Parshat Shemot marks the beginning of Shovavim.
At this time we try to change our ways for the good and strengthen our Yirat Shamayim; these are the Parshiot which talk about the slavery of the Jewish people.
So what can we learn from this week’s Parasha?
The Pasuk tells us “And a new king rose upon Mitsrayim, that didn’t know who Yosef was”. Does it mean literally that a new king took over? Rashi, in his second answer, explains that it was the same king but he instituted new decrees. All the power that Yosef didn’t use during his time in Egypt, this new king took advantage of and became very powerful. This was the start of slavery for the Jewish people. The Ohr Hachaim writes that if any person from the previous generation would have still been alive, the slavery would have been delayed. In fact only after the last of the shevatim Levi passed away, did the slavery begin
There are 2 scenarios that take place in the Parasha.
The Yalkut Shimoni says that when the advisors came to the new king with the idea to enslave the Jewish people, he refused to agree: “How am I able to enslave the Jewish nation, it’s because of them we are here, we were saved from famine and the Egyptian Empire became known around the world.” Egypt was economically and financially better off because of the Bnei Yisrael. His advisors sent him away from the throne for 3 months until he changed his mind. Paroh came back and went along with the idea of his advisors.
The Pasuk writes that the king of Mitsrayim called the Jewish nurses Shifra and Puah and he commanded them to kill all the Jewish first born males. Shifra and Puah cry out to Hashem to protect them, because they cannot carry out such a terrible deed. Hashem protected them.
What was the difference between the new king of Egypt and the Jewish nurses?
Paroh originally didn’t want to enslave the Jewish nation. When he was told that he was jeopardising his position, he realised he was going to lose his power, honour and ultimately his throne. He thus decided to go along with the plan and prioritise himself. For this act Hashem punished him and his nation with the 10 Makkot.
Shifra and Puah on the other hand were commanded to carry out something that was impossible. The Torah tells us that they feared Hashem, they had mercy and showed compassion for the children, therefore they went against what the king said and Hashem helped them.
There was no Yirat Hashem with Paroh therefore he was punished. The Jewish nurses on the other hand – had Yirat Hashem! And they acted with no ulterior motives, they stuck to what was right. They acted L’shem Shamayim because they had Yirat Shamayim. As the Pasuk says “Vatirena Hamyaldot Et Haelokim” – The nurses feared Hashem. This contradicted with what they were being told to do. Even though they were told that it was the right thing to do, they did not do it because it was not Emet.
As the Mishna in Avot writes, that we should be like a servant who serves his master without thinking what’s in it for me – with absolutely no motives, to serve one’s master with Yirat Shamayim.
We can learn an important lesson from this.When we do a something e.g. giving Tzedaka, we must do it Leshem Shamayim, because it’s the right thing to do.
וְיִהְיוּ כָל מַעֲשֵׂינוּ לְשֵׁם שָׁמָיִם אמן!!!