On Parashat Shemot

(Shemot 1:1 - 6:1)

Chapter One

1:1 AND THESE ARE THE NAMES OF THE SONS OF YISRAEL. Although [G-d] counted them in their lifetime by their names (Bereishit 46:8-27), He counted them again after their death, to let us know how precious they are [to Him], because they were likened to the stars, which He takes out [From beyond the horizon] and brings in by number and by name, as it is said: "who takes out their host by number` all of them He calls by name" (Yeshayahu 40:26). [From Tanchuma Buber, Shemot 2; Shemot Rabbah 1:3]

1:5 AND YOSEF, [WHO] WAS IN EGYPT. Now were not he and his sons included in the seventy? What then does this teach us? Did we not know that he was in Egypt? But [this clause comes] to inform you of Yosef's righteousness. He, the Yosef who tended his father’s flocks, is the same Yosef who was in Egypt and became a king, and he retained his righteousness. [From Sifrei, Haazinu 334]

1:7 AND SWARMED. They bore six children at each birth.

1:8 A NEW KING AROSE. [There is a controversy between] Rav and Samuel. One says: He was really new, and the other one says: His decrees were new, [From Sotah 11a, Shemot Rabbah 1:8]

Since the Torah does not say: The king of Egypt died, and a new king arose, it implies that the old king was still alive, only that his policies had changed, and he acted like a new king. [ Rashi on Sotah 11a]

AND WHO DID NOT KNOW. [Means that] he acted as if he did not know about him.

1:10 GET READY, LET US DEAL SHREWDLY WITH THEM. Heb. havah. Every havah [found in the Torah] is an expression of preparation and readiness. That is to say: Prepare yourselves for this, let us deal shrewdly with them With the people [of Yisrael]. Let us act shrewdly regarding what to do to them.

Our Rabbis, however, interpreted [that Pharaoh said], Let us deal shrewdly with the Savior of Yisrael [thus interpreting lo as to him] by afflicting them [to di[e] with water, for He has already sworn that He would not bring a flood to the world. (But they [the Egyptians] did not understand that upon the whole world He would not bring [a flood] but He would bring it upon one nation. In an old Rashi manuscript) from Sotah 11a] and depart from the land against our will.

Our Rabbis, however, interpreted [i.e., depicted Pharaoh] as a person who curses himself but ascribes his curse to others. And it is as if it were written: and we will depart from the land' and they will take possession of it. [From Sotah 11a]

1:11 OVER THEM. Over the people.

TAX COLLECTORS. Heb. sarei misim, lit., tax officers. n¦Xˆho denotes an expression of a tax (mas), [so misim denotes] officers who collect the tax from them. Now what was the tax? That they build store cities for Pharaoh.

TO AFFLICT THEM WITH THEIR BURDENS. [I.e., with the burdens] of the Egypt.

STORE CITIES. Heb. arei miskenot. As the Targum renders: kirney veyt otzara, cities of storehouses], and similarly, Go, come to this treasurer (hasokhen) (Yeshayahu 22:15), to the treasurer appointed over the storehouses. [From Shemot Rabbah 1:10]

PITOM AND RAAMSES which were originally unfit for this, and they strengthened them and fortified them for storage.

1:12 BUT AS MUCH AS THEY WOULD AFFLICT THEM. In whatever [way] they set their heart to afflict [them], so was the heart of the Holy One, blessed be He, to multiply [them] and to strengthen [them].

SO DID THEY MULTIPLY AND SO DID THEY GAIN STRENGTH. Heb. ken yirbeh vechen yifrotz, lit., so will they multiply and so will they gain strength. [It means, however,] so did they multiply and so did they gain strength. Its midrashic interpretation is, however: The Holy Spirit says this: You [Pharaoh] say, Lest they multiply, but I say, So will they multiply. [From Sotah 11a]

AND THEY WERE DISGUSTED. They were disgusted with their lives. (Others explain: And the Egypt were disgusted with themselves, and it is easy to understand why.) Our Rabbis, however, interpreted it to mean that they [the Yisraelim] were like thorns (kotzim) in their eyes - [from Sotah 11a]

1:13 WITH BACK-BREAKING LABOR. Heb. befarech. With hard labor that crushes the body and breaks it.

1:15 TO THE MIDWIVES. Heb. lameyaldot. This is an expression similar molidot, [meaning] causing to give birth, but there is a light form and there is a heavy form, similar to shover, breaks, and meshaver, shatters, dover, says, and medaber, speaks. So are molid and meyaled.

Rashi classifies the Hebrew conjugations, those that have a dagesh in the second root letter, and those that do not. Of the seven conjugations, three have a dagesh, and four do not. Since it is more difficult to pronounce the letters with the dagesh, those conjugations are referred to as the heavy form, and those without the dagesh are referred to as the light (kalim) [Sefer Hazikkaron]

SHIFRAH. This was Yocheved, [called Shifrah] because she beautified [meshaferet] the newborn infant. [From Sotah 11b]

PUAH. This was Miryam, [called Puah] because she cried (po'ah) and talked and cooed to the newborn infant in the manner of women who soothe a crying infant. Po'ah is an expression of crying out, similar to "Like a travailing woman will I cry (ef'eh)" (Yeshayahu 42:14).

Rashi on Sotah 11b explains that she played with the infant to soothe and amuse him.

1:16 WHEN YOU DELIVER. Heb. beyaledchen, like beholidichen. See Rashi on preceding verse.

ON THE BIRTHSTOOL. Heb. ha'avnayim, the seat of the woman in childbirth, but elsewhere (Yeshayahu 37:3) it is called mashver. Similar to this, [we find] who does work on the avnayim (Yirmeyahu 18:3), the seat [i.e., place] of the tools of a potter. (Compare commentary digest in Judaica Press Yirmeyahu 18.3)

IF IT IS A SON, ETC. Pharaoh cared only about the males, because his astrologers told him that a son was destined to be born who would save them. [From Shemot Rabbah 1:18]

SHE MAY LIVE. Heb. vetityeh, vatayah, she may live.

1:17 BUT THEY ENABLED THE BOYS TO LIVE. They provided water and food for them. [From Sotah 11b]

[The word vatechayeyna is found in v17 and again in v18.] The first is translated vekayama, and they enabled to live, and the second vekayemtin, and you enabled to live, because in Hebrew, for the feminine plural, this word and others like it are used as the third person past tense and the second person past tense, e.g. "And they said ( vato'marva), An Egyptian man (ish mitzri)," (Shemot 2:19), the past tense, like vayomru for the masculine plural; you have spoken (vatedabernah) with your befichem (Yirmeyahu 44:25), an expression like vatedabernah, the equivalent of dibartem for the masculine plural.

Similarly, You have profaned (vatetalelnah) Me before My people (Yechezkel 13:19), the past tense, an expression like tilaltem, the equivalent of vatetallu for the masculine plural.

If it was necessary to supply the infants with food, Ohr HaChayim asks why the midwives did not do it prior to Pharaoh’s decree. He answers that the Torah means that despite Pharaoh’s decree, the midwives continued their previous practice, that is, supplying needy children with nourishment. He suggests further that they particularly sustained the male children lest one die and they be suspected of being responsible for his death.

Rashi explains that in the Hebrew' there is a conversive vav, (turning past into future and future into past). Therefore, since the future forms of the feminine plural, both in the second person and in the third person, are identical, the same is true for the past forms with the conversive vav. [Mizrachi]

In Aramaic, however, since there is no conversive vav, the two past forms are different. [Divrei David]

1:19 FOR THEY ARE SKILLED AS MIDWIVES. Heb. chayot, as skillful as midwives. The Targum meyldot, is chaiyata.

Our Rabbis (Sotah 11b), however, interpreted it to mean that they [the Yisra'eli women] are compared to beasts (chayot) of the field, which do not require midwives. Now where are they compared to beasts? A cub [and] a grown lion (Bereishit 49:9), a wolf, he will prey (Bereishit 49:27), His firstborn bull (Devarim 33:17), a swift gazelle (Bereishit 49:21).

Whoever [was not compared to a beast as above] was included by Scriptures in [the expression] and blessed them (Bereishit 49:18). Scripture states further: "How was your mother a lioness?" (Yechezkel 19:2). [From Sotash 11b]

1:20 G-D BENEFITED. Heb. vayeytev, bestowed goodness upon them. This is the difference in a word whose root is two letters and is prefixed by "vav yud": When it is used in the causative sense, the "yud" is vowelized with a "tzeirei," which is a "kamatz katan" (or with a "segol," which is a "pattach katan"), e.g., G-d benefited (vayeytev) the midwives; and He increased (vayrev) in the daughter of Yehudah (Eicha 2:5), He increased pain; And he exiled (vayegel) the survivors (2 Divrei HaYamim 36:20), referring to Nebuzaradan, he exiled the survivors; and turned (vayefev) tail to tail (Shoftim 15:4), he turned the tails one to another.

All these are the causative conjugation [lit., causing others to do]. When it is used in the simple, kal conjugation, however, the "yud" is vowelized with a "chirik," e.g., and it was pleasing (vayeytev) in his eyes (VaYikra 10:20), an expression meaning that it was good; and similarly, and the people multiplied (vayirev) (Shemot 1:20), the people increased; And Yehudah went into exile (vayigel) (2 Melachim 25:21), Yehudah was exiled; He turned (vayifev) this way and that way (Shemot 2: 12), he turned here and there.

Do not refute me from vayered, vayeshev, vayelech and vayitze, because these are not of the grammatical form of those, for the "yud" is the third radical in them, yarod yashov yalod and yatzo, in which the "yud" is the third letter.

G-D BENEFITED THE MIDWIVES. What was this benefit?

1:21 HE MADE HOUSES FOR THEM. The houses of the priesthood, the Levitic family, and the royal family, which are called houses, as it is written: "And he built the house of Hashem and the house of the king, (I Melachim 9:1), the priesthood and the Levitic family from Yocheved and the royal family from Miryam, as is stated in tractate Sotah (11b).

1:22 ALL HIS PEOPLE HE ISSUED THIS DECREE UPON THEM AS WELL. On the day Moshe was born, his astrologers told him [Pharaoh], Today the one who will save them has been born, but we do not know whether from the Egyptians or from the Yisraelim, but we see that he will ultimately be smitten through water. Therefore, on that day he issued a decree also upon the Egyptians, as it is said: Every son who is born, and it does not say: who is born to the Hebrews.

They did not know, however, that he [Moshe] would ultimately suffer because of the water of Merivah (BaMidbar 20:7-13) [i.e., that he would not be permitted to enter the Holy Land]. [From Sotah 12a, Shemot Rabbah 1:18, Sanhedrin 101b]

Chapter Two

2:1 AND MARRIED A DAUGHTER OF LEVI. He was separated from her because of Pharaoh’s decree (and he remarried her. This is the meaning of went, that he followed [lit., he went after] his daughter’s advice that she said to him, Your decree is harsher than Pharaoh. Whereas Pharaoh issued a decree [only] against the males, you [issued a decree] against the females as well [for none will be born].

This [comment] is found in an old Rashi), and he took her back and married her a second time. She too was transformed to become like a young woman [physically], but she was [actually] 130 years old. For she was born when they came to Egypt between the chomot, and they stayed there 210 years. When they left' Moshe was 80 years old. If so, when she conceived him, she was 130 years old, yet [Scripture] calls her a daughter of Levi. [From Sotah 12a, Shemot Rabbah 1:19]

2:2 THAT HE WAS GOOD. When he was born, the entire house was filled with light. [From Sotah 12a, Shemot Rabbah 1:20]

2:3 [WHEN] SHE COULD NO LONGER HIDE HIM. Because the Egyptians counted her [pregnancy] from the day that he [Amram] took her back. She bore him after [only] six months and one day ( Sotah 12a), for a woman who gives birth to a seven-month child may give birth after incomplete [months] (Niddah 38b, R.H. 11a). And they searched after her at the end of nine [months].

REED. Heb. gimi, gome in the language of the Mishnah, and in French jonc, reed grass. This is a pliable substance, which withstands both soft [things] and hard [things]. [From Sotah 12a]

WITH CLAY AND PITCH. Pitch on the outside and clay on the inside so that the righteous person [Moshe] should not smell the foul odor of pitch. [From Sotah 12a]

AND PUT [IT] INTO THE MARSH. Heb. vatasem basuf. This is an expression meaning a marsh, rosei(y)l, in Old French [roseau in modern French], reed. Similar to it is reeds and rushes (kaneh vasuf) shall be cut off (Yeshayahu 19:6). [From Sotah 12b]

2:5 TO BATHE, TO THE NILE. Heb. al haYe'or. Transpose the verse and explain it: Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe in it.

ALONG THE NILE. Heb. al yad haYe'or, next to the Nile, similar to: See, Yoav’s field is near mine (re'u chelkat Yo'av el yadi) (2 Shmuel 14:30). yadi is a literal expression for hand, because a person's hand is near himself. [Thus, the word yad denotes proximity.]

Our Sages said (Sotah 12b): holkhot is an expression of death, similar to: Behold, I am going (holech) to die (Bereishit 25:32). They [her maidens] were going to die because they protested against her [when she wanted to take the basket]. The text supports them [the Sages], because [otherwise] why was it necessary to write: and her maidens were walking?

HER MAIDSERVANT. Heb. amatah, her maidservant. Our Sages (Sotah 12b), however, interpreted it as an expression meaning a hand. [The joint from the elbow to the tip of the middle finger is known as amah, hence the cubit measure bearing the name, amah, which is the length of the arm from the elbow to the tip of the middle finger.]

Following [the rules of] Hebrew grammar, however, it should have been vowelized ammatah, with a dagesh in the mem. They, however, interpreted et amatah to mean her hand, [that she stretched out her hand,] and her arm grew many cubits (amot) [so that she could reach the basket]. [From Sotah 12b, Shemot Rabbah 1:23]

2:6 SHE OPENED [IT], AND SHE SAW HIM. Whom did she see? The child. Its midrashic interpretation is that she saw the Shechinah with him. [From Sotah 12b, Shemot Rabbah 1: 23]

AND BEHOLD, HE WAS A WEEPING LAD. [Even though he was an infant] his voice was like that of a lad. [From Sotah 12b]

2:7 FROM THE HEBREW WOMEN. This teaches [us] that she had taken him around to many Egyptian women to nurse, but he did not nurse because he was destined to speak with the Shechinah. [From Sotah 12b, Shemot Rabbah 1:25].

2:8 SO THE GIRL WENT. Heb. ha'almah. She went with alacrity and vigor like a youth. [From Sotah 12b]

2:9 TAKE. Heb. heylichi. She prophesied but did not know what she prophesied. [She said,] This one is yours. [From Sotah 12b, Shemot Rabbah 1:25]

10 FOR I DREW HIM FROM THE WATER. Heb. meshitihu. The Targum renders: shechltei, which is an Aramaic expression of drawing out, similar to [the expression] like one who draws a hair out of milk (Berachot 8a). And in Hebrew, meshitihu is an expression meaning I have removed (vm), like shall not move away (lo amush) (Yehoshua 1:8), did not move away (lo mashu) (BaMidbar 14:44).

Menachem classified in this way [i.e., under the root vm in Machbereth Menachem, p. 120]. I say, however, that it (meshitihu) does not belong in the classification of mash and lo amush, but [it is derived] from the root hvm, and it means taking out and similarly, He drew me out (yamsheni) of many waters (2 Shmuel 22:17). For if it were of the classification of [the word] mash, it would be inappropriate to say meshitihu, but hamishotihu, as one says from kam (to rise), hakimoti (I set up), and from shav (to return), hashivoti (I brought back), and from ba (to come), hav'oti (I brought). Or mashtihu, like and I will remove umshti) the iniquity of that land (Zecharya 3:9). But mashiti is only from the root of a word whose verb form is formed with a "heh" at the end of the word, like mashah, to take out banah, to build; ashah, to do; tzivah to command; panah, to turn. When one comes to say in any of these [verbs] pa'alti, I did, [i.e., first person past-tense], a "yud" replaces the "heh": asiti, I did; baniti, I built; paniti, I turned; tziviti, I commanded.

2:11 MOSHE GREW UP. Was it not already written: The child grew up? Rabbi Judah the son of Rabbi Ilai said: The first one (vayigdal) [was Moshe growth] in height, and the second one [was his growth] in greatness, because Pharaoh appointed him over his house. [From Tanchuma Buber, Va’era 17]

AND LOOKED AT THEIR BURDENS. He directed his eyes and his heart to be distress over them. [From Shemot Rabbah 1:27]

AN EGYPTIAN MAN. He was a taskmaster appointed over the Yisrael officers. He would wake them when the rooster crowed, [to call them] to their work. [From Shemot Rabbah 1:28]

STRIKING A HEBREW MAN. He was lashing and driving him, and he [the Hebrew man] was the husband of Shelomit the daughter of Divri [who was mentioned in VaYikra 24:10], and he [the taskmaster] laid his eyes on her. So he woke him [the Hebrew] at night and took him out of his house, and he [the taskmaster] returned and entered the house and was intimate with his wife while she thought that he was her husband. The man returned home and became aware of the matter. When that Egyptian saw that he had become aware of the matter, he struck [him] and drove him all day [From Shemot Rabbah 1:28]

1:12 HE TURNED THIS WAY AND THAT WAY. He saw what he [the Egyptian] had done to him [the Hebrew] in the house and what he had done to him in the field (Shemot Rabbah 1:28). But according to its simple meaning, it is to be interpreted according to its apparent meaning, i.e., he looked in all directions and saw that no one had seen him slay the Egyptian. [and he saw that there was no man [I.e., he saw that] there was no man destined to be descended from him [the Egyptian] who would become a proselyte [i.e., a convert]. [From Shemot Rabbah 1: 29]

1:13 TWO HEBREW MEN WERE QUARRELING. Datan and Aviram. They were the ones who saved some of the manna [when they had been forbidden to leave it overnight, as in Shemot 16:19, 20]. [From Shemot Rabbah 1:29]

QUARRELING. Heb. nitzim, fighting. Why are you going to strike Although he had not struck him, he is called wicked for [merely] raising his hand [to strike him]. [From Sanhedrin 58b]

[YOUR FRIEND. A wicked man like you. [From Shemot Rabbah 1: 29]


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