Shemos 5777

RABBI ARYEH SCHEINBAUM

ותיראן המילדת את האלקים ולא עשו כאשר דבר אליהן מלך מצרים ותחיין את הילדים (שמות א:יז)

But the midwives feared G-d and they did not do as the king of Egypt
had spoken to them, and they kept the boys alive (Shemos 1:17)

The Pasuk appears to be repetitive. The Pasuk begins, “They did not do as the king of Egypt had spoken to them.” What is added by saying, “They kept the boys alive,” since the entire point of the decree was to kill them? Rashi explains that not only did the midwives not kill them, but they also went so far as to supply them with food and water.
The Sifsei Chachamim explains that Rashi is actually answering this question. When the Pasuk says, “They did not do as the king of Egypt had spoken to them,” this is referring to the actual deed of not killing the boys. When the Pasuk adds, “And they kept the boys alive,” this is referring to the midwives also supplying them with food and water.
The Chafetz Chaim takes another approach. Truth be told, the midwives had an easy out from their entire predicament. They could have simply resigned from their positions as midwives, thereby circumventing any problems. However, they explicitly did not go this route because they were fearful that their replacements might be happy to assist Pharaoh with his evil decree. Instead, they specifically stayed on their watch to make sure that the decree was not carried out, even at grave danger to themselves. This explains the two actions that the Pasuk is detailing. First, the midwives did not listen to Pharaoh and they let the newborn boys stay alive. Second, they remained on the job to ensure that all of the Jewish boys would be safe.
This approach also answers another question. The account continues, “The midwives said to Pharaoh, ‘Because the Hebrew women are unlike the Egyptian women, for they are experts; before the midwife comes to them, they have given birth’… G-d benefitted the midwives, and the people increased and became very strong” (Shemos 1:19-20). Why did the Torah wait to detail their reward, only discussing it after the conversation with Pharaoh and not immediately after it describes the incredible self-sacrifice they went through to save the boys?
By applying the Chafetz Chaim’s approach, the chain of events in the narrative is easily comprehensible. The midwives’ objective was not just to find an easy out and dodge the whole problem; rather, they unambiguously kept themselves in the danger zone to ensure the boys’ safety. The final step in their scheme to thwart Pharaoh was the excuse they gave him. Had they told Pharaoh something along the lines that it was too hard for them to get to everyone, he might have simply gotten more midwives involved, sending them back to square one. However, now that they had told him the excuse of “for they are experts; before the midwife comes to them, they have given birth,” it closed the door on any other possible dangers to the boys’ lives.
So there were actually three steps to their plan. First, they did not kill the boys as Pharaoh had commanded. Second, they stayed on the job to ensure that the infant boys were safe. Finally, they provided Pharaoh with an explanation that closed the book on his decree. That is why only now, after the final phase of their strategy has become clear, does the Torah relate their reward. Only now can the scope of their commitment and courage be appreciated.


RABBI SHAUL BOROCHOVITZ

ויאמר בי אדני שלח נא ביד תשלח (שמות ד:יג)

And he said, “Please my Lord, send by the hand of whomever You will send” (Shemos 4:13)

Hashem reveals Himself to Moshe at the burning bush and informs him that he will be the one to act as Hashem’s messenger to Pharoah and take the Bnei Yisrael out.
Moshe replies, “Who am I that I should go to Pharoah and that I should take Bnei Yisrael out of Egypt?”
Hashem answers, “I will be with you,” and gives Moshe a sign.
Moshe then asks other questions and voices other objections, to which Hashem responds in kind. Finally, Moshe says, “Please, my Lord, send by the hand of whomever You will send.”
What defines a “Shaliach?” In essence, a “Shaliach,” or emissary, acts as a “hand.” The role of a hand is to carry out the dictates of the mind. To do so, the hand must be strong enough and capable enough to accomplish its mission. Along these lines, Onkelos explains, Moshe is saying, “With the hand of one who is Kosher, send.” The word “Kosher” is normally used to describe food fit for a Jew’s consumption. As applied to people, what could “Kosher” possibly mean?
The Mishna (Brachos 2:7) notes that Rabban Gamliel accepted consolation upon the death of his Canaanite slave as though he were mourning the passing of a son. His disciples were disturbed by this and asked, “Did you not teach us, our master, that we should refrain from being consoled upon the passing of a slave?”
To which Rabban Gamliel answered, “Tavi, my slave, is unlike the others. He was ‘Kosher.’” The Tiferes Yisrael explains that the Mishna means that Tavi was a scholar and was fit to receive ordination. Although generally speaking, it is true that one does not mourn over the passing of a slave, here there is an obligation of Kavod HaTorah which supersedes the standard practice.
Just as in Tavi’s case, where Torah knowledge can raise the level of the Canaanite slave to the level of a Ben Yisrael, any Jew, although a mere mortal, can also amass sufficient Torah knowledge to become an emissary of Hashem. The more knowledge, the better.
What does this all have to do with Kosher food? It would seem to follow that just as the slave does not have the status of a person who is mourned, but through his “Kashrus” can become such, so, too, food which is of this lowly world is not fitting for the Jew whose soul emanates from the highest Heavens