Great people in the Jewish tradition share a common denominator: they stand up for what’s right, regardless of the risks.
By: Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel
At the beginning of this week’ Torah reading, “Shemot” (Exodus 11:1 – 6:1), we are introduced to four different people: Batya, Miriam, Yocheved, and Moses.
They all shared a common denominator. Let’s see what that was.
We are told that Batya, Pharaoh’s daughter, went down to bathe by the river. The Midrash says that this was “to cleanse herself from the idolatry of her father’s house.”
The Midrash continues: Batya gave the order to save the boy (Moses, who was floating in a basket) but her assistants refused to do so. The angel Gabriel then came and slew them. The Torah then tells us that Batya herself went and saved baby Moses.
As a result, she merited to have a very distinct place in Heaven. We see that Batya was a rebel who went against her father’s evil religion and evil decrees. Batya means “the daughter of God” which gives you an idea of the esteem in which she was held.
According to the Talmud, the midwives Shifra and Puah were actually Yocheved and Miriam! The Torah tells us, that not only did they refuse to kill all the baby boys, as Pharaoh decreed, but they even brought them food and water to fatten them up and keep them healthy! This was a double risk to their lives. They knew that they had to do what was right. “Just following orders” wouldn’t cut it.
Finally, we are told that Moses went out to “observe the burdens” of the Jewish people, with whom he identified. As he matures, he displays empathy for the less fortunate which earns him the position of leader of the Jewish people.
Moses is also involved in three separate incidents that reveal his spur-of-the-moment decision making abilities. Without thinking twice, he kills the Egyptian beating the Jew, he tries to break up a fight between two Jews, and he saves Jethro’s daughters from the evil shepherds.
We see clearly that all of these four great people had the common denominator of standing up for what’s right and coming to the assistance of the less fortunate. As they say, “The price of greatness is responsibility,” which they all show with flying colors.
May we merit to have the courage to stand up for what’s right and to take responsibility for our fellow man, should the need ever arise.
For more insights by Rabbi Enkin on this week’s Torah portion, click on the links below:
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