(Torah Portion Shemos) Under the Radar!
If we focus on the lives of Yosef and Moshe, two exemplary Torah personalities, we can’t fail to notice similarities in their life experiences.
Yosef was viceroy over Egypt for many years, and Moshe was raised in the palace of Pharoh by Pharoh’s own daughter, Basya.
Yosef was separated from his family for twenty-two years and Moshe was separated from his family for 40-60 years. Despite being separated from their families they both retained and even elevated their levels of spirituality during their personal exile.
In this week’s parsha the Torah tells us that Moshe left the comforts of the palace to check up on his brethren. When Moshe’s cover was blown and it became known that he was a Jew, Moshe was afraid for his life and was forced to escape from Egypt. The Torah tells us he settled in the Land of Midyan where he met and married his wife Tziporah.
What exactly transpired during the 40 plus years that Moshe was in Midyan is not exactly clear, but one thing is for sure, Moshe rose to the highest levels of spirituality and as he was shepherding his father in law Yisro’s flock, he merited that G-d appeared and communicated to him at the burning bush.
During G-d’s revelation He appointed Moshe to lead the Jews out of Egypt, and Moshe carried out this mission in an effective, devoted and miraculous way.
While away from home, both Moshe and Yosef gleaned from the spiritual lessons they had been taught and they remained focused on their connection and responsibility to the Almighty.
Throughout our history, individuals who had been separated from their family have shown tremendous self sacrifice in adhering to their religious beliefs.
A few weeks ago we spent a beautiful Shabbos weekend celebrating an Aufruf of a cousin of ours. At one of the meals, the bride’s grandfather, Mr. E. Genauer of Los Angeles related a fascinating story about his grandfather who came from Europe in the early 1900’s and settled in Seattle. His grandfather was a Shomer Shabbos and could not hold a job for more than a week at a time because he was fired every Monday for not showing up to work on the previous Saturday. Mr. Genauer, a tailor by trade, was forced to go out on his own. He went to upscale neighborhoods knocking on doors asking if they had worn garments to sell. He would repair the garments and sell them for a meager profit.
Once, he was working on a suit and found a beautiful diamond pendant in one of the pockets. The next day he returned to the stately home where he had purchased the suit and told the lady that he had found a diamond pendant and was returning it.
Upon seeing the pendant the woman said that it was her husband’s favorite piece of jewelry. She told Mr. Genauer to wait until her husband returned home from work. The man was extremely impressed by Mr. Genauer’s honesty and after thanking him he asked him how much money he would need to start his own business, explaining that he was the president of a national bank and based on his honesty and integrity he was willing to lend him as much as he needed.
With the necessary funds Mr. Genauer built a successful garment company. When he was up against all odds religiously, Mr. Genauer stood by his convictions and his integrity to G-d and man.
Moshe and Yosef had an ability to keep their piety and holiness concealed from others. Many Jews throughout the course of history have hidden their devoutness from the public eye.
In the beginning of the week, I paid a Shiva call to a childhood friend who had lost his father. During the course of conversation one of the mourners mentioned how his father held a particular person in the community in the highest esteem. He said, “To me, the man was a simple person who stood behind the counter of a Kosher take-out who knew how to skillfully cut deli and patiently wait on customers. But then I attended his funeral and during the eulogy it was related that this man used to recite the entire book of Tehilim – Psalms – 150 chapters, each day! ”
If we look our fellow man and realize that he may have his own personal deep rooted commitment to Jewish values which are hidden from us, we would look at others in a more positive light. This was one of the leadership qualities that both Moshe and Yosef exhibited in their lives!
Wishing you a most enjoyable and uplifting Shabbat!
Rabbi Dovid and Malki Saks and family