February 4, 2021 2:30 pm at 2:30 pm #1945404abukspanParticipant
Yisro – Just Passing Through:
ואת שני בניה אשר שם האחד גרשם כי אמר גר הייתי בארץ נכריה ושם האחד אליעזר כי אלקי אבי בעזרי ויצלני מחרב פרעה
And her two sons: the name of one was Gershom, for he said, “I was a stranger in a foreign land.” And the name of the other was Eliezer, for “the G-d of my father was my help, and saved me from the sword of Pharaoh” (Shemos 18:3-4).
Moshe named his sons after significant events in his life, to remind him and his progeny of their past. He named his second Eliezer to remind him that Hashem saved him from Pharaoh, who wanted to kill him (Shemos 2:15, Rashi). Even though he was saved from the sword of death in a miraculous way, the feelings of appreciation could diminish with time. In order to avoid this, Moshe named him Eliezer, so he would have a tangible reminder.
But what of the name of his first son, Gershom? What does this name signify?
The Chofetz Chaim writes that he named his son Gershom, in order to insulate and create a distinction between him and the people in Midyan: “I am a Jew. My people and all that is holy are back in Egypt. I, and my sons, must never forget that this is not our land. We cannot get too comfortable here.”
In truth, the miracle of being saved from the sword of Pharaoh occurred before Moshe was a stranger in a strange land, before he fled to Midyan. Nevertheless, he named his first son Gershom and not Eliezer, to impress upon himself and his children that this is not our land and these are not our people. Although the incident did not occur first chronologically, its lesson comes first and foremost.
Rav Moshe Feinstein explains it differently. When Moshe came to Midyan, the local population immediately recognized his unique talents and qualities. They wanted him as their leader. Moshe, however, preferred the private life, where he could concentrate on his avodas Hashem and raise his children away from the culture of Midyan, so he declined.
The fact that he was able to remain a stranger in Midyan was Moshe’s main point of thanks to Hashem, and that is why he called his first son Gershom. Once he established a life dedicated to avodas Hashem, then he was able to thank Hashem for saving him from death in Mitzrayim. Moshe named his sons in the order that he needed to thank Hashem. First, he thanked Hashem that he was able to avoid being influenced by the Midyanim, and next he thanked Hashem for saving his life, for now he had a life worth living.
Both Rav Moshe and the Chofetz Chaim seem to understand that “I was a stranger in a foreign land” occurred after “and He saved me from the sword of Pharaoh.” And so, they both explain why the latter event was recognized first.
But perhaps this is not so; perhaps Moshe really was “a stranger in a foreign land” prior to being “saved from the sword of Pharaoh.”
All of us, wherever we may live, are like strangers in the land. Our life on this earth is a temporary one. One should not grow too attached to This World and what it has to offer. Yes, we are here for a valuable purpose, but only for that and no more.
The Shelah HaKadosh writes that this is the intent of the pejorative expression, am ha’aretz, which means an ignorant person. The literal translation is: nation or people of the land. A person who cares more about This World than the Next World, who feels that his place is here and not in Olam HaBa, is an earth person – an am ha’aretz.
This is in contrast to the complimentary expression, a ben Olam HaBa, a son of the World to Come. We are not describing someone who is destined to go to Olam HaBa for his eternal reward, but a son of Olam HaBa. This means that Olam HaBa is the person’s point of origin, and that is where he intends to return. He is just passing through on a temporary visa.
We are all passersby in This World, even those of us who reside in Eretz Yisrael. The more deeply one acknowledges and feels this, the more profitable his spiritual journey in This World.
By naming his first son Gershom, Moshe was making a lasting testament for himself and his family – a limud that every Jew, no matter the circumstance, no matter the milieu, must always remember: I am only a stranger in a foreign land!February 4, 2021 6:51 pm at 6:51 pm #1945481
Dvar Torah on the Redemption
Rashi in the beginning of Parshes Vaychi asks, why is this parshe closed? (nine letter separation in between two parshiyos) Answers Rashi, because the Torah wants to symbolize that this was the beginning of the suffering and enslavement of the Jews. Their breath was started to be taken away by closing their breathing passages. It says that they couldn’t listen to Moishe, because of their shortness of breath and hard labor. Another answer is given by Rashi, that it symbolizes the closing off the revealing of the end, the coming of the Meshiach, which Yaakov Avinu was curtailed from disclosing.
The problem is that, neither of these answers satisfies the question. It does not answer why especially there is no pause after parshas Vayigash. Depending on the above answers this lack of pause should have been delineated, either in the beginning of Parshas Shmos, or before the blessings to his sons, respectively.
The Klei Yokor at the end of parshas Vayigash explains that, the reason for the suffering and enslavement was because the Jews forgot an important lesson that must be remembered in galus, diaspora. We must constantly keep in mind that we are strangers in a foreign land. Moishe Rabbeinu constantly kept this in mind, and therefore the G-d of his father was constantly helping him. This was the lesson that Moishe Rabbeinu wanted to teach us through the naming of his children. The Jews wanted to become part of the Egyptian establishment. They forgot that they came to Egypt just as a temporary dweller, who is fleeing his problems temporarily by escaping to a strange land. They became rich and acquired land. They built on it fancy houses which the Egyptians resented.
The Klei Yokor in parshas Devorim explains, that when we are in diaspora among the descendants of Eisov and Yishmoel, we must keep ourselves inconspicuous. They resent the fact that we got the blessing from Yaakov and Yitzchok, which causes envy and hate. They will do everything possible to take our wealth away. They will put us into labor camps to weaken us, and if that doesn’t work, G-d forbid, annihilate us.
This envy and resentment happened in Egypt. When the Egyptian saw how the Jews are getting wealthier and stronger, they became envious and the resentment grew.
The Klei Yokor also explains in the beginning of parshas Vaychi that the reason that G-d curtailed Yaakov Avinu the revealing of the end, was because, if people know that the coming of the Meshiach will not be in their life time they will give their hope up (meyaesh). They will forget the lesson from above and that they are in diaspora. They will build fancy houses etc. This will hold back the redemption. The redemption can only come if we keep in mind that we are in diaspora and we require the help of G-d to redeem us and no one else can do that.
Therefore, the disclosing of the end was impossible. The Jews behaved in like manner without revealing the end. The revealing would have caused the viscous cycle which would have held back the redemption. Therefore, everything is symbolized at the end of Parshas Vayigash.February 4, 2021 7:28 pm at 7:28 pm #1945505
See the Meshech Chachma on Parashas Bechukosai beginning words ואף גם זאת.February 4, 2021 9:26 pm at 9:26 pm #1945530
See also the Pelei Yoetz under Ger, a similar idea, to see ourselves as a temporary dweller of this world.
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