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Friday, January 20

The Weekly Shtikle - Shemos

The irony is hard to ignore. The United States is now hours away from inaugurating a new leader on the eve of Shabbas Parshas Shemos. While the path that lies ahead under this new leadership is unknown, the parsha certainly provide numerous glimpses into Moshe's exceptional virtues qualifying him to lead our nation. One incident that stands out is the altercation in which Moshe kills the Egyptian officer. The Abarbanel asks some fundamental questions on the episode. The pasuk recounts (2:11) that Moshe saw an Egyptian hitting an ish ivri mei'echav, a Hebrew man from his brethren. The word mei'echav seems superfluous. Surely, if he is a Hebrew, he is from his brethren. Then, when Moshe kills the Egyptian it says that he looked both ways and saw that there was no man. If that is the case, how did Dasan know that he had done it as is evident from the events that followed?


Abarbanel offers a novel interpretation of the events. Contrary to the more popular understandings, there were in fact many present at the time. The word mei'echav is telling us that the Egyptian removed this one man from the group of his (Moshe's) brothers and began to beat him only. Moshe saw this and looked both ways and saw that there was no man. This is not to say there were no other individuals present. Rather, he observed that no one was willing to be a man and to stand up in defence of his fellow Jew. Moshe understood that he needed to be the one to rise to the occasion and do something about it so he killed the Egyptian. But, it was indeed in front of many.


There is an alternative answer to Abarbanel's second question. According to the midrash (Shemos Rabba) the man being flogged by the Egyptian was none other than Dasan himself. It is therefore no surprise that he was aware of Moshe's having killed the Egyptian. But it paints an even uglier picture of what went ensued. Dasan challenges Moshe the next day, saying, (2:14) "are you going to kill me like you killed the Egyptian?" Not only is he unnecessarily pointing a finger at Moshe for a noble deed, he is showing complete ingratitude for having saved his own life.


The above interpretations fit well with Rashi's second interpretation of Moshe's reaction when he states, (ibid) "Alas, it is known." The obvious meaning is that his killing of the Egyptian became known. But Rashi offers another interpretation. Moshe was stating, "I was always bothered, why the Israelites were deserving of such oppression. Now I know they are deserving." This episode brought out the worst in B'nei Yisrael. First, a crowd watches idly as their brother is beaten. And then Dasan fails to acknowledge Moshe's valour and even turns it against him.


We are certainly all hopeful that this new era in history will bring about more peace and prosperity for us as a nation but we must be mindful not to depend on others for our defence. It is incumbent upon us to stand up and do whatever is in our powers.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikduian: Dikduk Observations on Shemos by Eliyahu Levin

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