by Yehuda HaKohen


As Israel evolves from a tribal family to constitute a Nation, the Torah reveals inspiring lessons of valor as well as deep secrets to Israel's national liberation and the Redemption of mankind.


"The King of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, of whom the name of the first was Shifrah and the name of the second was Puah – and he said, `When you deliver the Hebrew women, and you see them on the birth stool; if it is a son, you are to kill him, and if it is a daughter, she shall live.' But the midwives feared G-D and they did not do as the king of Egypt spoke to them, and they caused the boys to live." (SHEMOT 1:15-17)


It is taught that Shifrah and Puah are alternate names for Yocheved and Miriam, mother and sister to Moshe and Aharon. We learn further that the midwives feared G-D and therefore HaShem built them "Houses in Israel" (the priesthood came out of Yocheved and the Davidic dynasty descended from Miriam). In order to properly appreciate this idea, it is first necessary to grasp what is meant by the concept of "fearing G-D".


To fear G-D is, in reality, to be full of courage and fear nothing at all. When one truly fears G-D, that person cannot possibly fear Pharaoh, poverty, prison or even death because G-D is the Creator and Source of all. For one to fear G-D is to have the Truth of HaShem inside of him to the extent that he fears nothing inferior. And only with this courageous awe of HaShem are Yocheved and Miriam able to give birth to the greatest leadership Israel has ever known. Because the slave naturally fears his master and the Israelis in Egypt were brought up to fear their environment, the behavior displayed by Yocheved and Miriam is a revolution against the sociological order of their day. Yocheved and Miriam had no guarantee that they would go unpunished by Pharaoh for their treason. G-D did not tell them that if they endangered themselves they would reap any reward. In fact, they had no way of knowing that they would even survive. What Yocheved and Miriam did, however, was observe the oldest tradition of Am Yisrael. When thrown into Nimrod's furnace, our patriarch Avraham did not expect to be saved for his commitment to HaShem. Rather, he was willing to give up his life for the Truth in his soul, regardless of whether or not he would live.


During the terrible Holocaust in Europe, there lived Jews willing to collaborate with the Nazis in order to make life easier for themselves and their families. These were pragmatic Jews who saw and understood that the Nazis were strong and their own people weak. The rational answer to the situation was to survive by becoming a capo and assisting the Nazis in the ghettos and camps. There are prohibitions in the Torah, however, for which one must be willing to give his life rather than transgress. A person must die rather than commit certain acts (including the murder of Jews in which many capos were forced to participate). Fear of HaShem in such a situation is the soul not being prepared to contaminate itself through handing over one's brother to a murderer. Therefore, a person with true fear of G-D could never have allowed himself to become a capo as life itself would no longer feel worth living after having committed such an atrocity.


A person who genuinely fears G-D has no personal fear for his own life and is automatically infused with a tremendous spirit of valor. While this is certainly not an easy level to attain, one can reach this pious height through asking honest questions and being prepared for difficult answers. The true courage of fearing HaShem involves emotional honesty and the willingness to burden national responsibility. Yocheved and Miriam risked their lives for what was right, knowing that they could have been slain and forgotten. Like Avraham, they feared G-D because that was the Truth of their souls and not because they had any guarantees of survival or reward. Fear of G-D is not an insurance policy for the body but for the soul, which will always be blessed. It is a loyalty to Divine Truth without any expectations for reward. Only at this caliber, can a person become courageous to the point of being unbreakable in the face of overwhelming challenges. Anything he is threatened with simply becomes meaningless in comparison to his lofty awe of HaShem.


In addition to being the wellspring of courage, fearing HaShem is the base for attaining true love – the ability to give without expectations. Rabbi Akiva teaches that the commandment, "you shall love your fellow as yourself" is a mitzvah that encompasses the Torah in its entirety. It is the base that the Torah rests on in order to be fully revealed. Genuine love entails being ready to take risks without fear that one's feelings might not be reciprocal. Whether it is a personal, national or universal love, one who truly cares does not fret about being exploited because real love exists only to give. The idea of true love is a very high concept and the most essential base for correctly understanding the Torah. In order to achieve this level of love, one must first be an incredibly courageous individual.


Moshe is destined to liberate Israel and introduce them to the Torah, which they must observe in Eretz Yisrael as G-D's holy Nation and the bearers of His Truth. Moshe grows up in the house of Pharaoh, a place representing the opposite of his unique mission. Pharaoh desires to keep Israel in exile, physically and culturally enslaved. In order to develop the power of courage necessary to lead Israel from slavery to freedom, Moshe must grow up surrounded by the power that is against the essence of his fundamental task. It is this environment that forces Moshe to ask true question, grow to emotional maturity and realize his mission as the savior of Israel. He is therefore given a series of challenges, which force him to develop the valor necessary to overcome all obstacles and enter the world of love.


"It happened in those days that Moshe grew up and went out to his brethren and observed their burdens; and he saw an Egyptian man striking a Hebrew man, of his brethren. He turned this way and that and saw that there was no man, so he struck down the Egyptian and buried him in the sand." (SHEMOT 2:11-12)

Prince Moshe of Egypt sees an Egyptian beating an Israeli slave. He makes a choice and intervenes. It is here that Moshe reaches emotional maturity. He is prepared to sacrifice his princedom in order to save his brother from harm. Moshe truly cared for his Nation and was therefore prepared to sacrifice everything. He had at this point left the world of Egyptian royalty and entered into the realm of responsibility.


"He went out the next day and behold! Two Hebrew men were fighting. He said to the wicked one, `Why do you strike your fellow?' He replied, `Who appointed you as a dignitary, a ruler, and a judge over us? Do you propose to murder me, as you murdered the Egyptian?' Moshe was frightened and he thought, `Indeed, the matter is known!'" (SHEMOT 2:13-14)


The Torah states earlier that Moshe looked and "saw that there was no man". Here, however, it is revealed that there was an Israeli with knowledge of Moshe's deed. If "the matter is known", then obviously there were people around the day before when he had killed the Egyptian. When the verse writes that he "saw that there was no man", it is coming to teach that he saw no one intervening. No Hebrew slave would stand up for his brother. Pirke Avot teaches that "where there is no man, be a man". No one was intervening so Moshe took the risk of slaughtering the Egyptian himself, knowing that he could lose his royal status and possibly his life. He took this risk because his soul could not bear the suffering of another. The Maharal of Prague teaches in Gevurot HaShem that "Moshe's soul was clothed in greatness" – his soul now being one with his Nation. 


It is important to note that Moshe had not yet received any prophecy. He had not been commanded to slay the Egyptian. In fact, the predetermined years of Hebrew bondage were not even close to being finished. Without receiving any sign or Divine command, Moshe's soul could not bear the sight of Hebrew suffering. This is the inner secret of Israel's Redemption. The Geula comes when a person cannot bear the suffering of another. His soul then begins to believe in Redemption and he instinctively work towards it in his life. Moshe was no longer a prince of Egypt but instead became the savior of Am Yisrael.


Not able to stomach the idea of Hebrews fighting one another, Moshe attempted to make peace. When one responded by asking "do you propose to murder me, as you murdered the Egyptian?" Rashi explains that Moshe said "now I understand why Israel are slaves". The Jew threatened Moshe by revealing that he knew of Moshe's deed, implying that he could easily turn him over to the authorities. Moshe then understood the slavery of Israel. When one cares for another to the extent that nothing can frighten him, this caring becomes the power of Israel's Redemption. This misguided Hebrew was willing to reveal Moshe's heroic act of love to the Egyptians. By exposing Moshe, however, he would not have merely been turning in one man, but the entire secret of Israel's Redemption. Moshe understood that one who is a slave cannot keep a secret. And one who cannot keep a secret can never be redeemed. If Israel could keep the secret of Ahavat Yisrael – of love and responsibility for one another – they would be willing to give their lives and could no longer be enslaved. Whether in Egypt, Germany, America or even Israel, one who understands the secret of Redemption can never cooperate with those seeking Israel's destruction.


With Love of Israel,

 -Yehuda HaKohen

 Am Segula

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