Parshat Shemot Dvar Torah
By Stephen Kirschenbaum
We start the second Sefer of Chamishah Chumshei Torah and are introduced to Moshe Rabbeinu, the greatest among Klal Yisrael that ever lived, and somebody who leads Klal Yisrael out of Mitzrayim to Mattan Torah.
The most significant Limud of Parshas Shemos is not from what the Chumash says but rather from what it doesn’t say, and as a result is often missed. The Gadlus of Moshe Rabbeinu, the incredible level that Moshe Rabbeinu attained to be at the edge of the 50th level in Torah, Avodah and Yir’as Shamayim, was accomplished when and where exactly? The Torah doesn’t tell us.
We find Moshe Rabbeinu shortly after his Bar Mitzvah fleeing Eretz Mitzrayim and we then encounter him at the age of 80 standing at the Sneh. What exactly happened for the majority of the years of his life as we are missing 67 years of Moshe Rabbeinu’s life, and we know nothing about it?
The answer is that was the Gadlus of Moshe Rabbeinu. These were the fundamental years of his life in which he worked on himself and he worked on himself where? Far away from Klal Yisrael, away from everyone who ultimately surrounded him. The crucial Limud here in the Gadlus of Moshe Rabbeinu was that he was unique among those who followed the Avos. He was unique in that he was raised and lived for most of his teenage and adult years away from other Jews, while still maintaining and thriving as an Eved Hashem.
The Rambam in the beginning of the 6th Perek of Hilchos Dai’os tells us about human nature, דרך ברייתו של אדם. It is the nature of a human being להיות נמשך בדעותיו ובמעשיו to be pulled in his thinking and his actions אחר ריעיו וחביריו ונוהג כמנהג אנשי מדינתו. A person has a natural inclination and nature to follow those he surrounds himself with, those people around him, and to be Noheig in the custom and practice of the people of the society in which he lives. Therefore, Moshe Rabbeinu who grows up far away from Klal Yisrael and still attains the ultimate Madreiga because he resists the pull, the temptations of the people and the culture around him.
Rav Moshe Feinstein used to say about this topic that we find later in Sefer Devarim 18:9 that HKBH says, and Moshe Rabbeinu repeats B’sheim Hashem, ‘Ki Atah Bah El HaAretz Asher Hashem Elokecha Nosein Lach, Lo Silmad La’asos Ki’toeivas HaGoyim HaHeim.’ Moshe Rabbeinu says you are going into Eretz Canaan. You are going to want to do and act like the people around you; don’t serve the Avodah Zorah like those in the Land. It is a Pele because Klal Yisrael enters and defeats the nations inhabiting Canaan. The Anshei Canaan, the Avodah Zorah of Canaan is put to shame. What does it mean that Klal Yisrael are going to be enticed to do Ki’toeivas HaGoyim HaHeim like the people around them?
The answer is that that is human nature. Human nature is to be pulled and drawn to those around you, to be influenced by the society around you. The Gadlus, the highest Madreiga that a human being reached was that of Moshe Rabbeinu, when he was alone and detached from the culture by which he was surrounded.
Rav Hershel Schachter once mentioned that Rav Yaakov Emden relays how in the Tzava’a of his father, the Chacham Tzvi, that he writes your Avodas Hashem should be so great that even if you are the only Jew remaining in the world, G-d forbid, you don’t waiver in your Emunah one iota. It is a high and lofty Madreiga, but it is an important point to contemplate because we live in a country, thankfully, in which Jews are as free as have ever been to serve G-d, while also being as accepted as ever among the other nations of the world.
Says Rav Schachter, the Chizuk we need to know is that when we are out in society and are among those who are not members of Klal Yisrael, we are among people to whom our way of life is different, and it can sometimes be hard to navigate. There is a tendency to compromise, if not in action, at least in expression and Machshava. We should bear in mind that specifically in that situation is where a person achieves Gadlus, when you resist the temptation to imitate the people and the culture around you. If we can’t do it all the time, at least when there are fleeting moments, and we are in a place with those who have secular lives and don’t understand a Torah lifestyle, we should have the strength to take pride and realize that that is a true measure and Madreiga of Gadlus. It is a tremendous Nisayon, but once overcome, is a testament to the Gadlus Moshe Rabbeinu is teaching each and every one of us.