By: SFW Students & Alumna Debra Strashun (SFW '09)
In this week’s parsha there is a conversation between Moshe and Hashem in which Hashem promises that the geula is coming. Through the four famousleshonot of geula- “v’hotzeiti…v’heitzalti…v’gaalti…v’lakachti…” - Hashem promises to take Bnei Yisroel out of Mitzraim. This culminates with the fifth lashon of “v’heiveiti” with which Hashem promises to bring Bnei Yisroel to Israel and give us the land as our morasha, our heritage. Afterward, Hashem commands Moshe to go to Pharaohand tell him, “Let my people go!!” But before continuing on with this very exciting story of yetziat mitzraiim, the Torah takes a break to give us a family tree:
These were the heads of their fathers’ houses: the sons of Reuven the firstborn of Israel...And these were the sons of Levi…” (Exodus 6:14,17)
The Shelah Hakadosh asks the very obvious question on this: Why does the pasuk say “raashei bet avotam” by Reuven, but by Levi it says “vieleh shemot”…? The Shelah goes on to explain that shevet Levi was not considered to be a part of the galut.But they didn’t accept this! They wanted to feel the pain of the rest of the nation-“ratzu lihishtatef b’tzarat hatzibur” and so Levi named his 3 sons “al shem hagalut”. Gershon was named because the Jews were gerim in Mitzraim: al shem ki gerim hem baaretz lo lahem. His 2nd son, Kehat was named: al shem sheshineihem kehot (their teeth were darkened because of the slavery). And the 3rd son, Marrari was named because the mitzriim made their lives bitter: al shem vayimarriru et chayehem. That’s why it says “v’eleh shemot” by Levi, because of the names!
These names aren’t just written in our parsha for no reason; we can learn a very important lesson from Levi here. It doesn’t matter where we are in the world or what we are up to at this point our lives…we are ALL part of 1 nation. We are Jews and this means we all have to learn to care about one another, lihishtatef bitzarat hatzibur, to feel the pain of others.
In last week’s parsha, Hashem tells Moshe that his name is “Ehiyeh asher Ehiyeh” (Exodus 3: 14). Rashi there explains that this means: “ehiyeh imam bitzarah zot vi’imam bishebud shiar malchiot” : “I will be with them through this sorrow and in future sorrows.” Moshe then said to Hashem: “Isn’t it enough that Bnei Yisroel are in this galut right now? Why imply to them that there will be future galuyot?” Hashem agrees with him and says to tell the nation the name “Ehiyeh”. This concept of “Ehiyeh”—“I will be with you” or imo anochi batzarah, “I am with you in your suffering” - is a quality of Hashem that is so crucial for us to emulate…especially in the times we are living in today.
In Pirkei Avot 6:6 we are taught the importance of this midah of “nosei biol im chavero”-carrying the burden of a friend:
“gedolah torah yoteir min hakehunah oomin hamalchut, shehamalchut niknet bishloshim maalot, vihakehunah niknet biesrim viarbaah, vihatorah niknet biarbaim ooshemonah devarim vielu hen…hanosei biol im chavero.”
Torah is even greater than Kehunah and Malchut because Malchut is acquired with 30 maalot, and Kehunah with 24. But Torah is acquired with 48 and one of them is this concept of “nosei biol im chavero.”A Jew can’t just live a bubble! One of the fundamental ideas in chassidut is, “Kol Yisroel hem neshama achat bigufim m’chulakim” (a beautiful idea of the Baal Hatanya).We are all part of 1 nation, e are 1 neshama. Your pain is my pain and your joy is my joy.
Another idea of Parshat Shemot is that of“Vayar Bisivlotam” - Moshewas growing up in Pharaoh’s palace, but instead of chilling in his comfortable home he left his house to join in the pain of Bnei Yisroel. Rashi explains this to mean: “natan ainav vilibo lihiot meitzar alehem”-- he set his eyes and his heart to grieve with them. He felt a part of their pain and it was as if he said to them, “amo anochi bitzarah -I am with you Bnei Yisroel!
There is a mashal about a group of people traveling on a boat. One man digs a whole underneath his own seat thinking to himself, “I can do whatever I want; it’s not like it’s going to affect anyone else…” This man is totally ridiculous because it is obvious that if he digs a hole in the bottom of the boat, water will seep in and flood the entire boat! The nimshalhere is something so important that we should never forget: We all make a difference. And even though we sometimes have days where we feel insignificant and may think things like Hashem won’t actually care if I skip davening…what does it matter anyway? or, “does my learning Torah have an affect on Klal Yisroel? We must try anyway and never give up.
As we are all well aware, unfortunately Am Yisroel is going through a very difficult time right now. Now, more than ever we have to join together - Achenu Kol Bet Yisroel - and be “nosei b’ol im chavero.”Whether we are in Israel, America, Canada, England, Australia (or anywhere else in the world!) we must all unite as a nation to bear this heavy burden that has been placed on us. Whether it means sending a package of food to our chayaliim, devoting more time to learn Torah, giving more tzdaka, or trying to daven with more kavana-I believe that we have the power to make a difference.
In Kol Dodi Dofek Rav Soloveitchik has a beautiful idea: “Chessed means more than a passing sentiment, a superficial feeling; Chessed demands more than a momentary tear or a cold coin. Chessed means to merge with the other person, to identify with his pain, to feel responsible for his fate.”
As we will be blessing the upcoming month of Shevat in shul this Shabbat, my hope is that we can all emulate Hashem’s middah of “imo anochi bitzarah”, take the examples of shevet Levi andMoshe Rabbenu, and truly feel what it means to be “nosei biol im chavero.”Let’s be there for each other. Daven harder! And don’t ever give up.
I believe that we have the power to change the world.