Shabbat Shemot 5780 Dvar Torah from Rabbi Saul I. Grife
"Find the Good Within Yourself!"
"The two greatest days in your life are the day you were born and the day you learn why!"
Parshat HaShavuah, the Torah reading this week is Shemot, beginning the 2nd book of the Torah Exodus 1:1 - 6:1. "Shemot" means "names", referring to the listing of the 11 sons of Jacob who accompanied their father Jacob to live near Joseph in Egypt late in life.
Things go well for Jacob's descendants, B'nai Yisrael, the Children of Israel, for the first 7 verses of the book. But then verse 8 tells us that a "new king arose over Egypt who did not know Joseph". Scholars debate whether the old Pharaoh died and this literally refers to a new one, his successor, or whether it was the same Pharaoh that knew Joseph but now developed a new attitude and policy towards the Israelites. Pharaoh was warned that the Israelites were multiplying and that one day they might fight Egypt from within. The solution was to enslave them to subdue and neutralize their power. We read the origins of the Pesach story, how the Egyptians oppressed the Israelites and the Israelites suffered doing hard labor. The text then relates how the groans of the people arose to God, so God searched for a hero to redeem them. In chapter 3, God selected Moses.
Chapter 3 opens by telling us that Moshe was tending the sheep of his father in law Yitro. In the desert at the foot of Mt. Horeb, Moshe witnessed the Burning Bush and heard God summon him from its enflamed midst. God challenged Moshe to "Go down to Egypt and tell Pharaoh to 'Let My People Go!' "Moshe greeted this request with great reluctance. He protested vehemently to God, insisting he was not the man for the job. In his last protest, Moshe reminded God that he lisped and spoke neither easily nor well. God responded by saying he would send his brother Aaron with him to be their spokesman. Out of excuses, Moshe heads towards Egypt. The rest of the story is well known thanks to the Torah and the Pesach Haggadah. Finally, after 10 plagues and much suffering on behalf of all, the Israelites escape Egypt, successfully traverse the Red Sea and make their way to Mt. Sinai and the Promised Land.
Why did God choose Moshe when Joshua or an enslaved Israelite may have proved a better choice? A Midrash tells us that when Moses was shepherding Yitro's sheep, one day one little lamb wandered away. Moshe could have given him up for lost, thinking that in this business you're going to lose a lamb or two along the way. Instead, Moshe pursued the stray until he caught up and rescued him. It was at that point that Moshe arrived at the Burning Bush and encountered the Divine. When Moshe asked God, "Why me?" God responded, "The Israelites are my children, my flock, my little lambs. As much as you have demonstrated your concern for each and every one of your flock, so too take care to redeem each and every suffering Israelite from Egypt!"
When Moshe offered God a disclaimer that he wasn't the best choice for a savior since he spoke unevenly to the point where Pharaoh might not listen to him, a Midrash teaches us that God responded tongue in cheek, "If I sent a great orator, My children might still be in Egypt waiting for the speaker to finish his speech!" When presented with the challenge, all Moshe saw was his weaknesses and how ineffective he might prove. He didn't see what God saw - the best in him as a shepherd, caregiver and protector! Moshe did wind up rescuing the people and then led them to the Promised Land. When he emerged triumphant, he then knew for what greater purpose he was born - to be the greatest Redeemer of Israel of all time!
Therefore, my friends, one great lesson we can learn from Parshat Shemot is to find the good that dwells within each and every one of us!! Sometimes all we notice is our faults, our fears and how unsuccessful we may be if we tackle a new challenge. Like Moshe, sometimes we don't realize that we have precisely what it takes to succeed within; all we have to do is locate it and identify it! History is filled with people who dared to try and try again despite failure only to persevere on until they were successful!! One thing is certain - unless we believe in ourselves enough to try, we can never learn how capable and triumphant we can be! Where would we be if Thomas Edison, Eli Whitney and the Wright Brothers to name a few offered only excuses instead of attempts? No matter what, when considering our own faults including the negative assessments of others - believing in oneself and finding the good that resides within us all denotes the first step on the path to great victories!
Christian Larson wrote,
Know that there is something inside you that is greater than any obstacle!
Good luck to us all in contending with life's challenges and dreams artfully and successfully!
Shabbat Shalom to all!
PS - For all you Daf Yomi fans, this Shabbat the Talmudic page we study is Berachot 15. Only 2696 days left until the next Siyyum celebration!!!