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Parshat Shemot – Advice from a Child


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nile pyramidPharaoh’s astrologers informed him that a boy would be born who would redeem the Jewish people from Egyptian slavery.  He therefore enacted a new decree that all male newborns would be drowned in the Nile River.  At this point in the story, the Torah tells us that ‘A man went from the house of Levi and married a daughter of Levi.’  This man was Amram.  The ‘daughter of Levi’ was Jochebed.

The Talmud details the interesting background to this marriage.  Amram and Jochebed were previously married.  In fact, they already had two children, Miriam and Aaron.  When Pharaoh legislated this new barbaric decree of killing every newborn male child, Amram decided that it was not worthwhile to continue having children; after all, if a boy would be born, baby boy - From G-dPharaoh’s henchmen would find and kill the baby.  He therefore divorced his wife.  As Amram was the leader of the Jewish people at the time, all the rest of the Jews followed suit and divorced their wives.  Miriam, who at the time was a mere six years old, understood the situation and recognized the obvious outcome of her father’s decision: no more Jewish children.  Disagreeing with her father, she presented him with the following three arguments as to why he should stay married:

  1. Pharaoh’s decree affected only the males, but Amram’s decision affected the girls as well.
  2. Pharaoh’s decree caused the boys to lose out on Olam Hazeh, the physical world, but by preventing their birth, Amram was causing them to also lose out on Olam Habah, the world to come.
  3. Pharaoh was a king of flesh and blood whose decree might not even last, while Amram was ensuring that the decree would endure.

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Chanukah – A Focus on Education


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Greek SoldiersThe Greeks enacted a number of decrees in order to prevent the Jews from practicing Judaism and to encourage them to accept their hedonistic perspective. According to the Midrash, one unusual edict required all Jews to inscribe on the horn of an ox the words, “I renounce my relationship with the God of Israel.” The Midrash explains that this law in particular “darkened the eyes of the Jewish people”.

hornsThe Greeks outlawed keeping Shabbos. They forbade Brit Milah. They wouldn’t allow the Jews to study the Torah. Yet this requirement to write that they have no connection to the God of Israel is what finally “got to” the Jews. Why did they find this particular edict to be so unbearably harsh, so much more than the others? Surely the other decrees were far more severe and really struck at the core of Judaism more than this one. Continue reading Chanukah – A Focus on Education