Parshat Va’era 5782: Reintroducing Moshe, and the Worth of Every Jew

Shalom Friends;

This week, our Parshat HaShevua, Va’eira is being sponsored by Dr. Dov and Debbie Rosen and family of Ramat Beit Shemesh dedicated for the success of their children. To the Rosen family, many thanks for your sponsorship and for your continued kindnesses.

You can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate a Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring a Parshat HaShevua.

Please forward to your relatives and friends and encourage them to sponsor a Parshat HaShevua. And please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.

Best Regards,

Moshe Burt
skype: mark.burt3

Parshat Va’era 5782: Reintroducing Moshe, and the Worth of Every Jew

by Moshe Burt

Rabbi Shmuel Goldin provides context and asks questions concerning Torah’s interruption of the narrative regarding the Jews’ liberation from Egypt in his sefer “Unlocking the Torah Text” (Sefer Shemot, pages 46-47):

When Moshe’s birth was chronicled in Parshat Shemos, the text deliberately omitted any description of his lineage, choosing instead to preface his birth with the mysterious sentence “And a man went from the House of Levi and he took a daughter of Levi.” (Rabbi Goldin citing Sefer Shemos, Perek 2, posuk 1)

…Moshe’s bona fides is now mentioned in Parshat Va’era.

Hashem commands Moshe to return to Pharaoh and again demand the release of the…[the B’nei Yisrael] slaves. When Moshe objects, citing his speech impediment [and having failed in his first attempt with Pharaoh and having been confronted by the B’nei Yisrael whose enslavement had become increasingly oppressive following Moshe’s meeting with Pharaoh], Hashem repeats the directive, this time to both Moshe and Aaron.

The Torah then abruptly digresses to present the genealogical table listing the descendants of Yaakov’s oldest sons, Reuven, Shimon and Levi. The listing concludes with a detailed description of the lineage of Moshe and Aaron’s family within the tribe of Levi. (Rabbi Goldin citing Sefer Shemos, Perek 6, posukim 14-25)

Upon completion of this genealogical record, the Torah returns to the narrative of the liberation from Egypt with the words “This was Aaron and Moshe… They were the ones who spoke to Pharaoh… This was Moshe and Aaron.” (Rabbi Goldin citing Sefer Shemos, Perek 6, posukim 26-27)

Why does Torah specifically choose this dramatic moment to detail the lineage of Moshe and Aaron? Why interrupt the historical narrative midstream? This genealogical table would clearly have been more appropriate at the beginning of the story, when Moshe was first introduced.

Amram and Yocheved, the parents of Aaron and Moshe, are mentioned here for the first time by name. Given the… omission of their identities when Moshe is born, why does the Torah see fit to reveal those identities now?

Rabbi Goldin now provides various understandings regarding the above section (ibid, pages 47-48):

Most… classical commentators are strangely silent concerning the perplexing aspects of this section, choosing to comment only briefly.

Rashi… states that because the Torah mentions Aaron and Moshe at this time, the text feels compelled to tell us more fully of their birth and lineage. (Rabbi Goldin citing Rashi on Sefer Shemos, Perek 6, posuk 13) He fails to explain, however, why this information was not given in conjunction with the earlier appearances of Moshe and Aaron in the text.

The Sforno and the Abravanel both maintain that the genealogical table is presented to show that the choice of Aaron and Moshe was not arbitrary. Hashem begins his search for worthy leadership with the descendants of Yaakov’s first – and – second born, Reuven and Shimon. Only when he proceeds to Levi, the third tribe [shevet], does Hashem find the quality He is searching for in Moshe and Aaron. (Rabbi Goldin citing Abravanel on Sefer Shemos, Perek 6, posuk 14, Sforno on Sefer Shemos, Perek 6, posukim 14-15)

…However, neither of these scholars explains why this information is shared with us abruptly, at this point in the text.

The Malbim, in contrast, does offer a solution concerning the placement of the genealogical record. He explains that the passage in Va’era marks the first time that Moshe and Aaron are clearly appointed by Hashem as full partners concerning all aspects of the liberation from Egypt. Only once this partnership of brothers is firmly established does the Torah digress to chronicle the familial credentials. (Rabbi Goldin citing Malbim on Sefer Shemos, Perek 6, posukim 13-23)

Rashi finally notes that, as Torah closes the genealogical table and returns to the historical narrative, the text identifies Moshe and Aaron twice and reverses the order of their names: “This was Aaron and Moshe… They were the ones who spoke to Pharaoh… This was Moshe and Aaron.” “This was Aaron and Moshe… They were the ones who spoke to Pharaoh… This was Moshe and Aaron.” (Rabbi Goldin citing Rashi on Sefer Shemos, Perek 6, posukim 26-27)

Quoting the Mechilta, Rashi explains that, throughout the text, the Torah will variably list each brother first in order to demonstrate that Aaron and Moshe were equivalent to each other in greatness. (Rabbi Goldin again citing Rashi on Sefer Shemos, Perek 6, posuk 26)

…Rabbi Moshe Feinstein… objects, however, to the Mechilta’s explanation: “Moshe was the greatest of the prophets, the teacher of the world, and the Torah was given by his hand. How can it be claimed that Aaron was his equal?” (Rabbi Goldin citing Drash Moshe on Sefer Shemos, Perek 6, posuk 26)

Rav Moshe answers that at this juncture of the text, even as the public leadership of Moshe and Aaron is firmly established, the Torah conveys an essential truth concerning the worth of every human life, Moshe and Aaron each fulfilled his personal role to the greatest extent possible. They are, therefore, in the eyes of Hashem, considered equal. Hashem judges each of us against ourselves and not against anyone else. Someone of lesser ability, who reaches his full life potential, towers over someone of greater talent who does not — even if, on an objective scale, the latter’s accomplishments seem grander. (Rabbi Goldin again citing Drash Moshe on Sefer Shemos, Perek 6, posuk 26)

This brings to this author’s mind what Rabbi Moshe Ungar would say back in Philadelphia, in the “Old Country”: “Are you the best — your name — that you could be?”

Rabbi Goldin concludes:

How telling that one of the most brilliant, accomplished leaders in recent memory in Judaism views this text as conveying the value inherent in each individual — skilled or unskilled, public or private!

May we, the B’nei Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them and that the thrice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes, at government expense; both due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. Baruch Hashem that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard is now free of his parole and restrictions and that he and his ill wife Esther Yocheved bat Rayzl Bracha are finally home in Eretz Yisrael. May the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem — as with the return in April, 2019, via Russia, of the remains of Zachariah Baumel, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of seven years ago. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and prevent Chas V’Challila the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. And may we soon and finally see the total end to the Communist Chinese corona virus pandemic and all like viruses. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nei Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Good Shabbos!
Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.