Parshas Shemos: Mentality of Greatness

ויגדל הילד ותבאהו לבת פרעה ויהי לה לבן ותקרא שמו משה

And the child grew up; she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, who made him her son. She named him Moshe


The Ibn Ezra asks a simple yet profound question on the understanding of just who Moshe Rabbeinu was: Why did HaShem orchestrate that Moshe Rabbeinu, the very first leader of the Jewish Nation, the one who took us out of Mitzrayim and delivered to us the Torah, should be raised by Bisya, inside of Pharaoh’s palace? Would it not have made more sense for him to grow up with his parents and siblings amongst Yiddishe neighbours, attending shul and cheider just like any other Yid? What is even more compelling is that not only was he not raised with his People, but rather, he grew up in the home of one of the greatest anti-Semites to ever walk the planet.

Before delving into the answers that he gives, he notes that ומחשבות השם עמקו ומי יוכל לעמוד בסודו ולא לבדו נתכנו עלילות- Hashem’s thoughts are very deep. Who can know His secrets? By Him alone are actions weighed. In truth, that is the greatest answer, but in any event, let us see what we can learn from this.

One answer that he gives (2nd) is that if Moshe would have grown up among the community, he would have never been able to effectively rise above everyone else. As the saying goes, אין נביא בעירו- a person cannot become a prophet in his own town. No matter how great he truly is, there will always be that classmate that insists on bringing up embarrassing stories “for old times’ sakes”. In this manner, Moshe grew up away from everyone else. No one would claim to have played ball or to have eaten cholent and kugel with him. Moshe could now become Mosher Rabbeinu and he would be accepted as such.

The Ibn Ezra offers another answer (his 1st): The galus of Mitzrayim, together with all of the avodas perach created a new reality for the Jews. Not only physically but mentally as well, the Jews were downtrodden. No longer could the think as a free person would; the entire psyche was ruined. The meforshim on the Haggadah Shel Pesach explain the possuk in Devarim (26:6) וירעו אתנו המצרים ויענונו, - and the Mitzriyim did bad to us- they caused us to think that we are bad. They were so low that even when Moshe would try and talk about saving them, they could not hear of it ולא שמעו אל משה מקצר רוח ומעבדה קשה-their entire ruach was gone; they were completely deflated. With a self-value of a large zero, there was no possibility of believing otherwise. They were now slaves in body and spirit.

Moshe grew up away from all of this. Growing up in the lap of the king allowed him to think big, dream and imagine a far greater existence for his people. Moshe was able to take a walk outside and see how his brothers were doing, while at the same time, all his brothers could possibly think about was if their guards or even worse, their kappos would give them their morsels of food that day. Moshe looked at the slaves and saw people with a great future. Moshe walked down the street and witnessed a Jew being beaten. Did no one else notice, only Moshe? This could have been a daily occurrence but only Moshe would have noticed because he came from a different place and did not possess a slave mentality.

The Ibn Ezra points this out yet again in Parshas Beshalach. As the 600,000 Jews were running away and being chased by a small number of chariots, we see how scared they were. But why; didn’t they easily outnumber the Mitzriyim? Once again he answers that these Jews had the slave mentality and would have never been able to fight.

There are times in life that things happen and we tend to forget who we are and where we come from, causing us to stop believing in ourselves, thinking that we are worthless חס ושלום. Rav Aharon M’Karlin famously remarked that the greatest tragedy in life is כשיהודי שוכח שהוא בן מלך- when a Jew forgets that he is a prince, the son of HaShem, thinking instead that he is a slave to whomever or whatever.

Moshe Rabbeinu had ten names. Each name speaks of another attribute and accomplishment of his. Of all the ten names, the name Moshe actually had to do with Bisya the daughter of Pharaoh, כי מן המים משיתיהו- for he was drawn from the water. This was not his own accomplishment but someone else’s, and yet, the Midrash writes that HaShem told Moshe that from all the names, this is that one that he will be known by.

Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz zt”l explains that the action of taking Moshe out of the water was such a great act of mesiras nefesh that it actually instilled within Moshe the power of mesiras nefesh which would become the hallmark of his existence. Therefore HaShem chose this name as the one that he would go by.

This of course answers the why Moshe needed to end up away from his home, in order to gain this power.

There is so much to learn from here, but at the very least, the takeaways need to be that we should never forget where we come from and the incredible koychos that have been instilled in our DNA. When one understands where he comes from and the tools that he is equipped with, he will know in which direction he is meant to go always striving for greatness and never settling for anything less.

Good Shabbos,     מרדכי אפפעל