Goodness Begets Goodness
Shifra and Puah give Jewish children life in this week’s parsha. Midrash and
Rashi point out that Shifra and Puah were really Yocheved and Miriam. In
God’s world where everything eventually evens out, Moshe, Yocheved’s son and
Miriam’s brother will be saved from the Nile and its tides and crocodiles by
another woman who saved children, Batya, the daughter of the Pharaoh. There
is a common streak that runs throughout the Torah that goodness begets
goodness and evil always will lead to other evil.
Saving children is the prime value in Jewish life. The emphasis on education
in Jewish life is part of this mission of salvation of the young. The
enemies of the Jewish people have always concentrated on destroying Jewish
children so that the Jewish future would be bleak and non-existent.
Pharaoh’s decree to cast Jewish children into the Nile was the first in a
long line of such decrees.
The Germans and their evil cohorts destroyed one and a half million Jewish
children during the Holocaust. The absence of these children from the midst
of the Jewish world is felt even today, seventy years later. Thus the
supreme act of kindness and risk taken by Shifra and Puah leads to their
reward that the savior of Israel will also be saved from the Nile by a
different, compassionate and risk taking woman.
One never realizes how a kindness and good deed done to others can influence
for good one’s own life and family circle. By saving other children, Shifra
and Puah saved their own little child and brother as well.
In the late 1940’s the Day School movement in America was barely on its
fledgling feet attempting to somehow save thousands of American Jewish
children from the pits of complete assimilation and Jewish apathy and
ignorance - the Nile River of its day, spiritually speaking. It faced
overwhelming problems and fierce opposition from within the established
Jewish community itself.
Many felt then that somehow being intensely and proudly Jewish in a
knowledgeable fashion was un-American. One of the major problems that the
Day Schools faced was finding dedicated young families willing to leave the
imagined sanctuary of the New York area to become the teachers and
administrators of these new schools in the hinterlands of America. They were
justifiably concerned about the future of their children growing up in a
more difficult, Jewishly speaking, environment.
Rabbi Ahron Kotler, one of the driving forces behind the creation of these
new day schools, boldly announced to the yeshiva world that any young
couples who would move to these “out of town” communities to help build and
staff these schools would be personally guaranteed by him to have success in
raising their children as they wish.
His guarantee and prediction was fulfilled in dozens of families who have
made a great deal of difference in rebuilding Torah life in America. Saving
others in essence, and in the long run, helps to save one’s own self. The
redemption of Israel from Egyptian bondage is initiated by small acts of
kindness, sacrifice and goodness. Israel and Zion is redeemed by acts of
justice and righteousness.
Rabbi Berel Wein