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D'Var Torah - Parshas Shemos       

 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 needed.
        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 Lederman

        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 setback."
        Moshe 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 him.
        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.

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