Moshe Rabbeinu: Regal Compassion, Obligation

The following text by Reb Zalman is for this week’s Torah portion, Shabbos Shemot. (Click here for Hebrew/English version). [Notes by Gabbai Seth Fishman, BLOG Editor]:

And he saw an Egyptian man striking a Hebrew man of his brethren” (Exodus 2:11).

Moses, our teacher, (may he rest in peace), while growing up in Egypt, followed the conventional wisdom put forth by the Egyptians that everyone is rewarded or punished according to hir actions, (and his thought processes were somewhat shaped by having had his education in Pharaoh’s elite schools).  But this day, he saw an Egyptian punish a Jew who had not done anything forbidden to slaves;  rather, it was a case of one Jew doing a thing for which s/he should have been punished and a second – one of hir Jewish brethren – being punished for the former’s guilty action. 

Thus, Moshe saw that in the eyes of the nations, too, “All Jews may be guarantors for one another” (Shevuot 39a). 

[NOTE:  The discussion in the Talmud talks of whether one Jew’s guilt makes the nation guilty in the eyes of God.  This was now misapplied to a belief among the nations (non-Jews) that it is okay to punish other Jews because one Jew did something that s/he should not.]

And so it happened that in all generations there arose the conviction to concern oneself with the troubles of Israel in the name of one who is suffering provided s/he is one of hir Jewish brethren – and so it occurred to Theodor Herzl in Paris.

[NOTE:  It was the desire to alleviate injustice and suffering of fellow Jews that was the driver for Herzl, the founder of the Zionist vision.]

And he turned this way and that” (Exodus 2:12)

Koh v’khoh / this way and that is spelled kafheh vkhaf-heh, which is the gematria for 25 + 25 = 50, so understand this turning as he turned to the 50 (nun), i.e. the 50 gates of Binah

[NOTE:  He was, at this moment, making a connection to Hashem for guidance.] 

And he saw that there was no man” (ibid) 

The obligation came upon him (yatza mimenu) that he was responsible for the world, just like the Rabbis said (peace upon them) (cf Shemot Rabbah 1:29), “that no person was to come from him,”  (yatza mimenu), i.e., from the one he smote.

[NOTE:  The Midrash reference uses the phrase yatza mimenu (literally, “go out from him”) in reference to the smote man’s descendants, that none were to have been Jews.  This was a justification in the eyes of triumphalist Rabbonim for the smiting.  Here, the same phrase is  used to emphasize that Moshe felt the obligation of the whole world with his actions, yatza mimenu / he was not exempt from fulfiling it.]

Who made you a man, a prince and a judge?” (Exodus 2:14)  

And the word “ish” / “a man” is redundant here.  However, we can extrapolate from this and provide a possible explanation by considering that in writing the torah initially, it wasn’t then in an Assyrian, but rather in a Cuneiform script.  And there was a kind of connecting word called “determinative” in Cuneiform. 

Thus we learn that the word that follows afterwards

[NOTE:  I.e., sar v’shofet / prince and judge which follows ish / man.] 

emphasizes the character / ish-iut [of Moshe]

[NOTE:  I.e., that he had princely attributes in his personna.  We are to see this in terms of his qualities and not in terms of another way it might have been interpreted, viz, as a reference to his having been raised in Pharaoh’s palace.]

and not a dynasty or ministry.

Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi
from Yishmiru Daat (2009 revision),
Parashat Shemot,” pp. 31-32

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