Monday, April 22, 2013

359 - Shemos

Rav Wolbe writes (Alei Shur vol. II pg. 339) that there are two main ways the Torah gauges a person's greatness. The first is via his level of emunah and the second is via his level of yirah. Examples of the latter can be found not only throughout the Torah, but in this week's parsha as well. Avraham Avinu justified his referring to Sarah as his sister: "For I said there is no fear of Hashem in this place and they will kill me because of my wife." After Akeidas Yitzchok Hashem told Avraham, "Now I know that you fear Hashem." About Amaleik the Torah writes, "And they did not fear Hashem." These are but a few of the numerous instances.

In this week's parsha we are told that the Jewish midwives, Shifra and Puah (a.k.a. Yocheved and Miriam), did not heed Pharaoh's command to kill the Jewish babies and, on the contrary, they did everything in their ability to keep them alive and healthy. The Torah tells us, "And the midwives feared Hashem and they did not do as the king of Mitzrayim spoke to them" (Shemos 1, 17). Additionally, the Torah relates that they were rewarded because of their yiras Shamayim: "Because the midwives feared Hashem, He made for them houses" (ibid. 1, 21). Rashi explains that the "houses" mentioned in the pasuk refer to the "house of kehunah"[Aharon] who descended from Yocheved and the "house of kingship" [Dovid] who descended from Miriam. 

Moreover, Chazal (Shemos Rabba 1, 16) tell us that also in this merit, Yocheved gave birth to Moshe, and Miriam became the forbearer of Betzalel who built the Mishkan. Accordingly, it's interesting to note that the yiras Shamayim described in these pasukim laid the groundwork for the entire Sefer Shemos. Shemos describes the redemption of Bnei Yisrael and the receiving of the Torah, both accomplished through Moshe, and the building of the Mishkan which was directed by Betzalel.

Rav Wolbe elaborates on the connection between yiras Shamayim and the houses that were built as its result. Yiras Shamayim can be described as the ability to withstand the trials that Hashem places before each person. It's the middah whereby a person builds his spiritual stature from start to finish. The midwives "built" themselves to the point that they were able to withstand the greatest test and they put their lives on the line to save the Jewish children. Measure for measure Hashem rewarded them. Reward in the Torah in not given as compensation for something that a person does, like a candy given to a child for good behavior. Rather, the reward is the very fruit that was born as a result of the action performed. They were endowed with the wisdom of building, and their actions bore fruit - houses were built for them!  

Not a day goes by that we are not tested in one way or another: Should we hurry through davening? How should we spend our time? Should we bring this or that into our house? The list is endless. Each and every time we withstand a test, we are building our spiritual stature, and as mentioned in this week's parsha, the fruit of such labor is tremendous!

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