Parshas Shemos

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By Rabbi Shloime Lindenbaum

ויהי כי יראו המילדות את האלקים ויעש להם בתים (פרק ב פסוק כא)

Shifrah and Puah, the G-d-fearing Jewish midwives, risked their lives defying Pharoah’s order to kill all Jewish male babies. The פסוק says that as a reward, Hashem established houses for them. Rashi explains this to mean that Hashem had the “Houses” of Kingship, Priesthood, and Levites come from their children. We know that Hashem always rewards מדה כנגד מדה- in a way that is similar to the good deed that was done. If so, why were the midwives rewarded specifically in this way? How was this reward related to their saving the Jewish baby boys? R’ Berel Soleveitchik answered that the Egyptian’s intent in killing the male babies was to then have the Jewish women available to marry the Egyptians. While this would have been a catastrophe, technically the children born from such a union would be Jewish, as one’s status as a Jew depends on their mother. The only things in Judaism that follow the father’s status are being a מלך, which necessitates one’s father to come from שבט יהודה, and being a כהן or לוי, which requires paternal lineage from שבט לוי. Therefore, had the Egyptians succeeded in their plan, while there still would have been Jews in the world, there wouldn’t have been any kings, priests, or Levites. It was these special positions that Shifrah and Puah preserved and they were therefore rewarded by having their children in these positions.

ויאמר…של נעליך מעל רגליך כי המקום אשר אתה עומד עליו אדמת קדש הוא (פרק ג פסוק ה)

When approaching the burning bush, Moshe is commanded to remove his shoes because the place in which he is standing is holy. R’ Samson Rapahel Hirsch explains that removal of shoes shows a certain dedication to the place that one is standing and a readiness to fulfill any mission required of them in that place. Hashem was commanding Moshe to subjugate himself right then and there to the holy mission that lay before him. R’ Hirsch sees this as a proclamation to each of us as individuals- it is not our job to dream of places or situations that would better enable us to serve Hashem. Rather, the “place”- the situation, social life, financial standing etc.- that we find ourselves in, is a holy place and one in which we can grow to become the best person that we can be. We must recognize that the position that Hashem put us in is the precise location in which He wants us to serve Him and to accomplish our mission in this world.

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