah comments: Thus it is written (Mishlei 13:24), “He who loves [his child] disciplines him in his youth.” [Until here from the Midrash]

What does one verse have to do with the other? R’ Eliezer Dan Ralbag z”l (1832-1895; Yerushalayim) answers: The Midrash is bothered by the verse referring first to “Bnei Yisrael” and then to “Yaakov.” After all, they were first the sons of Yaakov, and only later, the nation of Bnei Yisrael!

To this, the Midrash answers: “He who loves his child disciplines him in his youth.” R’ Ralbag explains: Hashem brings Yissurin / suffering upon the Jewish People to atone for our sins so we may merit Olam Ha’ba, and also so we may merit to receive Eretz Yisrael and the Torah. This is why our ancestors had to go down to Egypt in the nation’s youth. In contrast, Esav, who did not go down to Egypt, did not receive Eretz Yisrael, though he too was a descendant of Avraham and Yitzchak.

R’ Ralbag concludes that the Midrash is teaching us to read the verse as follows: “And these are the names of Bnei Yisrael.” Why do I refer to them as Bnei Yisrael, the name that alludes to the nation that received Eretz Yisrael? Because, they “are coming to Egypt” as a young nation to undergo Yissurin. That is now (“are coming”–present tense). In contrast, when they left home (“with Yaakov, each . . . came”–past tense), they did not yet have the merit of the exile, so they were only the family of the individual, “Yaakov.” (Damesek Eliezer)


“But the midwives revered Elokim and they did not do as the king of Egypt spoke to them, and they caused the boys to live.” (1:17)

R’ Meir Juzint z”l (1924-2001; rabbi and educator in Chicago) asks: Did the midwives really require Yir’at Elokim / reverence of G-d in order to save the newborn boys? Wouldn’t basic human decency and empathy require the same result?

He answers: There is a significant difference between assistance that one offers because of empathy and assistance one offers as a fulfillment of the Mitzvah to love one’s fellow. One who is motivated by the Mitzvah will go “above and beyond,” even when there may be negative consequences. In contrast, one whose entire motivation is to quiet his own feelings of empathy and decency will not continue his assistance if it causes discomfort–and, certainly, danger–to himself.

R’ Juzint adds: The practical lesson we can derive from this is to always perform good deeds because they are Mitzvot–even deeds that we would have performed anyway. (Nechamat Meir Vol. II, p.31)


“And it was because the midwives revered Ha’Elokim that He made them houses.” (1:21)

Rashi z”l explains: “Houses” refers to houses–i.e., dynasties–of Kohanim, Levi’im and royalty that descended from these midwives.

R’ Moshe Binyamin z”l (Baghdad; early 1700s) asks: Why does the verse say that they revered “Ha’Elokim” / “the Elokim,” instead of just “Elokim”?

He answers: The introductory letter “Heh” refers to those who are ancillary to or associated with “Elokim”–i.e., Torah scholars. The verse is teaching that the midwives–who were actually Yocheved and Miriam–revered Torah scholars, and that is why they merited to be the ancestors of Moshe Rabbeinu, Chur, King David, and other Torah scholars. (Sha’arei Yerushalayim p.352)


“Hashem saw that he turned aside to see, and Elokim called out to him . . .” (3:4)

R’ Ovadiah Seforno z”l (1470-1550; Italy) explains: Moshe “turned aside to see”–to reflect on the phenomenon. “And Elokim called out to him”–as our Sages say, “One who comes to purify himself receives Divine assistance.” Similarly, we read (Shmot 19:3), “[First,] Moshe ascended to Elokim, and [then] Hashem called to him from the mountain.”

R’ Dovid Kviat z”l (1920-2009; Rosh Yeshiva in the Mir Yeshiva and rabbi in Brooklyn NY) observes: Hashem “created” Moshe specifically in order to take Bnei Yisrael out of Egypt. Even so, if Moshe had not taken some initiative, he never would have been given that mission. Likewise, without his initiative, he would not have been called to ascend Har Sinai to receive the Torah. (Succas Dovid [English edition] p.17)


“Behold, he is going out to meet you and when he sees you he will rejoice in his heart.” (4:14)

Midrash Yalkut Shimoni states: If Aharon had known that the Torah would write about him that he was happy to see Moshe, he would have come to meet his brother with a marching band. [Until here from the Midrash]

Is the Midrash suggesting that Aharon would have performed his Mitzvot better if he had known his acts would be publicized? G-d forbid! writes R’ Yosef Yozel Horowitz z”l (1847-1919; the Alter of Novardok).

Rather, explains the Alter, this Midrash is teaching the following: Aharon felt absolutely no jealousy towards his younger brother Moshe when the latter was appointed to lead the Jewish People; the thought never even crossed Aharon’s mind. Nevertheless, had Aharon known that the Torah would praise him for not being jealous, he would have realized that he had a reason to be jealous, so he would have taken extra steps to ensure that he would feel no jealousy. He would not have relied on his intellectual understanding that jealousy is wrong. Rather, he would have taken extreme tangible steps, such as hiring a marching band, to forestall any jealousy.

This, concludes the Alter, is the difference between someone who reveres G-d intellectually and someone who “lives” reverence of G-d. (Madregat Ha’adam: Ma’amar Yir’ah Va’ahavah ch.9)

R’ Shmuel Hominer z”l (1913-1977; Yerushalayim) writes: One is obligated to rejoice at another’s success as if it was his own success. When Moshe Rabbeinu anointed Aharon as the Kohen Gadol, he rejoiced as if he himself was being anointed. Thus, Midrash Rabbah comments on the verse (Tehilim 133:2), “Like the precious oil upon the head running down the beard, the beard of Aharon”–Did Aharon have two beards? Rather, says the Midrash, when Moshe saw the oil running down Aharon’s beard, he rejoiced as if it was running down his own beard. (Eved Ha’melech)


“And the people believed, and they heard that Hashem had remembered Bnei Yisrael and that He saw their affliction, and they bowed their heads and prostrated themselves.” (4:31)

R’ Shalom Noach Berezovsky z”l (1911-2000; Slonimer Rebbe in Yerushalayim) writes: Many people try to grow in their spirituality and religious observance, but they do not succeed; therefore, they resign themselves to remaining at their current level. This is a great tragedy! If one refuses to be satisfied with his current level, that itself will ensure his eventual growth, though it may take additional time and effort. Just as the key to the redemption from Egypt was Emunah and Bitachon / faith and trust, so Emunah and Bitachon, believing that one can succeed and trusting in Hashem’s assistance, is the key to personal redemption. (Netivot Shalom: Divrei Shalom Ve’emet p.74)



This year–a Shemittah year–we will iy”H devote this space to discussing the related subject of Bitachon / placing one’s trust in Hashem.

In previous issues, we learned what Bitachon means according to R’ Avraham ben Ha’Rambam z”l (son of Maimonides; Egypt; 1186-1237): A person with Bitachon engages in natural means to obtain his needs, achieve his goals, and avoid harm, never relying on miracles, but always remembering that his success or failure is determined by Hashem. He prays to Hashem before each endeavor and thanks Him for his success afterward, never attributing success or failure to his own effort or lack of effort–unless he did not make a reasonable effort. A person with Bitachon does not engage in excessive effort that distracts him from his primary obligation, which is to study Torah and perform Mitzvot. R’ Avraham continues:

A person who practices Bitachon as described above is the true master of Bitachon, and from there he will rise higher and higher until Hashem, in His kindness, if it is His will, will free him from having to work for his sustenance. . .

Having Bitachon may result in distancing harm from a person or may help him achieve some end–not only an end that is necessary, but even one that is a complete luxury. Bitachon can help a person achieve material goals and, also, spiritual goals. However, why Bitachon sometimes results in a person getting what he wants and sometimes does not is a secret that has not been revealed even to the prophets. Thus, the Psalmist says (Tehilim 73:16), “When I reflected to understand this, it was iniquity in my eyes.” Likewise, Hashem said to the master of all prophets, Moshe (Shmot 33:19), “I shall show favor when I choose to show favor, and I shall show mercy when I choose to show mercy.” (Ha’maspik L’ovdei Hashem, ch. 8)