Torah.org Home Subscribe Services Support Us
  LifeLine
Print Version

Email this article to a friend

Shemos

by Rabbi Yaakov Menken

This week's LifeLine is dedicated in memory of Rabbi Pinchus Mordechai Teitz zt"l, leader of the Elizabeth, NJ, Jewish community for over 60 years. Our condolences to his grandson, Rabbi Eliyahu Teitz.

"And a man from the house of Levi went out, and took for his wife a daughter of Levi." [Shemos 2:1]

Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (Rashi) explains the extra word "vayelech [went out]" in this verse, which refers to Amram and Yocheved. Amram had previously married Yocheved, he explains, but separated from her in response to Pharoah's decree that all Jewish boys be killed. Amram "went out" in the path of his daughter's advice.

According to our Sages, his daughter Miriam told him, "Your decree is still worse than Pharoah's! Pharoah decreed only against Jewish boys, but yours is against girls as well!" Because of Miriam's counsel, Amram remarried Yocheved, and Our Rabbi Moshe was born.

We should wonder, though, when Miriam made her argument, and when it was accepted. Obviously the separation went on for some time, especially because Pharoah made two decrees. The first decree was that the midwives should kill any male Jewish child [1:16]. After that failed, Pharoah then told his entire nation to throw any Jewish boy into the Nile river [1:22]. Amram, apparently, remarried only after the second decree, which ordered all Egyptians to take part! Does this make sense?

In order to answer this, let us look first at another puzzling story. In Parshas Vayeshev, which we read several weeks ago, Yosef's brothers decide to kill him. But "Reuven heard, and he saved him from their hands..." [Br. 37:21]. What did they do instead? They threw him in a pit, "and the pit was empty, it had no water" [37:24]. Our Sages asked, "if it says the pit is empty, don't I know that it has no water? Rather, it had no water, but it did have snakes and scorpions" [Talmud Shabbos 22a]. So what kind of "rescue" did Reuven carry out? How can the Torah credit Reuven with "saving" Yosef, when he dumped Yosef into a pit filled with snakes and scorpions?

The answer goes to the very nature of a human being. A human being has one trait which, above all others, distinguishes us from animals: the trait of free will, of choice. Humans can choose to kill or not to kill; for animals, the decision is made by a host of external factors - animals don't go on a rampage because they "feel like doing it," nor are they generous by choice. Only we humans have the ability to make our own decisions.

Because the natural order of things is for humans to have free will, it would have been miraculous beyond nature for Divine Intervention to save Yosef from his stronger brothers who had surrounded him. Because scorpions, on the other hand, do not have free choice, it is not entirely unnatural (though certainly unusual) for them to fail to sting and kill someone who lands in their pit. Therefore Reuven did indeed save Yosef. He saved Yosef from his brothers, given that Divine Intervention could then save him from the snakes and scorpions in the pit - a miracle, but not beyond nature.

We can then understand why Amram might more willingly remarry Yocheved after the second decree. Under the first, the midwives were commanded to kill the boys, and had they not displayed amazing self-sacrifice, an open miracle would have been needed to save each child. The second decree, however, put death in the hands of the river - and thus only a "natural" miracle would be needed to save them. [from Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech Hertzberg zt"l, Rabbi in Baltimore for 42 years, and my wife's grandfather, as printed in Tzaddik B'Emunaso.]


Text Copyright © 1996 Rabbi Yaakov Menken and Project Genesis, Inc.

The author is the Director of Project Genesis.


 






ARTICLES ON KI SEITZEI AND ELUL / ROSH HASHANAH:

View Complete List

Unusual Spelling
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5762

Reward and Punishment
Shlomo Katz - 5767

Circumstantial Repentance
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5763

> All Israel!
Rabbi Label Lam - 5771

Hide and No Seek
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky - 5761

Looking to the Future
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5764

Looking for a Chavrusah?

The Wayward Son - What Can He Teach Us?
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5758

Parshas Ki Seitzei
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5769

Yehi Ratzon - Text and Instructions
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5760

ArtScroll

The Weigh to the Real War
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5758

Tzedakah vs. Charity: What is the difference?
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5773

A "Beautiful" Insight
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5759

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

Are We listening?
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5762

Alive With Spiritual Pleasure
Rabbi Naftali Reich - 5773

Repentance and Changing History
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5759

Wayward Son
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5760



Project Genesis

Torah.org Home


Torah Portion

Jewish Law

Ethics

Texts

Learn the Basics

Seasons

Features

TORAHAUDIO

Ask The Rabbi

Knowledge Base




Help

About Us

Contact Us



Free Book on Geulah!




Torah.org Home
Torah.org HomeCapalon.com Copyright Information