Illuminations #16, Tevet 5775, Parshat Shemot

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Illuminations #16, Tevet 5775, Parshat Shemot

Torah Gems

True Greatness

Pharaoh’s stargazers told him that the savior for the Jews would be a male. Pharaoh therefore appointed two midwives,Yocheved and Miriam, to kill all Jewish boys born. The midwives were G-d fearing Jews and did not listen to Pharaoh. They risked their lives and disobeyed Pharaoh.

“ויאמר מלך מצרים … שם האחת שפרה ושם השנית פועה”

“and the king of Mitzrayim said… name of the first one is Shifraand the name of the second was Puah”

Why does the pasuk call them Shifra and Puah? Rashi explains that they are called Shifra and Puah because they made the babies happy. The question begs to be asked: why are the midwives called after this seemingly small act and not after the bigger action of risking their lives?

R’ Yissocher Frand shlit”a gives a very profound answer. He says that in order for a person to do an extraordinary act of kindness he does not have to be an extraordinary person. It can be a regular person who happened to have decided to do an extraordinary act of kindness. Even if the act requires a tremendous amount of mesiras nefesh it does not show the essence of a person and how he lives on a day to day basis. But if while doing an extraordinary act of kindness a person is attuned to the minor details and cares about those, too, that shows the essence of a person is true greatness. So, the midwives risking their lives to keep the Jewish boys alive was a great act of kindness, but it does not attest to their essence of greatness. That they also made the babies happy after they were delivered, that reveals their true greatness. Therefore the Torah chose to highlight that point.


Qualities of a Leader

הסנה מתוך האלוקים אליו ויקרא… לראות סר כי ה׳ וירא

Hashem is appearing to Moshe for the first time and telling him to be the leader of Klal Yisroel and take them out of Mitrayim.

The Alter from Kelm points out that we now have three episodes about Moshe.
1) At one point, Moshe left Pharaoh’s palace to see for himself the hardships of Klal Yisroel
2) There is a Midrash that once when Moshe was shepherding his flock, one of the sheep ran away. Moshe found the sheep by a stream drinking. When Moshe saw this he said, “I didn’t know you were so thirsty, now you must be so tired.” So Moshe carried the sheep home.
3) This episode: Moshe saw a bush on fire but it wasn’t burning. He went over to see what was going on.

The Alter explains that these three acts prove that Moshe was fit to be the leader of Klal Yisroel. The first two episodes demonstrate care. Moshe left the comfort of the palace, where all his needs were taken care of, just to “share the burden” of Klal Yisroel. And when he saw a sheep he thought was tired, he carried the sheep on his own back. The depth of his care and concern for others was paramount to being our leader. And the last episode, Moshe noticed the bush. He didn’t just let it pass by him. He went over to see what was going on. This is also a very important and necessary quality of a leader. He was able to notice what was going on with people.

Rav Mordechai of Neshchiz wanted a pair of tzitzis with utmost keddusha.  In order to have that, he wanted it made from wool completely from Eretz Yisroel. He wanted the sheep to have been born and raised in Eretz Yisroel. And then, he wanted the cloth woven in Eretz Yisroel by a yarei shamayim. Finding such a combination was difficult. Eventually, he was successful finding someone who was willing to make the material for him. Upon receiving the material Rav Mordechai brought it straight to a tailor to have cut to his size, explaining its significance. The tailor unfolded the material and began to cut a hole for RavMordechai’s head. He then lifted it up and realized he had left one fold folded and there were now two holes in the material.Rav Mordechai said, “It is okay, that exactly how it is meant to be, with two holes in it.” The tailor asked how that could be possible. Rav Mordechai explained, “One for Mordechai to put his head through and the other to test if Mordechai will lose his temper.”


Halachah Weekly

Q: When a Sephardi or Ashkenazi goes to pray in a shul that is not their nusach (version) of prayer, what are they supposed to do?

A: One is not allowed to separate himself from what the rest of the congregation does, meaning one has to follow the customs and rules of the synagogue they attend. However, at the same time , one should follow his/her own customs.

Therefore, the part of the prayer that is said in private should be said according to one’s custom. The sections of prayer that are said aloud with the congregation together should be said according to the custom of the synagogue one is praying in.

For instance, one should use the siddur that he/she normally uses and is familiar with, and should not change the nusach of Shmoneh Esreh (silent prayer after Shema), but when it comes to kedusha (section in the repetition of the silent prayer) one should follow the nusach of the synagogue.

According to HaGaon Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l, if one will say kaddish, he should say it according to the nusach of the synagogue he is in. According to HaGaon Harav Ovadia Yisef zt”l though, one should say kaddish based on their own nusach.  The best practice for a Sefardi praying in an Ashkenazi synagogue is to say the extra part in the beginning of the kaddish and omit the last part.

Regarding Bircat HaCohanim (the Priestly blessing), an Ashkenazi praying in a Sefardi synagogue should participate in duchaning (reciting the priestly blessing).

Regarding saying Tachanun, one should follow their own custom.

In honor of Mr. and Mrs. Yechezkel Spaner

By a close friend