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Parashat Shemot – Ha! That’s what You Think

וַיֵּלֶךְ אִישׁ מִבֵּית לֵוִי וַיִּקַּח אֶת בַּת לֵוִי

A man from the tribe of Levi went and married a daughter of Levi


The Gemara explains what happened here. Amram was a leader of the generation. When Pharaoh decreed that all Jewish boys be thrown in the Nile River, he decided that there was no point in his marriage any longer and divorced his wife. Many others followed his lead and divorced their wives.

His daughter asked him if what he was doing was correct. “Pharaoh’s decree was only on the males, but you are preventing even females,” she explained. “Pharaoh is only affecting those boys’ lives in this world, but you are affecting the next. (Rashi explains that this meant that when the boys would be killed, they still merited olam haba, but if they weren’t born at all they wouldn’t.) And finally, Pharaoh’s decree will not necessarily be fulfilled, but yours is a certainty.” Amram agreed with her logic, and remarried his wife. All those who followed his lead originally also remarried.

This union led to the birth of Moshe Rabbenu, the one Hashem decided to save the Jews through. He was the one Pharaoh was trying to prevent. The midrashim tell us that Pharaoh’s astrologers told him that the Jews’ savior’s birth was imminent, and that he would suffer through water. (They weren’t wrong, he was later punished for hitting the rock which provided water for the nation in the desert.) In fear he decided that every boy, even Egyptian, was to be drowned. Moshe’s mother hid him so he wouldn’t be taken, which led to a rescue by Pharaoh’s own daughter. Not only did he not succeed in drowning Moshe, but Pharaoh’s daughter saved him. Pharaoh himself raised him! 

Many years later a similar episode occurred. King Chizkiyahu was a very righteous king who prophesied that he would have a wicked child who would lead the Jews astray. He decided not to marry. Yeshayahu the prophet came to him and told him that Hashem would punish him for avoiding the mitzvah of having children. When the King explained his reasoning, Yeshayahu told him that it wasn’t his place to make such calculations. There is a mitzvah to marry and he must do so. Hashem’s plans aren’t our business. He did so and though his son Menashe was wicked, his great-grandson Yoshiyahu was so great that it was said about him that “there were none like him before, and there will never be one like him.”

These stories drive home an important message. We have obligations that are our only responsibility. It’s not on us to try to figure out what fulfilling them will lead to. Even when our concern is not for our own good, but for Hashem’s, we must be careful. Our view is very limited. If Hashem commands us to do something we must do so. Hashem has a plan and our actions won’t sway that. Whatever we think we’re doing can often lead to the very opposite of what we intend. Our obligation is to fulfill Hashem’s commandments.


Shabbat Shalom

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