V’eileh Shemos Bnei Yisrael (Shemos 1:1)
In his first comment on Parashas Shemos, Rashi writes that even though Hashem had already counted the Jews who descended to Egypt by name during their lifetimes, He did so again after they died. The purpose of counting them by name a second time was to make known how much He loves the Jewish people, who are compared to stars that Hashem also brings in and out by name and number.
The Torah records (Bereishis 2:19) that Hashem brought each animal to Adam so that he could give it a name. The names he selected were not random and arbitrary; each name accurately conveyed the inner essence of that species. Adam was on such a lofty spiritual level that he was capable of looking at each animal and perceiving its fundamental nature in order to give it an appropriate name.
The current Munkatcher Rebbe, Harav Moshe Leib Rabinovich, shlita, points out that Adam was only capable of assessing and naming the animals, but when it came to the stars, they are so numerous and vast that even Adam was unable to glean their individual uniqueness and name them. Because the stars appear limitless and virtually identical to the naked eye, with astronomers identifying more than 300 billion in just the Milky Way, Hashem alone has the ability to gaze at each individual star and give it an appropriate name that connotes its distinct purpose.
With this insight, the Rebbe suggests that when Hashem took Avraham outside and instructed him (Bereishis 15:5), “Gaze now toward the Heavens, and count the stars if you are able to count them; so shall your offspring be,” Hashem was telling Avraham that even though each of the millions of Jews descended from him may seem superficially similar, in reality, each Jew is a complex individual who is a unique world unto himself, just like a star.
Sometimes a person can feel overwhelmed by the vastness of the physical world around us, and by the millions of Jews who inhabit it. At such times, it is important to remember that we are compared to stars, and just as Hashem discerned the distinct role of each individual star to give it a corresponding name, so, too, He promised Avraham that each of his descendants would also be special and different, and He created each of us with an irreplaceable and unmatched set of talents and abilities to enable us to fulfill our unique missions and purposes in Creation.
Q: The Midrash teaches (Rus Rabbah 5:6) that if Aharon had known that the Torah would immortalize (Shemos 4:14) the fact that he went out to greet his returning brother, Moshe, he would have exerted himself much more and would have gone out to greet Moshe while dancing and playing musical instruments. Shouldn’t Aharon’s actions have been purely motivated based on his assessment of what was proper and appropriate in the situation and not based on the publicity he would receive or how other people would judge him?
Q: In asking permission from Yisro to return to Egypt (Shemos 4:18), why did Moshe say that he wanted to go back to see if his brethren are still alive instead of the truth, that Hashem had appeared to him and commanded him to do so?
A: Harav Meir Shapiro, zt”l, explains that although it is human nature to be jealous of the success of one’s younger brother, the righteous Aharon was happy about Moshe’s selection. However, he was on such a high level that he wanted to obscure his piety and not show it off, so he only rejoiced in his heart. If Aharon would have known that the Torah would record this incident and reveal not only the fact that he was happy but also that he aimed to conceal it, he would have danced and played music to hide the fact that he was on such a high level that he wanted to keep his greatness private. Harav Berel Povarsky, shlita, writes that the righteous are always concerned that their mitzvos may not be 100 percent purely for the sake of Heaven and may be infused with a tinge of personal calculations. Therefore, Aharon was worried that although he was happy about Moshe’s appointment, perhaps a small part of him was jealous. His fear that his mitzvah was suboptimal diminished his joy. However, everything which is written in the Torah is complete and perfect, as the Torah is the epitome of truth. If Aharon would have known that the Torah would record this episode as testimony that his joy was in fact pure and complete, he would have rejoiced even more.
A: The Midrash Hagadol maintains that Hashem only promised to redeem the Jews from Egypt on the condition that they do teshuvah (repentance) for their sins. Moshe was afraid to tell Yisro that Hashem was sending him to Egypt to free the Jews because of the possibility that they would refuse to repent and wouldn’t be worthy of redemption, in which case Hashem’s promise would appear false to Yisro.
The Ohr Hachaim Hakadosh writes that Moshe didn’t reveal the true purpose of his trip to Yisro because Hashem hadn’t instructed him to relate the mission to others, and unless a person is given permission to share private information with others, he is forbidden to do so. Harav Aharon Leib Steinman, shlita, suggests that Moshe was concerned that Yisro wouldn’t be able to fathom the possibility that a single person is capable of redeeming an entire nation from enslavement and would not give him permission to go.
Originally from Kansas City, Rabbi Ozer Alport graduated from Harvard, learned in Mir Yerushalayim for five years, and now lives in Brooklyn, where he learns in Yeshivas Beis Yosef, is the author of the recently-published sefer Parsha Potpourri, and gives weekly shiurim. To send comments to the author or to receive his Divrei Torah weekly, please email oalport@Hamodia.com.