Photo of Rabbi Ettedgui

Parashat Shemot - 5775

My friends,

This Shabbat we read the first portion in the Book of Exodus. This Parasha contains the stories of exile and slavery as well as the beginning of redemption and freedom.

The original seventy men (Jacob and his family) who came to Egypt at the invitation of Joseph and Pharaoh are now a big nation. Pharaoh sees this people as a threat to Egypt and begins the process of enslaving the Children of Israel.

Moses comes onto the scene as THE leader who will be there for his people while they are in slavery, and also when they are free. He teaches them the Torah and leads them to the Promised Land.

We are told that he was born during the period when all newborn Jewish males were supposed to be thrown into the river. His mother hides him and places him in a basket by the river. He is rescued, adopted and raised by a compassionate woman - none other than Pharaoh's daughter. This baby of slaves will grow up to be the most important and most influential leader in the history of humanity.

What is it that we know about Moses? What life experiences did he have that would describe his strengths and qualifications for being chosen as G-d's messenger? The Torah tells us of three incidents in his life before he is chosen by G-d to go and save his people.

The first one is when he sees an Egyptian taskmaster beating a Hebrew slave of his brothers. Moses kills the Egyptian and hides him in the sand.

In the second incident he sees two Hebrew slaves fighting. He addresses the aggressor and tells him to stop fighting. The way the aggressor responds leads Moses to believe that people and Pharaoh have found out about his killing of the Egyptian. Moses flees Egypt to the land of Midian.

The third incident takes place in Midian. Female shepherds come to the well and draw water for their sheep. Male shepherds come and chase them away. Moses intervenes and saves the female shepherds and gives water to their sheep.

Commentators point out the different levels of caring that Moses has shown in these three incidents:

In the first one he intervenes to save a fellow Jew. In such a case it is understandable why one would intervene. An enemy is hurting one of your own - of course you would want to help.

In the second, it is a fight between two Jews. They are both your brothers. You may want to chose not to get involved. It takes a higher degree of caring to get involved in such a case.

In the third, they are all strangers. Why should you care? Why would you stick your neck out when you are in a foreign country? They are not even your people!

I believe there is an important message here for us as human beings. When you see injustice being done, it does not matter if it is done against your people, among your people, or to total strangers. You must interfere. You must care.

Our hearts go out to the families of all the innocent lives that were killed by the two terrorists in Paris. These Jihadists care only for their kind of people. Anyone who is not like them is dispensable.

Israel is facing enemies all around her who just do not want a Jewish presence among them.

Let us continue to be like Moses. Moses taught us to care for every human being and to stand up and fight when we see injustice - whenever and wherever it takes place.

Shabbat Shalom,

Avram