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Rabbi A. Leib Scheinbaum
Hebrew Academy of Cleveland


G-d spoke to Moshe and said to him, "I am Hashem." (6:2)

Rashi observes that Hashem spoke to Moshe Rabbeinu using words of rebuke for speaking harshly when he said, "Why have You harmed this people?" In the previous parsha, we note Moshe speaking to Hashem following Moshe's return from his first meeting with Pharaoh. The Egyptian ruler did not take kindly to being told to free the Jews. He took umbrage to Moshe's and Aharon's demands. Not only did he not free the Jews, he added to their workload. Our quintessential leader could not understand why Hashem sent him to Pharaoh, which, in effect, had a negative effect. He expressed his feelings. The above pasuk which represents Hashem's response to Moshe refers to Hashem as Elokim, a Name reserved for Din, the Attribute of Strict Justice. Hashem is used for the Middah, Attribute, of Rachamim, Mercy. This is why Rashi notes that Hashem was reproving Moshe. It is, however, not clear exactly what it was that made Hashem upset with Moshe.

Horav Nissan Alpert, zl, offers a novel explanation based on the principles and responsibilities of leadership. Moshe Rabbeinu was two people in one. He was Moshe, the manhig Yisrael, leader of the Jewish People, and Moshe, the private citizen, member of the Jewish People. A leader represents the one who initiates his leadership position - which, in this case, was Hashem. The Almighty designated Moshe as Klal Yisrael's leader. They are Hashem's nation, His sheep. Moshe is their designated shepherd, appointed by Hashem, their G-d. In his role as leader, Moshe represents Hashem. Thus, it is prohibited for him to express himself negatively. He appears to be questioning Hashem. Moshe, the leader, may not question the One Who is sending him on his mission. Moshe the citizen may ask. He may express his feelings, concerning the people's plight. He is welling over with pain. How can he not speak up? He is the same Moshe from two vantage points: Hashem's representative; a member of the nation.

Rashi explains the term Ani Hashem: neeman l'shalem s'char, "I am faithful to pay a reward to those who walk before Me." Va'yomer eilav, "Hashem spoke to him" - to Moshe, the citizen, to Moshe who saw his people drowning in sorrow, afflicted with pain and torment: Hashem spoke to the Moshe who cried out for his brothers in pain. Ani Hashem, the Merciful Father understands the feelings that are coursing through you. But, in your role as a private individual, of course it is My desire that you care, show feeling for your brothers. But, now you are Moshe the leader of the Jewish People, you are acting in Hashem's stead, and are thus permitted to act only within the specific parameters that Hashem has given.

As Hashem's representative, Moshe may do only what he is told. He may not add, nor subtract. He adheres to the script prepared for him by Hashem. A leader who acts as Hashem's agent is no more and no less than an agent who follows his orders. Self-expression is for the private citizen, not the public leader.

Spiritual leadership does not come easy. The responsibility is enormous, with failure often meaning that a neshamah, soul, is "lost" or "delayed" from blossoming. One rarely receives credit for his efforts, since gratitude is an elusive commodity. Some people would rather deny their personal development than offer gratitude to the one who enabled them to achieve their milestone.

I think that success or failure may be measured according to the leader's goals. As a leader, does he direct or develop? One who directs obviously asks for a high success rate, because if his subject does not follow him to a "T" he has failed. Success becomes an "all" or "nothing" measure. A leader who develops views every positive change in his subject as another rung on the ladder of success. How does a leader imbue his followers with the ability to listen to him, to follow him through thick and thin?

Rav Alpert offers a solution to this query with support from our parsha. "Hashem spoke to Moshe and Aharon and commanded them regarding Bnei Yisrael and regarding Pharaoh, King of Egypt, to take Bnei Yisrael out of the land of Egypt" (Ibid. 6:13). What is Hashem telling Moshe and Aharon? The Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh explains that Hashem is responding to Moshe's concerns that neither the Bnei Yisrael nor Pharaoh will listen to what he has to say. Hashem's response was: "Moshe, do not worry. I have appointed you to be their ruler."

This response begs elucidation. How does this address Moshe's concerns? Will Moshe's announcement that he was appointed by Hashem to be their leader suddenly guarantee that they will all line up and accept his authority? Are mere words sufficient to rouse a nation - who heretofore had not been subjected to true leadership - to suddenly accept Moshe? I think Moshe would have to provide some incredible supernatural display of his spiritual prowess to ensure their accepting his authority over them.

Furthermore, if Hashem's goal was for the people to listen to Moshe and Aharon and accede to their authority, why did He not speak to the people, rather than command Moshe and Aharon to speak to them? Surely, Hashem's commanding Klal Yisrael directly would have had greater efficacy than if it came through Moshe.

Rav Alpert compares this to the well-known anecdotal vignette of a chasid who one day announced to his Rebbe that the previous night he had a dream that he - the chasid - would become the next Rebbe. The Rebbe pondered the statement for a moment and said, "Well, as long as you are the only one having this dream, it will not get you very far. Had it been my chassidim who had the dream, rather than yourself, you would be in business. Otherwise, I think you will not get very far in ensuring your acceptance by the chassidim."

Rav Alpert explains that, in effect, Hashem was teaching Moshe a primary lesson in leadership. In order for the people to listen, it will be up to Moshe to make himself a king over them. To the extent that he will be successful in impressing them with his position, to that degree they will listen. How does Moshe achieve this? The next pasuk, 6:14, continues by citing the Jewish nation's pedigree: "These were the heads of their fathers' houses." Klal Yisrael descended from the Avos, Patriarchs. The heart and soul of Avraham, of Yitzchak and of Yaakov resides deep within the recesses of their hearts. The royal DNA of the Patriarchs courses through their psyche. They are royalty, kings - the sons of kings, maaminim, believers, the sons of believers! Faith runs in their veins.

Moshe will be able to penetrate their hearts and minds once he demonstrates to them that they are not like everyone else. They are royalty! When the Jews are taught to believe in themselves, they will in turn believe in Moshe. When they believe that they are royalty - Moshe will be their king. Once the leader has successfully implanted in the minds of his followers that they are special - they will then listen to him - as was the case with Moshe Rabbeinu.

"I shall take you out from under the burdens of Egypt. I shall rescue you… I shall redeem you… I shall take you to Me for a people and I shall be a G-d to you; and you shall know that I am Hashem, your G-d, Who takes you out from under the burdens of Egypt." (6:6,7)

Horav Yechezkel Abramsky, zl, observes that it is only after V'lakachti eschem li l'am, "I shall take you to Me for a people," which is a reference to Kabbolas HaTorah, Accepting the Torah, that the Torah follows up with V'yidaatem ki Ani Hashem, "And you will know that I am your G-d Hashem, Who takes you out." Until we received the Torah, we viewed life's occurrences, even the spectacular miracles that overwhelmed Egypt, as supernatural events - but, we did not equate them with Hashem, nor did they bring us any closer to Him. It was after we donned the lenses of the Torah that we developed a perspective for understanding current events and their Halachic ramifications.

It is possible for the most earthshattering events to occur right before our very eyes, yet, the deeper meaning of what just occurred passes right over our heads - unless we view them through the lens of Torah. Tragedy can be devastating, shaking our faith at its very foundation - and, it often does, unless we view it through the lens of Torah. Likewise, a miracle of epic proportion can be intoxicating and go to our heads, unless, we view it through the sobering effect provided by the Torah lens. The Torah's dictums must be applied to everything we see and hear. Every incident, both local, personal, international, collective, must be rendered through the Torah's perspective. Throughout every generation, we have looked to the Torah, its lessons and expositions of its disseminators for guidance in interpreting the events which occur around us. Without the Torah we are myopic in our vision.

Looking at an occurrence through the eyes of the Torah is quite different than viewing it through eyes of flesh and blood. Let us take the middah, attribute, of bitachon, trust in Hashem. On a simple level, this means that we are grateful to the Almighty for delivering us from trouble. On the Torah's level, it behooves us to thank Hashem for the trouble as well, because our bitachon, trust, in Hashem, demands that we believe that everything has a reason; everything is good. We may not see it, but we trust it. Thus, we not only thank Hashem for taking us out of Egypt - we thank Him equally for bringing us there. We believe that it was necessary for us to have been enslaved. Otherwise, it would not have happened.

Jewish history, explains Horav Simcha Wasserman, zl, does not move according to the same principles which dominate secular history - or secular perspective of world history. History as seen through the lens of secular historians, who have over the years revised history to serve their defective vision, view history as the product of cause and effect. Indeed, some historians of Jewish birth have attempted to falsify and revise Jewish history to suit the purpose of their ill-conceived beliefs. Their desire to have Jewish history answer to the principles of cause and effect have led them to alter the truth and deny the basic verities of the principles of our faith. This is because they want to be accepted among the gentile nations as one of them.

This, of course, is not Jewish, because Jewish history does not ascribe to the rules of natural cause and effect. Our history is based upon Hashgachah, Divine Providence. Whatever takes place does so because this is the Will of Hashem. We must introspect to determine what it is that we have done that might warrant such a response. This does not mean that if we cannot figure out the "why" that it loses its validity. Hashem has His reasons. Just because we are not privy to them does not in any way impugn His involvement throughout. Hashem has selected us from among all of the nations of the world to be His. We are His treasure. We are different - and our history is likewise different.

Just because we do not know or understand why something happens, or how everything fits into the Divine Plan does not mean that it is not true. This is where emunah, faith, and bitachon come into play. Rav Simchah relates the following story to prove this point: The saintly Horav Elimelech, zl, m'Lishensk, lived during the time of the Russian Czar's oppressive regime. The government was far from friendly to its Jewish citizens, and from time to time, they came out with anti-Jewish regulations. Whenever these decrees came out, the Rebbe's Chassidim entreated him to pray for their removal, which he did - successfully. During the Rebbe Elimelech's lifetime there were no persecutions of Jews in his part of Russia. Sadly, when the Rebbe passed away, the persecutions began. The Chassidim had difficulty with this phenomenon. They had been taught that a tzaddik, righteous person, is more powerful after death than during life. Why were there persecutions following their Rebbe's death?

Undeterred, a group of Chassidim went to the Rebbe's grave and prayed for an answer to this question. The following night, the Rebbe appeared to one of the Chassidim in a dream. The Rebbe said to him, "You came with your friends to my grave with the request that I pray for you. I cannot do so. As long as I was with you in the world of the living and I saw an evil decree surfacing against our people, I immediately prayed to Hashem to have it rescinded. Hashem listened to my prayers. Now that I am in Heaven, my perspective has been altered. I see now that, in fact, these decrees are not bad. Thus, you will have to pray for yourselves."

The defining factor which draws the line between Torah perspective and worldview is emes, truth. The Torah is Divinely Authored and as such is the essence of Divine Truth. What more is there to say? Our perspective, outlook, weltanschauung are all predicated on the Torah (or, at least they should be). Thus how we view a situation, circumstance, issue, concept, are through the eyes of truth. Why would we want anything less? There is an inspirational exegesis from the Maggid of Dubno which so meaningfully characterizes the difference in perspective between Yaakov and Eisav, and, by extension, their descendants.

In describing the relationship of the prodigal twin brothers, our Patriarch Yaakov and his brother, the wicked Eisav, the Torah relates: "And Yitzchak loved (va'yehehav)Eisav, for game was in his mouth; and Rivkah (o'hevess) loved Yaakov" (Bereishis 25:28). Yitzchak loved - in the past tense; Rivkah loves in the present tense. What is the reason for this grammatical inconsistency? The Maggid explains that a primary difference (which is the source of so many other differences) between our world and the world of Eisav's descendants is that in the latter, people are defined by what they do; while the Jewish world evaluates a person not by what he is doing, but rather by what he is.

Children say that they want to grow up to be members of various professions; their vocations being similar to those of the heroes they venerate. Is this what they want to be - or is it what they want to do? One who plays baseball is not a baseball player. Playing a sport does not define a person's essence (even though in contemporary society it might well be). It depicts what he does; what is his vocation; his profession. If we say that he is kind, benevolent, compassionate, humble, virtuous, etc. we are describing what he is, his essence.

Sadly, we are being influenced by the materialistic society in which we live, to the point that we too are preoccupied with what one does - not with what he is. We no longer seem to care about the type of person one is, but what he is doing for a living. Achievements are defined by their significance in the secular world - not in the world of Torah, ethics and morality.

This, explains the Maggid, is to what the Torah is alluding when it expresses Yitzchak Avinu's love for Eisav in the past tense. Eisav wrote the book on non-Jewish values. One is defined only by what he does. When he ceases to do what he usually does, he is no longer that person. Yitzchak loved Eisav because "game was in his mouth." This does not last forever. Thus, his true love is temporary - past tense.

A Jew is not what he does, but rather what he is. It is not how much money he earns, but how he spends it that determines his true worth. It makes no difference if he makes the news every week - or never. It is his mentchlichkeit, ethical character, morality, fear of Heaven and love for his fellow that determines his true worth. The character of a person lives on. Thus, the love for Yaakov Avinu, whose positive character traits are constant, is expressed in the present tense. It is here to stay.

We take what seems to be simple achievements for granted. What about the simple, ordinary Jew, who never made headlines, was never the guest of honor at a dinner, whose primary accolades are the wonderful children that he, together with his wife, raised? Does he deserve recognition? I recently came across a story related by Horav Yissachar Frand that answered my question.

The Ostrovtzer Rebbe was one of the preeminent Admorim, Chassidic leaders of pre-World War II Europe. His Chassidus was intense, highly demanding in Torah and avodah, spiritual service, with the Chassidim leading a highly austere lifestyle. Thus, it was no surprise that Ostrover Chassidim were members of an elite Chassidic guard. They were highly respected by everyone.

The Ostrovtzer Rebbe had one son and he was m'shadech, chose as a daughter-in-law, one of the daughters of the Melitzer Rebbe. The Melitzer Rebbe was father to twelve outstanding children, each one having earned an enviable reputation in his/her own right. Melitz is a Chassidus whose approach towards serving Hashem is quite unlike that of Ostrovitze. Melitz is into the abundant expression of joy, primarily through song. Thus, the singing and dancing at the wedding was mostly one-sided, with the Melitzer Chassidim dancing and singing up a storm, while the Ostrovtze maintained their rigid posture. The Ostrovtze Rebbe, observing that his Chassidim were aloof in their attitude towards the Melitzer Chassidim, became agitated - but said nothing.

That Shabbos, during the Sheva Brachos, post-wedding seven-day festive celebration, the Ostzovtze Rebbe spoke: "We are all aware of the appellation granted to Yaakov Avinu - B'chir she'b'Avos, the most chosen of the Patriarchs. Is he greater than Avraham Avinu who was prepared to slaughter his son, Yitzchak, at the Akeidah? Can we begin to compare Yaakov with his own father, Yitzchak Avinu, who, with complete devotion, stretched out his neck for the slaughter? True, Yaakov sustained much trial and tribulation in his life, but does this compare to that of his forebears? Why is he called B'chir she'b'Avos?

The Rebbe said, "The reason is because it is no small feat to raise twelve outstanding sons! This incredible achievement is even greater than the Akeidah!" The Chassidim understood their Rebbe's message. Do we? There are many simple, ordinary Jews, who have succeeded in an area which sadly eludes some. They did all of the right things and merited siyata d'Shmaya, Divine assistance, to raise outstanding children. They might not make the front page, but according to the Torah's perspective, they have truly made it. They are the true honorees.

This was the [same] Aharon and Moshe. (6:26)

Rashi explains that there are places in the Torah where Moshe Rabbeinu's name precedes that of Aharon HaKohen. Likewise, there are instances where Aharon's name precedes that of Moshe. The Chasam Sofer wonders why specifically it is in the above pasuk that we find Aharon's name written first. (Obviously, Moshe Rabbeinu, being the Rabban Shel Kol Yisrael, quintessential leader of our People, should have his name written first. When Aharon's name precedes Moshe's there must be a reason, a lesson to be derived therein.) Indeed, as Hashem's primary agent for leading Klal Yisrael out of Egypt, Moshe's name should be mentioned first. What specifically happened to catapult Aharon to precede Moshe in being written first in the Torah?

The Chasam Sofer explains that toward the end of Parashas Shemos the Torah writes concerning Aharon, V'ra'acha v'somach b'libo, "And when he sees you he will rejoice in his heart" (Shemos 4:14). The power of middos tovos, positive character traits, of love and care for a fellow Jew, is what turned the tide. When an older brother takes pride in his younger brother's achievements when he manifests true love for his younger sibling; despite the fact that as a result of these achievements, the older brother will be relegated to second place, his name warrants first mention.

Aharon HaKohen wore the Choshen HaMishpat, Breastplate, over his heart. The Choshen had the names of the Shivtei Kah, Tribes, engraved on its precious stones. The heart that empathized with all of the nation, was the rightful place to be the repository for the Choshen.

A talmid came to the Rosh Yeshivah of Beth Medrash Govoah, Horav Aharon Kotler, zl, complaining of severe stomach pains. Shortly thereafter it was confirmed that he was experiencing an acute attack of appendicitis. Rav Aharon walked him to the door of his house (on his way to the car that would take him to the hospital for surgery) and bid him refuah sheleimah, wishing him a successful procedure and speedy recovery. One week later, Rav Aharon himself suffered from appendicitis. Baruch Hashem, the Rosh Yeshivah was healed. During his recuperation, a close student visited him. Rav Aharon said, "Hashem gave me a shiur, lesson, in nosei b'ol im chaveiro, 'Carrying the yoke together with his friend.' Had I demonstrated even greater empathy for that student, I would not have experienced this attack."

But Pharaoh's heart was strong and he did not heed them, as Hashem had spoken. (8:15)

The Torah informs us that Hashem hardened Pharaoh's heart and then continues to relate concerning the next plague, arov, mixture of animals. What happened to the kinnim, lice? Did they leave? Nothing is mentioned of their disappearance. Horav Sholom Schwadron, zl, suggests that quite possibly the lice became permanent residents of Egypt. Why? Because Pharaoh did not beg for them to be removed - as he did earlier with the frogs. Indeed, as support for this, Rav Sholom cites the pasuk in Tehillim 105:31: Amar va'yavo arov, kinnim b'chol gevulam, "He spoke and hordes of beasts arrived, and lice throughout their borders." This alludes that when the arov arrived, the kinnim were included among them.

Without prayer - one receives nothing! Thus, if Pharaoh does not beg, it does not happen on its own. Likewise, we do not find that Pharaoh asked to have the shechin, boils, removed. Possibly, they walked around with boils. Indeed, this might be implied from the pasuk in the Torah (Devarim 28:27) Ya'kecha Hashem b'shechin Mitzrayim… asher lo suchal l'heirafei, "Hashem will smite you with the boils of Egypt… from which you cannot be cured." Egypt was not healed of their boils, because they refused to make the request. Prayer is the only ticket through which we receive Hashem's beneficence. When we obstinately refuse to entreat the Almighty - we receive as much as we asked for - nothing!

L'hisadein B'ahavasecha quotes a compelling story related by Horav M.D. Soloveitchik, Shlita, which underscores the amazing power of prayer. Years past there was a shiur given by a Kabbalist delving into the esoteric secrets of the Torah. This shiur was attended by a number of Yerushalayim's elite who would come to the Churvah Shul to listen and imbibe the lessons of the Zohar HaKadosh and the Arizal. A number of the rabbanim who came to imbibe these holy secrets brought with them their young children who would spend the time quietly playing under the tables. Unbeknownst to their fathers, those children would pick up Torah thoughts, but because of their limited ability due to age and knowledge, could hardly digest them properly.

One Friday night, a young boy who had often accompanied his father to the shiur, heard his mother gagging in bed. Something had gotten stuck in her throat and she was choking. His mother gave a loud scream Oy Tatte! "Oh Father!" which was not an uncommon cry for a person in pain. At that moment, the young boy remembered that as a person is about to leave this mortal world, he sees his father and mother who greet him, prepared to accompany him on his journey to the next world.

The child became overwhelmed with fear of his mother's sudden passing. The thought of being left alone was too much for this young child to bear. He ran from his bedroom to the nearest shul, opened up its Aron HaKodesh and cried out, "Ribono Shel Olam. I do not want to end up in the Diskin Orphanage!" He said this over and over again, accompanying his entreaty with bitter weeping. Hashem listened and his mother was able to expurgate the bone on which she had been choking. His sincere prayer begot a positive response.

Va'ani Tefillah

Baruch Atah Hashem Elokeinu. Blessed are You Hashem, Our G-d.

Rarely do we find a brachah that does not include Malchus, the concept of Hashem's monarchy, within its text. One would think that Shemoneh Esrai being the seminal tefillah, prayer, would mention Hashem's Monarchy right in the beginning of the blessing. Horav Eliezer Lopian, distinguishes between the prince of a country who mentions his father, the king, in the context of a speech. When he is speaking to the people, he refers to his father as His honor, the King - he never mentions that the king happens to be his father. When he is home, in the palace, and he speaks to the king, it is "Father." The king in public is the country's monarch, and the prince refers to him in light of that title. When it is one on one, it is a father-son relationship - monarchy does not play a role. Tefillas Shemoneh Esrai is a personal prayer during which the supplicant has an intimate conversation with his Father in Heaven. Thus, we do not refer to Hashem as monarch, because now we are alone with Him - our Father.

In loving memory of
Miriam Bas Avraham Yehuda Jacobson
by her family

David, Susan, Danial, Breindy, Ephraim, Adeena, Aryeh and Michelle Jacobson
and her great grandchildren

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