D'Var Torah - Parshas
Basya, the daughter of Paroah rescued Moshe from
the Nile River. Rabbi Chaim Shmuelevitz explained that in doing
so, she had a lasting impact on his life, in that she taught him to extend
himself to save others. This became a defining theme in Moshe's
life - he rescued the Jewish nation from Egyptian slavery and led
them through the perils of the wilderness to the Promised
Land. When we do a mitzvah, it can have ripple effects that we never
dreamed of, as the following true story illustrates:
Rabbi Aryeh Rodin, of
Congregation Rodfei Shalom in Dallas once received a man
wishing to make a contribution to his synagogue. The rabbi gave the
man a tour of the synagogue and told him of the educational programs for
the community. The man gave the rabbi a check for $2,000. The rabbi was
puzzled why the man -- Jewish, but clearly not Jewishly well educated nor
observant -- wanted to make a contribution to his synagogue.
The man replied in a thick
Texas drawl, "Rabbi, recently I was in Jerusalem at the Western Wall.
There I saw a man praying with such fervor, such concentration ... I was
moved to the depths of my soul. I wanted to express how moved I was, but I
didn't want to insult the man by giving him money, so I decided that when
I got back to Dallas I would make a contribution to a synagogue where that
man would feel comfortable praying."
The donor continued, "When
I returned to Dallas I described the man I saw at the Wall --- the
long black coat, the broad black hat, the side locks -- and asked where a
man like that would feel comfortable praying; Rabbi, they told me your
synagogue! So here I am."
The man and the rabbi
became good friends, they studied Torah together and they shared in
each other's family's Simchas, joyous occasions. The man and his family
began to attend services religiously. Over the years the man and his
extended family become major supporters of the synagogue and its efforts
for Jewish educational outreach. Eventually, this
wealthy family gave a major contribution that enabled the
congregation to build a beautiful new building that it so badly
In retelling the
story, Rabbi Rodin points out, "The Jerusalemite probably returned
from praying at the Wall, not thinking anything unusual happened that
day. He had no idea that his devotion to prayer, changed the
life of an American man and his family, bolstered Torah programs
and enabled the construction of a shul building in
Dallas. After 120 years, when this man passes on to
the next world, he will be greeted in Heaven and
commended on what he did for increasing Torah and
building a new shul for the Jewish people in Dallas! The
Jerusalemite, who never in his life ever left the Holy Land,
will stand in bewilderment and reply... "What is Dallas?"
The foregoing true story is documented in the Artscroll Magid Series
by Rabbi Pesach Krohn.
D'Var Torah - Parshas Shemos - 5761
By Rabbi Baruch
Moshe had just returned
from his first encounter with Paroah. Not only did Paroah not free the
Jews as Moshe had called for, but he increased their workload, demanding
that they now gather their own straw while making the same quota of
bricks. Said Moshe to Hashem, "Why did this evil thing occur, that their
workload increased? And if you will say that I have no place complaining,
then why did you send ME? The reason I was chosen was because You saw that
I had compassion when shepherding flocks of sheep."
Rashi tells us that Hashem
said "Avraham had much more bitachon (trust) in Me. Avraham was promised
the entire land of Israel would belong to him and his children, yet when
the time came to bury his wife, he had to pay Efron an exorbitant sum
for one small plot. Through all this Avraham never uttered a complaint.
His trust was total. Yet here was Moshe complaining after one
bitterly bemoaned to Hashem (G-d), "Why have You done evil
to this people and why is it that you sent me?" [Exodus 5:23]
Moshe was criticized for making this utterance.
Now Moshe exclaims to
Hashem, "You cannot say that I shouldn't be upset about the situation. The
reason I was selected in the first place is because I
deeply feel the pain and suffering of others." Indeed, when
Moshe saw a vicious Egyptian murderously beating a Jew, he
risked his own life to intercede and save the Jew.
The Rosh Yeshiva (HaRav
Henoch Leibowitz shlit"a) pointed out that although Moshe was criticized
for an infinitesimal lack of faith, he was never criticized for feeling
the way he did. We can learn here that it is an essential
quality of a leader to feel anguish over the pain and suffering of
others. Whether one is leading a nation or a family, one cannot lead
others if he is insensitive to their feelings and their needs.
The very name Moshe
testifies to this quality. The Torah tells us that it was Basya, the
daughter of Paroah who gave this name after she rescued him from the
river,"She called his name Moshe for out of the
water I drew (mishishihu) him." [Ex. 2:10] Why is Moshe known
for all time by the name given to him by Paroah's daughter and not by
his birth name? (His parents named him Yekusiel.) HaRav Chaim
Shmuelevitz answered this question as follows: When Basya rescued Moshe,
she injected into him the quality of extending himself to save others.
That act not only saved his life - it shaped his life.
Once when Moshe was
working as a shepherd, a small sheep wandered away from the flock. Moshe
chased after the sheep only to discover it drinking from a brook. Moshe
said, "You poor sheep, if you are this thirsty, then you must
be tired as well." So Moshe carried the sheep all the way back
to the flock. At this display of compassion, Hashem declared, "If this
is the way you treat your sheep, then I want you to be the
shepherd for My sheep (i.e. the Israelites)"
The name Moshe represented
this. Moshe was one who extended himself to save others. This is how we
remember him for all time. This was the eternal gift that Basya gave
When a parent has to stop
everything they are doing to hold and comfort a crying infant (or
teenager), they are not wasting their time. They are teaching that child
how to love and comfort others. They are investing their child with chesed
(loving kindness). When we care about others, we make the whole world
a better place.