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Nahar U'Pashtei Parshas Shemos

Keeping It Real

One of the benefits of learning in detail about Pharaoh and his lording over Klal Yisroel is that one can observe the way evil can overcome a person and bring him to irrational and illogical behavior. As the yetzer hara takes hold of a person, all reason can slowly but surely be lost, and there are no limits to the evil that can then result. We see in our Parshah that when Pharaoh heard that there was to be a baby boy born who would grow up to be the savior of the Jews, he ordered the Jewish midwives to kill all the baby boys. Why did he do this? Did he have a shortage of soldiers? Was he too merciful to kill babies on his own? Certainly not! He went about his evil in this way because he wasn’t a murderer, yet. Pharaoh still felt the tug of a moral compass, and did not fancy himself a murderer. But, he reasoned, he must be rid of this threat of a savior of Klal Yisroel that was being heralded. So, he concocted a plan to have Klal Yisroel murder their own unborn children, which was not technically murder. Even though these actions are strictly forbidden by Jewish Law, they do not carry the capital punishment of murder. Pharaoh felt in his own mind that he was no killer, and so he devised a plan to circumvent this issue. Pharaoh surely thought he was being a good person. And then what happened just a few pesukim later? Pharaoh commanded his servants to throw the baby boys into the river, in an act of outright murder! What happened here? And the answer is that Pharaoh saw that his plan did not work, so he immediately pivoted to murder. His commitment to follow the law was only in as much as it served his purpose. As soon as he could not fulfill both his will and G-d’s, all laws other than his own fell by the wayside. What began as a willingness to participate in a “non-murderous” extermination, very soon blossomed into full-fledged murder of the Jewish babies. In truth, Pharaoh allowed himself to be governed only by his own agenda; the morals he thought he possessed were shallow and fake, and fell by the wayside when tested. So, the lesson here is twofold. The first thing we must realize is that we are being shown the way of the yetzer hara. He begins with something smaller and builds up within a person until he can pounce and completely take over. And secondly, even if it seems that a person remains committed to the Torah and its morals, will he stand the test of adversity? The Torah’s commandments are a wellspring of knowledge to guide us in every area of our lives. We must look deeply into our actions and take notice. Are we acting as we are because this is what Hashem wants, or are we merely following His Word because it suits our whims and lifestyle? Do not wait for that time where it might become clear that foreign ideals and influence have changed how you think. Stop the evil in its tracks, go back to basics. Live as a Torah Jew and act based on Hashem’s Will, and for that reason only. A gut Shabbos! A Project of the YSI Alumni Association Written by R’ Moshe Weiss

Nahar U_PashteiParshas Shemos 5781
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