Halacha for Friday 24 Tevet 5781 January 8 2021

Parashat Shemot - Moshe in the Basket - The Potential Impact of Paying Attention for Just One Moment

From HaGaon Rav Zevadia HaCohen Shlit”a, The Head of the Batei Din in Tel Aviv
(translated by our dear friend Rav Daniel Levy Shlit”a, Leeds UK)

This week we read about Paro’s decree against the Jewish children, to murder them as soon as they are born. In the Torah’s words: “The king of Egypt spoke to the [chief] Hebrew midwives, whose names were Shifra and Puah. He said, ‘When you deliver the Hebrew women, you must look carefully at the birthstool. If the infant is a boy, kill it; but if it is a girl, let it live.’” (Bereishit 1:15).

And afterwards Paro decreed a harsh decree on all his people, as it states: “Paro then gave orders to all his people: ‘Every boy who is born must be cast into the Nile, but every girl shall be allowed to live’”” (ibid 1:22).

During that horrific time, Moshe’s father Amram married Yocheved and a son was born to them: “She realised how extraordinary [the child] was, and kept him hidden for three months”(ibid 2:2). Yocehved concealed their newborn son for three months, in the hope that she will succeed in escaping the horrific decree.

After three months, Yocheved rested him in a basket and placed it in the Nile. Eventually Paro’s daughter Batya, went to bathe in the Nile. When she saw the basket, she stretched forth her hand, opened the basket, and saw a baby crying. She brought him to Paro’s house. “She adopted him as her own son, and named him Moshe. ‘I bore him from the water,’ she said”(ibid 1:10).

We may ask, did Paro’s daughter Batya know when she stretched forth her hand to the basket, whether she would succeed? Did she imagine that this was the Jewish People’s saviour? The father of all prophets that Ha’Kadosh Baruch Hu would speak to him face-to-face and that he was destined to bring the Ten Commandments down from Mt Sinai? What would have happened if at that moment Batya ignored the basket that was floating alone in the Nile whilst a three-month-old baby languished within it?

From here we learn that by paying attention for just one moment, a person has the opportunity to nurture the greatest prophet and the greatest in the generation, without knowing this from the outset.

It is related that the Dubno Maggid (1741-1804) was once walking in the street during a cold winter’s day. He saw a poor blind man dressed in tatters and a small child holding his hand and leading him along. People passed them by, and no one paid attention to them to ask after their welfare and worry whether they had food and drink.

The Dubno Maggid saw them. His heart filled with compassion and anguish for their pain. The Maggid stopped and asked after them. The blind man was downtrodden, he sighed deeply and he did not respond. However, the young child who was leading him told the Dubno Maggid that this blind man is his father. Since his mother passed away, they are living in a cold damp cellar and they are on their way to the city’s soup kitchen for the poor, to eat a hot afternoon meal.

The Dubno Maggid took compassion on them and took them to his home. He gave them a hot meal and arranged for them a comfortable and warm room. The meal warmed the hearts of the blind man and his son and they thanked the rav for his kindness.

Will you agree to live here? The Dubno Maggid asked them, whilst offering to provide a warm room and hot meals free of charge. With this he added, here the child will also be able to study in the Talmud-Torah, rather than do nothing with no opportunity to study Torah.

The blind father hesitated to respond, whilst the son’s eyes sparkled with joy. In the end the father agreed to try it for a period, so that his young son may study Torah.

The child was insightful and wise and began to make strides in his learning. Even after his blind father’s passing, he continued to study in the yeshiva under the tutelage of the Dubno Maggid. The child learnt for great lengths of time at a stretch and assiduously. He had a phenomenal memory and his mind was as sharp as a razor. He had exceptional virtues and very soon he gained a brilliant reputation and was well-known.

After some time, he settled down and was appointed as the rav of the city of Brody. His name is admired for generations; indeed, he is the awesome gaon Rabbeinu Shlomoh Kluger zt”l (1785-1869), who was amongst the greatest of his generation and his classic works serve as a foundation stone when forming halachic opinions.

Let us imagine for just one moment what would have happened had the Dubno Maggid continued on his way and not given a moment’s notice to the blind father and his son. They would have continued to the soup kitchen and nothing about the plight would have changed. We would have lost one of the generations greatest! Likewise, we must consider what would have happened had Batya ignored Moshe in the basket?

This is the power of just one moment of paying attention!

Each one of us has in the home “a Moshe’s basket”. Each child has a potential to be great and a leader of Yisrael. We have no idea what future awaits him. But he requires a moment of attention from his father or mother. That they speak to him a  good word, offer encouragement, provide the opportunity for self-worth to materialise, and to establish for them a good intention to be one of the chachamim and generation’s greats.

If we would only know to reach out - like Batya, or to open our hand [in kindness] - like the Dubno Maggid, then we will reap the feelings of nachat from our children and offspring, and as such, all the their merits [from mitzvot] for future generations will be attributed to our credit.

Shabbat Shalom!

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