Questioning faith in the parsha
December 25, 2010/18 Tevet 5771
Modern Author: Elie Wiesel
REMEZ…Dialogue of the Centuries—Reclaiming Culture/Connection
v.11 Some time after, when Moses had grown up, he went out to his brothers and witnessed their burden; an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his kin.
RASHI… “An Egyptian…” He was one of the taskmasters who woke them for work at the crack of dawn. “Beating a Hebrew…” Whipping him cruelly without stopping.
v.12 Moses turned this way and that, and seeing no one around, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.
SH’MOT RABBAH…He spoke to the Holy One saying: If this is the way that Your children are being treated, then where is the “Koh—Thus” that you promised? For to Abraham you declared: “Look now to the Heavens and count the stars if you can count them—Koh Yihyeh Zarecha—THUS shall your descendants be.” [Gen 15:5]
HaKTAV v’HaKABBALA… Looking to his brethren “this way and that,” hoping that one of them would come forward to rescue their brother. But when he saw that no “ish”—no real man was willing to step forward, he knew he must act.
R’Naftali HERTZ-WIESEL… If “makeh” implies “striking,” then Moses’ act seems unlawful.
Does the taskmasters striking require Moses’ killing? What difference does it make whose life was involved, and Egyptian or a Hebrew?
SH’MOT RABBAH…When he saw the burdens of his brothers, Moses, though a prince, came to their aid as a common slave. So the Holy One responded: You gave up all else to join yourself to the Children of Israel in their suffering and sorrow, therefore I too will put all else aside in heaven and earth and speak only with you’
v.13 Moses went out the next day and found two Hebrews fighting, so he said to the offender, “Why do you strike your fellow?”
RASHI…They are Dathan & Abiram, the same two who will leave some of the manna over until morning. [Ex 16:20]
MUNK… “Why will you strike your fellow?” It is very rare that Jews in argument reach the point that they actually strike one another. But even the act of raising one’s hand as if to strike against a fellow Jew is to be condemned. So RASHI notes, following the TALMUD, that the one who raises his hand in anger is called the “wicked one—rasha.”
v.14 He retorted, “Who made you chief and ruler over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?”Moses was frightened, and thought: “Then the matter is known!”
TANCHUMA…Who made you an “Ish”—a man, for you are still but a lad…
SH’MOT RABBAH…They [Dathan and Abiram] say to Moses: ‘Are you not Yocheved’s little boy?’ What right then do you have to call yourself son of Bitya, daughter of Pharaoh? Who are you?
RASHI… “VaYirah Moshe…” Moses’ fear is to be understood in the pshat: like any other man, he feared being apprehended and punished.
ETZ HAYIM… “Moses was frightened,” for when he learned that there were bullies and talebearers among the Israelites, he was afraid that they were unworthy of being redeemed. [MeCHILTA] Suffering and persecution can bring forth nobility of spirit in some victims, and meanness of spirit in others.
MUNK… According to the Midrashic retort we see revealed an unfortunately typical attitude among our people. Six hundred thousand men had not the courage to defend their children against the Egyptian oppressors, but refuse to submit to the moral authority of one man now that they know he was just another Jew.
Dec. 25, 2010/18 Tevet 5761