Over the past few weeks the Jewish people have suffered three tragedies. Two families died in a plane crash, and a house fire took the lives of a mother and her three children, leaving a heroic husband and two children in critical condition.
Bottom line, the Jewish people are one family. A tragedy affecting one member, whether we know them or not, hits home and causes us pain. This is because we all emerge from the single family unit of Israel, Avraham, Yitzchok, Yaacov and the twelve tribes who despite their individual personalities, the Torah describes them as one entity – the family of Israel.
That oneness still exists today – and when a misfortune occurs or conversely when a joyous moment transpires for others – these unique feelings of kinship surface within us.
In the Flatbush section of Brooklyn where the fire occurred there have been massive gatherings where Rabbinic leaders infused us with direction, insight, reflection and inspiration regarding how to deal with the tragedy and how we should process all the pain and hurt into positive energy to serve G-d more sincerely and to care for our fellow more sensitively.
Each week we read a portion of the Torah in the Synagogue. Each of us has a personal obligation to review the portion with its commentary so that we become proficient in the Torah. It is said that a Jew lives with the Portion of the week, and we often find messages embedded in the portion reflecting on the occurrences that happen during that week.
When Basya the daughter of Pharoh reached for a basket floating in the Nile and opened it up, the Torah relates, “She saw him, the boy, and behold a youth was crying. She took pity on him, and said, ‘This is one of the Hebrew boys.’”
Commentators wonder what is meant by, ‘the boy’ – who was apparently not crying – yet the ‘youth’ was crying?
They explain that ‘The boy’ is in reference to the infant Moshe, who was not crying, while the ‘Youth’ is indicative of Moshe’s older brother Aaron who was standing on the side who was crying over Moshe’s plight.
Upon witnessing this, Basya stated confidently, ‘This is one of the Hebrew boys’ because they are the ones who cry when another is in pain.
In this week’s portion, G-d, at the Burning Bush, told Moshe to lead the Jewish people and pilot them out of Egypt. The question arises, what prompted G-d to have the Jews released at this point although the actual years of servitude that G-d predicted were not up?
The Torah relates that the Pharoh died and as a result the Jews cried out to G-d. Our Sages explain that the death of Pharoh does not refer to his demise, rather, he was stricken with leprosy – which is tantamount to death. To cure and to stave off the pain of the disease, the Pharoh slaughtered Jewish babies and bathed in their blood.
Personal servitude was one thing, but when babies were murdered, the Jews became intolerant. The Torah tells us that this prompted the Jews to cry out to G-d for help, and G-d listened and immediately dispatched Moshe.
But didn’t the Jews cry out earlier? The Kli Yakar explains that up to this point the Jews cried out in opposition to G-d – why are You doing this to us!
The moment they switched to asking G-d for help – He responded at once.
Perhaps this is a message we can take, and apply it to dealing with these occurrences.
Let’s pray to G-d for His help.
Prayer is subjugating our will and control to the will and regulation of a Higher Power – Hashem. Sincere prayer affords a personal catharsis, and G-d applies our prayers to a myriad of things.
Another message that may be gleaned from the Portion is humility. When Moshe was asked by G-d to lead the Jewish people he deferred it to his older brother Aaron due to his humility and sensitivity.
The greatest compliment G-d gave to Moshe was that he was the most humble of all people.
One’s humility and focused sensitivity towards others is a sign of strength and leadership and is the glue for harmony.
Lastly, when G-d decided to release the Jews from Egypt, He mentions that He will take them to the Land that “Flows with milk and honey.” The Rokeach points out that the last letters of three words “Zavas Chalav U’Devash,” spell out the word Shabbos!
The ultimate sweetness and abundant blessing comes about by taking advantage of the laws and traditions that protect and assist us to gain a full enjoyment of the Holy day of Shabbos!