Friday, January 21, 2022

As we get closer to the highlight of the redemption from Egypt in this week’s parsha, let us focus on the name of the greatest leader of all time, the one who took the Jewish people out of Egypt: Moshe Rabbeinu.

In Parshat Shemot we read about a man from Shevet Levi who took a woman from Shevet Levi. We’re told that these were Amram and Yocheved, but why were their names not mentioned in the verses? The first name we read about is Moshe Rabbeinu’s:

“She (Pharaoh’s daughter) named him Moses, explaining, ‘I drew him out of the water’.” (Exodus 2:10)

Why? Some commentators say no name needed to be mentioned before Moshe Rabbeinu because he is the focus of the story, God’s messenger who will take the Jews out of Egypt.

The question is also raised about his chosen name itself. According to the midrashim, he had several other names—Yekutiel, Tuvia, Abizanoach, Avigdor—so why was the name “Moshe” chosen? What is the special significance of this particular name and the event for which he was named? Being pulled from water is an event that typifies the greatest leader of all time?

Rav Yehuda Amital, zt”l, explained that water represents the ultimate in conformity. When water is poured into a vessel it will always take on the shape of the vessel. Moshe symbolized the “anti-water.” He was pulled from the water. He didn’t conform and follow others but chose to do what he did because it was the right way to act. Ultimately, he also had to pass this message on to all the Jewish people when he pulled them out of the water at the Splitting of the Red Sea.

Along these lines, Rabbi Norman Lamm, zt”l, gave a beautiful idea regarding the letter “nun” that separates the following verses from the rest of the text in Parshat Beha’alotcha (Bamidbar 10:35):

“When the Ark was to set out, Moses would say: Advance, O L-RD! May Your enemies be scattered, and may Your foes flee before You!”

There is a “nun” written backward both at the beginning and at the end of the above verse. This is the only place in the Torah where we see letters written backward. Why was the “nun” chosen here? Why was it written backward? And why was this verse separated from the rest of the text?

“Nuna” in Aramaic is a fish; a backward “nun” is like a backward fish. In order to carry the Holy Ark, we sometimes need to be like a backward fish, a fish swimming backward, upstream. We can’t go with the tide, with the flow and act like everyone else. We need to do what is right, which is what God tells us to do. This applies to every value in Judaism. When the majority of the world believes in a certain value that contradicts a Jewish value, we must go against the tide and remain strong in our beliefs.

This applies also to the centrality of Eretz Yisrael in our lives that we read about in many parshiyot in the Torah. Many Jews have gone “against the tide” over the last few decades and moved to Israel, despite the hardships. Moshe Rabbeinu, who redeemed the Jews from exile in Egypt, would certainly have recognized the centrality of Eretz Yisrael, gone against the tide and moved here. The more Jews who move here, the more we fulfill Moshe Rabbeinu’s dream of Jews living in the Land of Israel. As we move closer in our weekly Torah portions to the highlight of the Redemption from Egypt, let’s focus on the greatest leader of all time, Moshe Rabbeinu, and strive to emulate his name.

Rabbi Shalom Rosner is a rebbe at Yeshivat Kerem B’Yavneh and rabbi of the Nofei HaShemesh community. He is a member of the Mizrachi Speakers Bureau ( www.mizrachi.org/speakers ).

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