The Gift of Life
He said to his people, "Behold! The people, the children of Israel, are more numerous and stronger than we... (Shemot. 1:9).
The Egyptians were frightened by the growth of the Jewish population. They were afraid that if a war broke out the Jews would join their enemies and force them out of their own land. Pharaoh summoned his three chief advisors: Bilam, Iyob and Yitro, to ask their advice on how to deal with this situation. Bilam advised killing the Jews, and he himself was later killed, Iyob kept quiet and was punished with a life of suffering. Yitro ran away and was rewarded with descendants who became the heads of the Sanhedrin. It is clear that Bilam deserved a far greater punishment than Iyob, since Iyob didn't commit an active crime - he merely remained silent. However, it seems that Iyob's punishment was actually greater than that of Bilam. While Bilam suffered a quick death Iyob had to endure suffering the likes of which no other man has ever experienced. How can this be understood?
To be alive is, in itself, the greatest gift possible. Life is full of opportunities, and despite the presence of any pain or suffering no matter how bad, life is still infinitely greater than death. Consequently, Bilam's punishment was far more severe than Iyob's. While Iyob still had the gift of life, Bilam lost it forever.
To determine whether a fish is alive, one must see if it can swim upstream. Being alive means that you're accomplishing and growing. Every moment in life is a priceless opportunity to grow and connect with Hashem.
Late one night, a great Rabbi noticed a shoe maker at work fixing shoes. He asked him, "Why are you working so late?" The man replied, "As long as the candle is still burning, I can still fix the shoes." As long as we are still in this world we can grow and do good deeds, but once the candle goes out our time is up. Whatever we have we have, but we can't fix any more.
Rabbi Isaac Farhi
G-d's Sheltering Presence
In this week's Perasha, Moshe is shepherding his father-in-law's sheep in the middle of the desert. Suddenly, Moshe spots an extraordinary phenomenon: a bush is burning, yet is not consumed. Curious to know what is going on, Moshe turns towards the Bush and ... suddenly a voice is heard. Hashem speaks to Moshe and charges him with the responsibility of saving the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt.
Why did Hashem choose the vision of a Burning Bush to initiate His contact with Moshe?
Rashi explains that the Burning Bush is a symbol of G-d's sheltering presence during times when the Jews will go through "burning difficulties." Just as the Bush is sustained and not consumed by the fire because Hashem supports its existence, so too Hashem does not allow the Jewish nation perish and always protects the Jewish people's survival in their time of need.
She opened it and saw him, the boy, and behold! A youth was crying. She took pity on him and said, “This is one of the Hebrew boys.” (Shemot 2:6)
Pharaoh’s daughter went to bathe by the river and noticed a little basket floating in the water. The Torah states that she opened the basket and saw the “yeled”, boy, and behold a “naar”, youth, was crying. She then realized that it was a Jewish baby. Why does the verse switch from boy to youth, and how did she work out that it was a Jewish baby just because he was crying?
The Baal Haturim explains that the verse is actually referring to two separate individuals. She opened the basket and saw the boy – Moshe. She then noticed that the youth was crying – Aharon. When she saw one brother crying for another she realized that it must be a Jew!
R’ Abraham Y. Herschel once visited one of his wealthy disciples. The Rabbi knocked on the door. The wealthy man opened his door and was taken aback at the sight of the holy Rabbi standing at his door step. He asked in bewilderment, “Why did the Rabbi have to trouble himself to come to my home? The Rabbi could have summoned me and I would have come at once!”
Rabbi Abraham answered, “I know of a certain family that is in desperate need of help. The husband is struggling at work, and, to add to their hardship, they have a son who is ill and requires special medical attention. Their expenses are well beyond their means.
“But Rabbi,” the wealthy man said, “did this necessitate you having to exert yourself by traveling to my home? Why did the Rabbi not simply send me a messenger, and I would have gladly given whatever sum of money is needed!” “This particular request is of great importance to me,” the Rabbi responded. “It was therefore essential that I come to your home personally.”
“I am prepared to give as much money as necessary!” the man exclaimed. “Just tell me, whom shall I make the check payable to?” The Rabbi paused and said, “Make the check payable… to your brother!!”
Often one wants to help others and searches far and wide for opportunities to do so, but he may find himself overlooking his own family members. A way to test whether you truly care about others is by examining the way you help your family. Kindness must begin at home!
Gratitude Has No Expiration Date
"A new king arose over Egypt, who did not know of Joseph." (Shemot 1:8)
Is it really possible that anyone - let alone a king - would be unaware of all that Joseph had done for the country? How could anyone in Egypt ever forget the vital role he played its survival? Joseph, as second in command and sole architect of making Egypt the richest country on Earth, should have been immortalized for eternity. It defies logic that anyone could forget the one person who single-handedly saved Egypt and the entire world from famine.
Joseph wasn't forgotten in the sense that no one "remembered" him. Rather, the significance of his life-saving contributions had simply faded from everyone's memory.
Joseph's insights and plan clearly saved the lives of every man, women, and child. But as soon as the necessity of his contributions were no longer needed, then the appreciation for Joseph ceased as well.
During the massive famine that spread throughout the entire world, Joseph was at the center of it all. Every country was dependent upon Egypt for their survival. But when the famine ended, then Joseph's help was no longer valuable or even needed. And, over time, the mental leap that someone makes from when a person's contributions are no longer needed and the memory of when they were so desperately needed becomes smaller and smaller. And after an entire generation passed away, the people in Egypt simply did not know of Joseph.
Difficult to imagine? It actually occurs in our own lives all the time. There are people who have helped you enormously in the past in one way or another. And when they gave you their assistance - whatever it might have been - you certainly expressed your gratitude. But as time went on, you simply begin to forget. It is very easy to forget people who were there for us, because once their assistance is no longer needed, our appreciation for what they did can easily fade away.
This doesn't mean that you can't let them know "out of the blue" once again just how much you appreciate what they did for you. Saying "thank you" to the person long after they've given you their help, is such a beautiful and selfless way to live. And the recipient will appreciate it beyond words.
True gratitude is not defined by a person who doesn't forget; it's defined by the one who always remembers.