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  • Rabbi Binyomin Halpern

Tzadik Sensitivities

There are so many wonderful things to experience on planet Earth. However, once in a while, we all see and hear things that we would rather not see and hear. Unfortunately, not only is the experience unpleasant, but in fact we are influenced, for good or otherwise, by our surroundings. Even holy and righteous people are influenced by their surroundings.(For this reason, big tzadikim go out of their way to avoid seeing and hearing such things!)

At the end of last week’s Parsha, we find two striking exchanges. Firstly, in response to Paroh decreeing that the Jewish slaves will now have to gather their own straw, Dasan and Aviram have sharp words for Moshe and Aharon.

וַיֹּאמְר֣וּ אֲלֵהֶ֔ם יֵ֧רֶא ה' עֲלֵיכֶ֖ם וְיִשְׁפֹּ֑ט אֲשֶׁ֧ר הִבְאַשְׁתֶּ֣ם אֶת־רֵיחֵ֗נוּ בְּעֵינֵ֤י פַרְעֹה֙ וּבְעֵינֵ֣י עֲבָדָ֔יו לָֽתֶת־חֶ֥רֶב בְּיָדָ֖ם


[Dasan and Aviram] said to [Moshe and Aharon] “May Hashem see you and punish you for making us loathsome in the eyes of Paroh and his servants, putting a sword in their hands to kill us!” (Ex. 5:21)

Immediately, Moshe turns to Hashem saying

לָמָ֤ה הֲרֵעֹ֙תָה֙ לָעָ֣ם הַזֶּ֔ה לָ֥מָּה זֶּ֖ה שְׁלַחְתָּֽנִי׃ וּמֵאָ֞ז בָּ֤אתִי אֶל־פַּרְעֹה֙ לְדַבֵּ֣ר בִּשְׁמֶ֔ךָ הֵרַ֖ע לָעָ֣ם הַזֶּ֑ה וְהַצֵּ֥ל לֹא־הִצַּ֖לְתָּ אֶת־עַמֶּֽךָ׃

“Hashem, why did You bring harm upon this people? Why did You send me? Ever since I came to Paroh to speak in Your name, he has dealt worse with this nation; and still You have not saved Your people!”

Moshe is criticized for his reaction. In fact, Hashem needed to ‘step in’, so to speak, to spare Moshe from punishment. Parshas Vaera opens with the words

וַיְדַבֵּ֥ר אֱלֹקים אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֑ה וַיֹּ֥אמֶר אֵלָ֖יו אֲנִ֥י ה'

Hashem declared “I am Hashem” (using the 4 letter name of mercy), and I will be forgiving and merciful to Moshe, notwithstanding the way that he spoke to Me”

Moshe Rabbeinu was righteous and humble beyond our comprehension. Still, the Midrash (Shemos Rabbah 6) is clear that the way Moshe responded was improper, and in fact, says incredulously “is it possible to imagine that Moshe would speak this way of his own initiative to G-d? Of course not!

אלא הם שהקניטוהו Rather it was they [Dasan and Aviram] who instigated and affected Moshe to speak this way.

The Alter of Slabodka, R’ Nosson Tzvi Finkel zt’l, explains the words of the Midrash as follows. Of course Moshe knew full well that Dasan and Aviram were anything but role models. In fact, they themselves were speaking out of their own pain, a point that Moshe of course was sensitive to as well. He would never use them as a personal example for himself, or be consciously affected by their outbursts. Inescapably, all of us -even Moshe - are affected by what goes on around us. Simply because Moshe heard their language and attitudes, his response to G-d Almighty was adversely affected.

Moshe reminds us of our own sensitivities. We are affected for good or otherwise by what we surround ourselves with. As we embark on a week of (well deserved!) winter break, we will not be surrounded by our familiar BYB environment and culture. Let us make sure that we continue to surround ourselves with sights and sounds of kedusha that will inspire us further in our service of Hashem.

Wishing everyone a beautiful Shabbos and a restful winter break,

Rabbi Binyomin Halpern

  • Rabbi Binyomin Halpern

We all need help. Baruch Hashem, most of us are capable and have a certain pride in our independence and the things we can do on our own. However, life is full of many difficult and challenging situations. Sometimes, we can deal with the challenge on our own. (The truth is that for spiritual struggles, we actually can’t deal with them on our own. The Gemara in Kiddushin (30b) says that the yetzer hara can easily overpower us, and it is only with Divine assistance that we are victorious over him.) But there are always times when, in fact, we cannot do it on our own and Hashem (or His agents) come to save the day. What is our takeaway? What do we learn from these experiences? It is always a humbling reminder when we need others, and it is always good to have people to be grateful for. But perhaps the most powerful takeaway from a situation needing help, is that it is a life changing opportunity.

In Parshas Shemos, the daughter of Paroh finds a Jewish baby, in the Nile, she saves his life and she raises him and gives him a name.

וַיִּגְדַּ֣ל הַיֶּ֗לֶד וַתְּבִאֵ֙הוּ֙ לְבַת־פַּרְעֹ֔ה וַֽיְהִי־לָ֖הּ לְבֵ֑ן וַתִּקְרָ֤א שְׁמוֹ֙ מֹשֶׁ֔ה וַתֹּ֕אמֶר כִּ֥י מִן־הַמַּ֖יִם מְשִׁיתִֽהוּ׃

The child grew up and [Yocheved] brought him to the daughter of Paroh, and she raised him as a son. She called his name Moshe, and she said “for from the water, I drew him out.”

-Shemos 2:10

Bas Paroh did not just flippantly give him a name. She didn’t even give him an Egyptian name. Rather, she took the time to research the correct word, in the heritage and language of the child, to make sure that his name would be most appropriate.

R’ S.R. Hirsch points out that grammatically, the Hebrew word for ‘drawn out’ is Mashui, so that would have really been the correct name to givehim. (Can you imagine if we had all had a “Mashui Rabbeinu?” instead of a “Moshe Rabbeinu”?) Instead, she named him Moshe, which means “to draw forth.” In doing so, she was giving him a directive, and a life mission. ‘Moshe, you were saved, you were drawn forth from the nile. Now, it is your job to save others. It is your job to take your experience and use it as an inspiration, a motivation, and a calling.’

He did.

R’ Yisroel Miller, shlit”a, points out that even from a very young age, Moshe took his name very seriously. He defended his fellow Jew against the Mitzri (according to the Ramban he was only 12 years old at the time.) He defended the daughters of Yisro- who were total strangers to him- against the shepherds. Ultimately, he saves an entire nation from the slavery and darkness of Mitzrayim.

Needing someone else’s help can be viewed as a weakness. But in Moshe’s case, and in the case of each of us, being helped by someone else can serve as a source of strength and vision that can be life changing for ourselves and for all those that we will go on to help.

Wishing everyone a beautiful Shabbos,

Rabbi Binyomin Halpern

Dear Faculty, Parents and Students,

There is always a special excitement which accompanies the start of a new ספר in the תורה.

Sefer Shemos begins with the listing of the names of the שבטים. The ספורנו comments:

“אלה הנזכרים בכאן היו ראוים להוודע בשם, כי כל אחד מהם ראוי להיות נחשב איש על שמו

המורה על צורתו האישיית, ואלה כל ימי חייהם היו למאורות."

“Each of the שבטים earned the privilege of being listed by name in the תורה, as a person’s name demonstrates their unique individuality. Each of the שבטים were unique, and each one was a shining inspiration for their entire lives”

This week the girls started their Midterm Journey. It is hard to believe that the first half of the year passed by. As we look at our girls, we are awed and inspired by their personal and academic growth over the past five and a half months. Their commitment to each other and to achieving excellence is truly remarkable. Ahava, Tehillah, Esther, Hadassa, Ayala, Esther Shifra and Naamah, each of you deserves to be mentioned by name. We are so proud of every one of you. May you continue to grow and be מאורות, sources of light and inspiration, to all those who are privileged to know you.

Wishing you an illuminating Shabbos,

Mrs. Malka Halpern and Mrs. Shaindie Schiller

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