Parshas Shemos: Standing Firm

ותתצב אחתו מרחק לדעה מה יעשה לו

And his sister stood from afar, to know what would happen to him (2:4)

It is not difficult to imagine the mixture of emotion and intensity that must have been taking place by the water where Bisya (See Divrei Hayamim I, 4:18 for correct pronunciation), the daughter of Pharaoh was swimming.

Picture it: Miriam Ha’nevia had been shown through a prophecy that a son would be born to the family that would enlighten the entire world. This very child would become the leader and savior of Klal Yisroel. She shared this prophecy with her parents thus causing them to remarry. Upon entering the world, the entire home lit up brilliantly from the great light which the baby emanated. He was perfect in every way and did not even require a bris milah. Yes, this was indeed the prophecy coming to fruition; this was the child that she had prophesized. Her father kissed her on the forehead exclaiming the realization of the nevuah. But then came that dreaded moment. The baby was not able to be hidden any longer, forcing the family to place him in a basket sending him to the river. The father of this baby was so distraught that he now smacked her on her forehead proclaiming, “Miriam, what happened to your prophecy?”

Miriam went down to the river to watch how the matter would play out. Let us now think of what may have been going through Miriam’s mind at that moment. Miriam shows up and sees the daughter of Pharaoh going for a swim. It was Pharaoh himself that issued the decree to throw every Jewish baby boy into the river. Without a question, this was a “worst case scenario”. Surely, at that moment Miriam was offering a tefilla to HaShem: “Ribono Shel Olam, please do not allow Bisya to see the basket. If she sees it, who knows what will be. There will most definitely be no chance of survival” (We also note the comment of the Baal HaTurim that the words נער בוכה have the same gematria/ numerical value as זה אהרן הכהן , teaching us that her brother Aharon, was there as well crying at that moment.)

But, alas, Bisya noticed the basket and reached out for it. Could there be a worse feeling in Miriam’s heart at that second? Rock bottom had just been hit. This would surely spell out the very end of the prophecy.

It is exactly at times like this that we must keep in mind that when Hakadosh Baruch Hu decides on something, even from amongst the greatest challenge, the salvation can arise. In just a few short moments, the baby would end up in his mother’s own hands, being nursed by her, with this very daughter of Pharaoh paying the mother for her services.

Rav Mordechai Druk z”l used to point out a great lesson from here. Many times in life we daven to HaShem for certain things to happen. Do we see the entire picture when we daven? We seem to have it all worked out. Rav Druk would give an example of someone in shiduchim. This youngster is asking for a certain match to work out for himself. He is certain that if he marries this girl he will have a life of happiness and together they will build a beautiful home. He begs HaShem for things to work out. But then the phone rings and the shadchan gives the news to the parents. The parents now need to confront the boy with his rejection notice. In some cases, the boy is devastated. “How could this be? The girl must have misunderstood a comment that I made, I am sure we can fix this.” The boy begins to daven, pleading with HaShem to make things work out for him and this girl.

Similarly, a person may use a tremendous amount of effort in business, really giving it all he has to make things work. He davens endlessly to HaShem that the deals in place should work out, but again, all to no avail. He seems to be met with rejection and failure.    

How does HaShem, the One that listens to all tefillos, respond? The response of course is NO, because HaShem has the entire picture, and has a much better plan for this boy and for this person’s livelihood. Do we really know what life will look like down the line if things work out the way we plan? No we don’t, but HaShem most definitely does. In fact, it is HaShem Himself that has made the plan.

ותתצב אחתו מרחק לדעה מה יעשה לו   -Miriam, his sister, stood from afar to see the outcome. Yes, Miriam had questions. But she stood firmly, as a bedrock of faith, not losing her emunah for even a moment. The gemarah in Sotah explains that she was confident that he would be saved. The question she had was only what would be done, i.e. in which manner would HaShem bring the salvation?

There are so many times in life that we expect things to happen a certain way, exactly at a specific time. We have it all figured out. We have expectations of HaShem, and then when things don’t happen the way we assumed they would, according to our timelines, we even come with complaints. HaShem is the master accountant. All His calculations are perfect. and He has never once fallen short of a promise. Let us strengthen ourselves in our emunah that HaShem runs the world flawlessly and everything will happen exactly when it is supposed to in a better way than we have could have ever imagined.

On a different note, there is another incredible p’shat in this possuk that I just saw from the Meor Einayim. There are times in life that people slip up and fall prey to the yeitzer hara. After experiencing the fall, the natural inclination is to feel terribly dirty, and perhaps not even be willing to clean off and get back up. The feeling may be that Hashem is nowhere close to me right now. During those times when one feels so distant, there is an incredible opportunity available. Miriam ha’nevia just received petch from her father. Things were going from bad to worse with Bisya now handling the baby. She felt a feeling of רחוק – feeling distant. And yet, Miriam stood firmly. She said that perhaps the nevuah has left me but I will not leave the nevuah. The new nissayon she was now facing was, “I have lost my madreiga, but I can still be strong and carry on and I will get it back.” When one stands their ground even (and perhaps especially) while feeling low, a “Moshe Rabbeinu” can be born.

The Chidusehei Harim comments that this was the same test that Avrohom Avinu went through. וירא את המקום מרחוק- during Avrohom’s three days of travel, he suddenly felt as if the Shechina was not with him, he felt רחוק- distant. His test was to still see המקום- Hashem (based on the Zohar’s interpretation that makom refers to Hashem). Esther was also tested by losing her nevuah a moment before entering the king’s inner chamber, and her response was א-לי א-לי למה עזבתני- Hashem, You seem to have abandoned me at this moment when I need You most, and yet, I am still calling out to You.

In the Sefer Achas Shoalti, there is an interesting question from someone that would commute to work daily on a train had a minyan. On days that there was kriyas hatorah, it sometimes happened that in the middle of leining, the train arrived at his stop. The halacha is that one is not allowed to walk out during the leining, but in this case, if he stays on, the next stop is twenty minutes further. The answer was given that he should step onto the platform and wait until the train leaves. In this manner, he did not leave the beis medrash, but rather, the beis medrash left him.

ותתצב אחתו מרחק- Avrohom Avinu, Miriam ha’neviah and Esther ha’malka may have all felt the Shechina leaving them, but they remained firm in their places. Similarly, in our lives, perhaps things happen, that could/should have even been avoided, which leave us feeling like the beis medrash left us, i.e. the Shechina has departed us. In those times, upon nevertheless strengthening ourselves, there is tremendous bracha that awaits. The Shechina definitely will return to such a person.  

Good Shabbos, מרדכי אפפעל