Beshalach 5781


An embittered situation[1]

ויבאו מרתה ולא יכלו לשתת מים ממרה כי מרים הם על-כן קרא-שמה מרה: ויצעק אל-יקוק ויורהו יקוק עץ וישלח אל-המים וימתקו המים שם שם לו חק ומשפט ושם נסהו
[The Jews] arrived at Marah, and they weren’t able to drink the water at Marah, as it was bitter. Therefore, the place was called Marah. [Moshe] cried out to Hashem, and Hashem showed him a piece of wood. [Moshe] threw the wood into the water, and the water became sweet. There [Hashem] placed for them a decree and an ordinance, and there He tested them[2]

The episode of Marah is short and sweet[3]. The Jews, after traveling for three days, had run out of water. They were hoping to drink from the water sources that they found at Marah. The problem was the water there was too bitter to drink. Moshe threw a piece of wood into the water, and it miraculously became sweet. Right afterwards is a vague verse. The Torah says that Hashem gave the Jews חק ומשפט, a decree and an ordinance. Our Sages teach us[4] this means that at that time they were introduced to a few mitzvos to be involved with: Shabbos, Parah Aduma (the laws of the Red Heifer used for ritual purity), and monetary laws[5] [6]. They would receive the rest of the Torah when they arrived at Mount Sinai.

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Bo 5781


Why did the Jews bake matzah when they left Egypt?[1]

ותחזק מצרים על-העם למהר לשלחם מן-הארץ כי אמרו כלנו מתים: וישא העם את-בצקו טרם יחמץ משארתם צררת בשמלתם על-שכמם: ויאפו את-הבצק אשר הוציאו ממצרים עגת מצות כי לא חמץ כי גרשו ממצרים ולא יכלו להתמהמה וגם צדה לא עשו להם
The Egyptians were very forceful in sending out [the Jewish people] from the land, as they said: “We’re all going to die!” The nation took their dough before it became leaven; their kneading bowls were wrapped in their clothing, resting on their shoulders. And they baked the dough that they had taken out of Egypt into matzah, as it had not risen. This was because they were expelled from Egypt and didn’t have time to wait. They also didn’t bring any other provisions[2]

The Torah tells us that the Jews were rushed out of Egypt. Their salvation came in a blink of an eye. Many of them were planning on baking food for their expected Exodus from Egypt. What seems to have been unexpected is just how willing and forceful the Egyptians would be. The verse tells us that when the Jews had to leave, their dough had not yet had time to rise. Indeed, Rashi explains[3] that the Egyptians didn’t give the Jews a chance to let their dough rise. This would imply that if the Egyptians had been more patient, the Jews would have let their dough rise to be baked into bread. The problem with this implication is that it was the first day of Pesach! Bread is not only forbidden for consumption, but we are even forbidden from owning leavened dough on Pesach. How then could the Jews have intended to let their dough rise?

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Va’eira 5781


The brighter side of things[1]

וידבר משה כן אל בני ישראל ולא שמעו אל משה מקוצר רוח ומעבודה קשה
And Moshe told the Jewish people so, but they didn’t listen to him due to a lack of spirit and the difficult labor[2]

Moshe saw some major setbacks at the beginning of his mission to redeem the Jewish people. First, his first encounter with Pharaoh, demanding the immediate release of the Jews, backfired. Rather than complying, Pharaoh magnified the suffering of the Jews by intensifying his immoral demands. They were expected to produce the same number of bricks as before, but this time being required to gather their own materials. This was the exact opposite of redemption. Subsequently, Hashem reassured Moshe that the Jews will indeed be redeemed. There will be a miraculous salvation, and the Egyptians will be punished appropriately for their heinous crimes. When Moshe told this great news to the people, they unfortunately didn’t. They were too overwhelmed from their labor, and had essentially given up hope of redemption.

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Shemos 5781


What it takes to be a leader[1]

ויאמר אנכי אלקי אביך אלקי אברהם אלקי יצחק ואלקי יעקב ויסתר משה פניו כי ירא מהביט אל-האלקים
[Hashem] said: “I am the G-d of your forefathers, the G-d of Avraham, the G-d of Yitzchak, and the G-d of Yaakov.” Moshe then hid his face, as he feared to stare at the Divine[2]

ויען משה ויאמר והן לא יאמינו-לי ולא ישמעו בקלי כי יאמרו לא-נראה אליך יקוק: והיה אם-לא יאמינו לך ולא ישמעו לקל האת הראשון והאמינו לקל האת האחרון: והיה אם-לא יאמינו גם לשני האתות האלה ולא ישמעו לקלך ולקחת ממימי היאר ושפכת היבשה והיו המים אשר תקח מן-היאר והיו לדם ביבשת
Moshe answered and said: “But they won’t believe me! They won’t listen to me and they’ll say that Hashem didn’t appear to you”…“If it will be[3] that they don’t believe in you and don’t believe the first sign, they will believe the second sign. And if it will be that they don’t believe these two signs, and won’t listen to you, take from the water of the Nile and pour it on the ground. It will be that the water that you took from the Nile will turn to blood on the dry land[4]

Hashem’s first dialogue at the burning bush with Moshe is very interesting. Moshe didn’t realize that this conversation would pave the way for him becoming the leader and savior of the Jewish people. There’s a lot of back and forth, as Moshe was initially not willing to take the position. He had all sorts of excuses. We can learn a lot from this episode, but the following is just a couple of lessons that we can glean. The first lesson comes from Moshe’s initial demeanor during this discussion, and the second comes from Hashem’s response to Moshe’s concern that the Jews won’t believe him.

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