“Parsha and Purpose” – Shemot 5781

“Parsha and Purpose” – Shemot 5781
Rabbi Kenneth Brander’s weekly insights into the parsha 

“Facing Down a World Power: Spiritual Resistance and Fighting Evil”

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“Facing Down a World Power: Spiritual Resistance and Fighting Evil”

One Shabbat morning, my wife and I were walking outside our apartment in the neighborhood of Katamon in Yerushalayim, a man was pushing a stroller down the street.

It’s a common sight in that neighborhood, so I didn’t think twice – until I noticed the man’s small green cap and suddenly realized that it was Natan Sharansky pushing one of his grandchildren! THE Natan Sharansky.

Personally, it was a thrill. A symbol of leadership that resisted the cruel Soviet regime and from whom we all drew endless amounts of inspiration.

In this week’s parsha, Shemot, we read of an earlier Jewish leader who protested a repressive, tyrannical dictatorship: Moshe Rabbeinu. 

In all the books of Tanach, we find only two instances of the use of the word “teivah”, or ark: Teivat Noach and Teivat Moshe. Genesis 6:14 and Exodus 2:3

Rabbi Amnon Bazak notes many similarities between these two teivot: both are constructed from vegetation and are covered with tar pitch to protect the contents inside; both are built to float in water; and both save the person (or persons) inside from certain death.

But there are also stark differences between the two arks. 

In the case of Teivat Noach God is the architect and watches over the ark during its operational activity, whereas Teivat Moshe it is built by his mother, Yocheved, and supervised during operations by his sister, Miriam.

Teivat Noach was necessary because humanity failed to confront evil and tyranny in their midst, and thus a reset button had to be pushed . 

In contrast, Teivat Moshe represents humanity’s capacity to challenge evil 

Rebel against the tyrannical regime of Pharaoh, 

The bravery of the righteous women who rose up in protest. 

Spared by their heroic efforts, Moshe grows up in the comfortable surroundings of that regime, but that does not dull his sense of justice. 

He confronts the Egyptian taskmaster; the two Jews fighting with each other; and the men at the well treating Yitro’s daughters unfairly.

And that is why Moshe becomes our leader, our teacher and ultimately the individual who has the most intimate communication with God.

The contrast with Noach is dramatic, and contains a vital lesson for us. Noach begins as a righteous man with potential, he starts off with God walking with him but ends up a drunkard. 

Moshe begins as an adopted  member of a family that promotes tyranny and darkness.

Goes out to his brothers sees the darkness confronts it and ends his life as the only person who walks in front of God.

Natan Shransky once wrote in the Wall Street Journal: “My KGB interrogators had dismissed this movement as ‘a bunch of students and housewives.’ But this bunch—coming by the thousands to the Soviet Union as tourists from the United States, Canada and Europe—formed a living bridge between the Free World and Soviet activists. The same students and housewives who rescued us from isolation succeeded in isolating the Soviet regime instead.”

The power of Teivat Moshe – Yocheved, Miriam and Pharaoh’s daughter Batya, Moshe Rabbeinu, students and housewives in the 70’s & 80’s  and a Soviet Jew with a green cap named Sharansky .

Each of them marshalled their inner strength, stood up to evil and combatted tyranny. 

In doing so, they build their Teivat Moshe.

May we strive to do the same.

Shabbat Shalom.

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