Toras Shemos 2013: Moshe – Leadership, Identification, and Responsibility

11. Now it came to pass in those days that Moses grew up and went out to his brothers and looked at their burdens, and he saw an Egyptian man striking a Hebrew man of his brothers.

יא. וַיְהִי | בַּיָּמִים הָהֵם וַיִּגְדַּל משֶׁה וַיֵּצֵא אֶל אֶחָיו וַיַּרְא בְּסִבְלֹתָם וַיַּרְא אִישׁ מִצְרִי מַכֶּה אִישׁ עִבְרִי מֵאֶחָיו:

  1. Rashi says on “Moses grew up”; was it not already written the child grew up.  Rabbi Judah the son of Rabbi Illai says:  The first one (was Moses growth) in height, and the second one (was his growth) in greatness, because Pharaoh appointed him over his house,

  2. Rashi says on “and looked at their burdens” He directed his eyes and his heart to be distressed over them.  Berashis Rabbah 1:27.


The Ramban argues on the first  Rashi on “Moses Grew Up” and says that Moshe grew up and became a man.  He matured.   The Ramban agrees with the second Rashi of  וַיַּרְא בְּסִבְלֹתָם – Moshe was told that he was a Jew, and he desired to see them because they were his brothers.  And he says their burden and work, and could not handle (their hardship), and therefore he killed the Egyptian hitting the oppressed (Jew).

The Ramban in Hebrew:

(יא): ויגדל משה ויצא אל אחיו –
שגדל והיה לאיש. כי מתחלה אמר ויגדל הילד (לעיל פסוק י), שגדל עד שלא היה צריך לגמלה אותו, ואז הביאתהו לבת פרעה ויהי לה לבן כי לפני מלכים יתייצב, ואחרי כן גדל ויהי לאיש דעת:

וטעם ויצא אל אחיו –
כי הגידו לו אשר הוא יהודי, והיה חפץ לראותם בעבור שהם אחיו. והנה נסתכל בסבלותם ועמלם ולא יכול לסבול ולכן הרג המצרי המכה הנלחץ:

The Seferno agrees with Rashi and the Ramban, as follows:

וַיַּרְא בְּסִבְלתָם. נָתַן לִבּו לִרְאות בָּעֳנִי אֶחָיו.

וַיַּרְא אִישׁ מִצְרִי מַכֶּה אִישׁ עִבְרִי מֵאֶחָיו. וּמִצַּד הָאַחֲוָה הִתְעורֵר לְהִנָּקֵם.

Rashi, the Ramban, and Seferno are based on the Medresh Rabbah, see attached for a beautiful Medresh.  See attachment #2 at the end of this post.


Along comes the Ibn Ezra and says something that seems incomprehensible:

Translated in English – 11. “And he went out to his brothers.” The Egyptians“, because he (Moshe) was in the palace of the king.  And the reason for “from his brothers (the second time the Passuk says from his brothers) is that after the Passuk mentions, a Jew from his family, (the word “his brothers” in this Passuk is to mean the same as when Abraham spoke to Lot) like we are men who are relatives – brothers.

What does the Ibn Ezra mean – he went out to see “the Egyptians”?  All Reshonim and the Medresh say he went out to see his brothers, the Jews.  The Netter Mikros Gedolos has an explanation on the Ibn Ezra who explains the words “the Egyptians” are referring to the Jews, since they were living in Egypt, the Ibn Ezra referred to them as Egyptians.  Very difficult as the Ibn Ezra should have said that Moshe went out to see the Jews.

Comes along the Holy Klausinberger Rebbi and explains the Ibn Ezra magnificently.  The Klausingberger explains that the Ibn Ezra understands וַיִּגְדַּל משֶׁה  in  Passuk 11 the same as Rashi that Moshe was appointed a leader of Egypt.  He was appointed to oversee the land of Egypt.  What was Moshe’s first act when he was now in charge; he wants to understand his job and determine what he has to do; to meet with all his brothers – the government officials, the engineers, the workers.  This is the meaning of  וַיַּרְא בְּסִבְלֹתָם  to see the public works of Egypt.    ַבְּסִבְלֹתָם  here means the work needed in the land of Egypt (and not like Rashi and the Ramban who says this means the burdens of the Jews.)   The Klausingberger adds that these government officials were his brothers.  He identifies with them as an Egyptian.  He sees them “in the palace of the king” as moral, thoughtful, and decent men.  However, what happens.  Moshe sees cruelty. He sees these seemingly refined individuals behave with ultimately cruelty and everything changes.  Moshe is smacked in the face and he now identifies with the slave, the Jew, and now the Jew is his brother, and not the Egyptian.

Beautiful.  Unfortunately, I do not have the Klausingberger in front of me because I think he says it slightly differently and more gloriously.

I saw in the book, Margolios Hatorah. – the Gems of the Torah, that Rabbi Chaim Finkelstein says in his Sefer that Passuk 11 is telling us what Moshe gave to all future generations, the strength and innate ability to reject comfort, honor, and recognition, in the greater dominant and successful society to remain a faithful Jew.    Moshe  had the opportunity to live a life of Egyptian nobility, to be the cream of society, yet he  went out to his brothers to save them, to identify with their pain and suffering.  The result was that he was on the run, thrown out of Egypt, and his comfortable life a memory.   Rabbi  Finklestien says that from here we learn proper behavior, not like those who once they become promoted to a high position and become successful, they flee from their brothers and feel superior to them.  The actions of our forefathers are a sign to (baked into) their children.  Moshe could have remained as an Egyptian, turned a blind eye to the Jews, as he was raised as a prince of Egypt.  Yet, he rejected the recognition of greatness in the dominant society  that could have been his in Egyptian society  and identified and cast  his lot with the downtrodden Jews.

We know of many Jews who once they become successful and respected in the general society gave up their religion and identify with the greater society, completely cutting themselves off from the Jewish people and all of the issues we Jews have with being a nation alone.  Look at what the State of Israel has to suffer and many Jews have no trouble abandoning Israel to fit into society.  

This ability of rejecting acceptance in the greater society and identifying with the Jew,  is not only with Orthodox Jews who are unmistakable Jewish, but it also is baked into secular Jews who can easily melt into society and turn their back on the Jews.  During the 1800’s when the ghetto walls came down,  many Jews converted to gain acceptance into the greater society and forgot their Jewish roots.  Look at the Rothschild family.  

We have the example in Orthodoxy by the Abarbanel, who was offered to stay in Spain, yet chose exile with his community.  

We also have the example in secular society with Theodore Herzl.  Herzl was an assimilated Jew.  He was wealthy, successful, and identified himself as an Austrian, not as a Jew.  He was so assimilated that when he thought about the plight of the Jews, he approached with Archbishop of Vienna, with a plan to convert the Jews.  The Archbishop laughed at Theodore Herzl. Herzl went from being an Austrian to identifying with the Jews, returning to his religion, and trying to save them.  As my cousin, Martin Brody writes the following vignette about Theodore Herzl.

Leadership, Repentance and Going Home.

At last!

Teshuva literally means return. But return to what? There are several word for sin in Hebrew, the most well known perhaps being “Chet” which is used dozens of times in the Yom Kippur liturgy for example. With Judaism so concerned with self elevation, that this word for sin means missing the mark, as if one was not in the right place. The English word transgress is similar, meaning moving outside the border, away from one’s home. So Teshuva means returning home at least in a spiritual sense, and Judah introduced the concept, later to be repeated and amplified with Joseph, to whom he and his brothers had caused so much distress. This step alone earned him the right of leadership and the progenitor of kings and the future Messiah.

A young Austrian, thoroughly assimilated Jewish writer had invited the Chief Rabbi of Vienna over to his house one December evening to discuss a wild and crazy idea. On entering the home, the writer asked the Rabbi if he would like to join them for the lighting. As it was Chanukah, the Rabbi was delighted to attend, but on entering the family room was shocked to see the writer and his family about to light the Christmas tree. It was Christmas Eve! The Rabbi took the writer aside and had a long discussion about his Judaism, and convinced the writer to perhaps light a Menorah instead.


This young Austrian writer was none other than the great Theodor Herzl. This little known vignette with the Rabbi was to have a tremendous impact on his life. The wild and crazy idea, of course, was Zionism, the return of Jews after nineteen hundred years to sovereignty in their homeland. A movement to go home. This was spurred on by the horrific Dreyfus trial to which he was a reporter. So alienated from his religion he previously thought the answer to anti-Semitism was conversion to Christianity, but that was jettisoned by the events at the trial. But after the meeting with the Rabbi there was a new ingredient to the mix. Religious observance. He was repenting, returning. So much so, that in 1897 he publicly declared that there could be no return to Zion without a return to Judaism. How much he moved in the direction of observance is not our business, but move he did. And he did not physically return home to Israel, but through his genius, courage and leadership, millions did and will in the future.

So much was his importance that Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, the Chief Rabbi of pre- State Palestine and the leader of the religious Zionist faction declared that Theodor Herzl could have been Messiah Ben Joseph, the precursor of Messiah Ben Yehuda.


The eight day festival of Chanuka begins this Friday night. Below I have reproduced the magnificent essay, Menorah, penned by Herzl shortly after that momentous meeting with the Chief Rabbi of Vienna..

 Shabbat Shalom and have a great Chanukah

Martin Brody

 Read Theodore Herzl’s essay titled, The Menorah:


 Deep in his soul he began to feel the need of being a Jew. His circumstances were not unsatisfactory, he enjoyed an ample income and a profession that permitted him to do whatever his heart desired for he was an artist. His Jewish origin and the faith of his fathers had long since ceased to trouble him, when suddenly the old hatred came to the surface again in a new mob-cry. With many others he believed that this flood would shortly subside. But there was no change for the better, and every blow, even though not directed at him, struck him with fresh pain till little by little his soul become one bleeding wound. These sorrows,  buried deep in his heart and silenced there, evoked thoughts of their origin and of his Judaism and now he did something he could not perhaps have done in the old days, he began to love his Judaism with an intense fervour. Although in his own eyes he could not, at first, clearly justify this new yearning, it became so powerful at length that it crystallized from vague emotions into a definite idea which he must need express. It was the conviction that there was only one solution for this moral misery and that was a return to Judaism.

 “The Jew of to-day had lost the poise which was his father’s very being. This generation, having grown up under the influence of alien cultures, was no longer capable of that return which he had perceived to be their redemption. But the new generation would be capable of it, if it were only given the right direction early enough. He resolved, therefore that his own children, at least, should be shown the proper path. They should be trained as Jews in their own home.

“Hitherto he had permitted to pass by unobserved the holiday which the wonderful apparition of the Maccabees had illumined for thousands of years with the glow of miniature lights. Now, however, he made this holiday an opportunity to prepare something beautiful which should be forever commemorated in the minds of his children. In their young souls should be implanted early, a steadfast devotion to their ancient people. He bought a Menorah, and when he held this nine-branched candlestick in his hands for the first time a strange mood came over him. In his father’s house also the lights had once burned in his youth, now far away, and the recollection gave him a sad and tender feeling for home. The tradition was neither cold nor dead, thus it had passed through the ages, one light kindling another. Moreover, the ancient form of the Menorah had excited his interest. Clearly the design was suggested by the tree, in the centre the sturdy trunk, on right and left four branches, one below the other, in one place, and all of equal height. A later symbolism brought with it the short ninth branch, which projects in front and functions as a servant. What mystery had the generations which followed one another read into this form of art, at once so simple and natural! And our artist wondered to himself if it were not possible to animate again the withered form of the Menorah, to water its roots, as one would a tree. The mere sound of the name, which he now pronounced every evening to his children, gave him great pleasure. There was a loveable ring to the word when it came from the lips of little children.

“On the first night the candle was lit and the origin of the holiday explained. The wonderful incident of the lights that strangely remained burning so long, the story of the return from the Babylonian exile, the second Temple, the Maccabees, our friend told his children all he knew. It as not very much, to be sure, but it served. When the second candle was lit, they repeated  what he had told them and though it had all been learnt from him, it seemed to him quite new and beautiful. In the days that followed he waited keenly- for the evenings, which became ever brighter. Candle after candle stood in the Menorah, and the father mused on the little candles with his children till at length his reflections became too deep to be uttered before them.

“Then came the eighth day, when the whole row burns, even the faithful ninth, the servant , which on other nights is used only for the lighting of the others. A great splendour streamed from the Menorah. The children’s eyes glistened. But for our friend all this was the symbol of the enkindling of a nation. When there is but one light all is still dark, and the solitary light looks melancholy. Soon it finds one companion, then another, and another. The darkness must retreat. The light comes first to the young and the poor, then others join those who love Justice, Truth, Liberty, Progress, Humanity, and Beauty. When all the candles burn, then we must all stand and rejoice over the achievement. And no office can be more blessed than that of a Servant of the Light.”

Theodor Herzl

(Trans. B. L. Pouzzner.)

January 25, 1904: Herzl Finally Meets the Pope, but the meeting did not go well for him!

Herzl wrote in his diary that the Pope received him standing, and held out his hand, but Herzl refused to kiss it. Herzl also wrote in his diary that the go-between Lippay had told him in advance that he must kiss the Pope’s hand, but Herzl said he wouldn’t do it. “I believe that this spoiled my chances with him, for everyone who visits him kneels and at least kisses his hand. This hand kiss had worried me a great deal and I was glad when it was out of the way”.

Herzl begun the meeting with the Pope by thanking him for the opportunity. Herzl put forth the request that brought him to seek audience with the Pope. But the Pope replied by saying:

“We are unable to favor this movement. We cannot prevent the Jews from going to Jerusalem – but we could never sanction it. The ground of Jerusalem, if it were not always sacred, has been sanctified by the life of Jesus Christ. As the head of the Church, I cannot answer you otherwise. The Jews have not recognized our Lord, therefore we cannot recognize the Jewish people. Jerusalem cannot be placed in Jewish hands.”

Herzl then asked the Pope if he had any problem with the Holy land being under the control of the Muslims? The Pope relied:

“I know it is disagreeable to see the Turks in possession of our Holy Places. But we simply have to put up with it. But to sanction the Jewish wish to occupy these sites, that we cannot do.”

However, Herzl attributed the Pope’s answer due to Herzl’s refusal to kiss the Pope’s hand.