December 13, 2018 ~ Shabbat VAYIGASH. Maqam BAYAT.

Shabbat Vaera - שבת וארא

The Shepherd

וינהג את הצאן אחר המדבר - Long before he was the famous leader of Israel, Moses was just a simple shepherd. If so, what made him uniquely qualified to lead? After all, he admits that he lacked charisma (ואני ערל שפתים), and correctly predicts that no one would listen to his messages (ולא שמעו אל משה מקצר רוח ומעבדה קשה)! Despite this, God insists on Moses due to his empathy for others. A shepherd's role is to make sure that no sheep goes off the path or gets lost. This is exactly how Moses took care of his people for 40 years in the wilderness. He cared so much for each person and made sure that everyone was "on the right path;" both literally and figuratively. Prior to his departure (Numbers 27:17), Moses begs God not to leave the community "like sheep without a shepherd" (ולא תהיה עדת ה׳ כצאן אשר אין להם רעה). This comparison best describes the close relationship between Moses and his people (Beth Torah, 1/28/17).


אמר אל אהרן קח מטך ונטה ידך על מימי מצרים - For the plague of blood, it is Aaron, not Moses, who is instructed to take the staff and strike the waters of Egypt (Exodus 7:19). Rabbi Tanhum comments (Midrash Tanhuma: Vaera 14) that the act is performed by Aaron, because God does not want Moses to strike the same waters that once protected him. In this interpretation, God teaches us to "recognize the good" (הכרת הטוב); not harming one that had once been beneficial to you. When Moses is sent away by his mother as a three month old infant, it is the waters of the Nile that save him from Pharaoh's evil decree. Therefore, much later in life, God does not put Moses in the unappreciative position of needing to harm the same object that once helped him. This lesson of 'Hakarat Hatov' teaches that it is important to recognize individuals who have acted kindly with us in the past and to always have in mind to return their generosity in the future. Beth Torah Bulletin, January 13, 2018.