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Parashat Bo: In Memory of Sgt. Major David Schwartz, z’l, who fell in Gaza Defending Israel

 It took a coordinated, national effort for the Children of Israel to successfully leave Egypt. Moshe did not act alone. Rabbi David Golinkin reminds us that unity is the most important step towards realizing our national goals.   

This Dvar Torah is dedicated to the memory of Sergeant Major David Schwartz, z”l, the son of our Bible Lecturer, Dr. Sarah Schwartz. He, unfortunately, was killed in action in Gaza last week. Yehi Zikhro Barukh! – May his memory be a blessing!

My Dvar Torah was inspired by something I heard from our graduate Rabbi Amirit Rosen last Shabbat at Kehillat Moreshet Avraham in Jerusalem.

If you ask anyone who took the Jewish People out of Egypt, the answer would be obvious: God.

If you ask which human being or beings took them out of Egypt, the answer would also be obvious: Moshe Rabbeinu. Moses, after all, is mentioned 770 times in the Bible, I think more than any other person mentioned in the Bible.

גַּ֣ם הָאִ֣ישׁ מֹשֶׁ֗ה גָּד֤וֹל מְאֹד֙ בְּאֶ֣רֶץ מִצְרַ֔יִם בְּעֵינֵ֥י עַבְדֵֽי־פַרְעֹ֖ה וּבְעֵינֵ֥י הָעָֽם׃

“Moreover, Moses himself was very great in the land of Egypt, in the eyes of Pharaoh’s servants and in the eyes of the people.”

And in Rabbinic literature, in Nedarim folio 38a:

.אֵין הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא מַשְׁרֶה שְׁכִינָתוֹ אֶלָּא עַל גִּבּוֹר וְעָשִׁיר וְחָכָם וְעָנָיו, וְכוּלָּן מִמֹּשֶׁה

“God only rests his presence on a person who is a hero and wealthy and wise and modest — and all of those attributes were found in Moshe.”

However, at second glance, Moshe Rabbeinu did not act alone. And without the work and assistance of many other people, the Jewish people would not have been redeemed from Egypt.

Thus, we read for example, in the beginning of the book of Shemot (Exodus), that Shifra and Puah, the two midwives of the Jewish people, refused to murder the Jewish boys at the order of Pharaoh.

Then we read that Yocheved, Moshe’s mother, saved him from the decree, hid him for three months and then put him in a basket in the Nile River in order to save him.

His sister Miriam, then hid close by וַתֵּתַצַּ֥ב אֲחֹת֖וֹ מֵרָחֹ֑ק לְדֵעָ֕ה מַה־יֵּעָשֶׂ֖ה לֽוֹ׃ “And his sister stationed herself at a distance, to learn what would befall him.”

Then Pharaoh’s daughter spots Moshe in the Nile and saves him.

Later, Reuel, also known as Yitro, helped Moses on numerous occasions in the Book of Shemot.

Furthermore, ואהרן אחיך יהיה נביאך — “Aaron your brother will be your prophet.” His brother Aaron was his spokesperson because Moshe was “kevad peh,” had difficulty speaking.

Tzipporah, his wife, saved him on the way back from Midian to Egypt when she performs circumcision on their two sons.

Then Moshe comes back to Egypt and meets with זקני ישראל, the Elders of the Jewish People, and they immediately support him in his efforts to free the Jewish people.

Finally, ויאמן העם – the Jewish people itself believed Moses and went along with his plans to save the Jewish people.

All of this is summarized very succinctly in a few famous verses found in Kohelet (Ecclesiastes, 4: 9-12):

טוֹבִ֥ים הַשְּׁנַ֖יִם מִן־הָאֶחָ֑ד

כִּ֣י אִם־יִפֹּ֔לוּ הָאֶחָ֖ד יָקִ֣ים אֶת־חֲבֵר֑וֹ

.וְאִ֣יל֗וֹ הָֽאֶחָד֙ שֶׁיִּפּ֔וֹל וְאֵ֥ין שֵׁנִ֖י לַהֲקִימֽוֹ

וְאִֽם־יִתְקְפוֹ֙ הָאֶחָ֔ד הַשְּׁנַ֖יִם יַעַמְד֣וּ נֶגְדּ֑וֹ

וְהַחוּט֙ הַֽמְשֻׁלָּ֔שׁ לֹ֥א בִמְהֵרָ֖ה יִנָּתֵֽק׃

“Two are better than one,

for should they fall, one can raise the other;

but woe to one who is alone and falls with no companion to raise him!…

Also, if one is attacks, two can stand up to him.

a three-fold cord is not readily broken, i.e. a cord with three different strands tied together.”

Of course, we all know the saying found in two places in the Talmud כל ישראל ערבים זה בזה — “All Jews are responsible for one another.”

Later, in the 16th century, the ‘Ari’, Rabbi Yitzhak Luria, reworked that idea in his explanation of the confession of sins in Yom Kippur. “Why is the confession, ‘Vidui’, couched in the plural? Because all Israel is one body, and every Jew is a member of that body. Hence follows mutual responsibility among all its members.” (Rabbi Joseph Hertz, The Authorized Daily Prayer Book, p. 906)

Since the war began on October 7th, we have seen that the Jewish people in Israel and the Diaspora— the Jewish people throughout the world — have internalized this message.

In the State of Israel, there are literally millions of people helping other people: picking crops, giving food to soldiers, hosting evacuated families, giving food and help to evacuees, and helping and supporting families of the kidnapped.

And there are millions of Jews in the Diaspora helping the State of Israel: 290,000 people demonstrated in Washington, D.C. on November 14th; over $700 million have been raised by the Jewish Federations of North America for Israel; Jews throughout the world are sending equipment to Israeli soldiers; and there is a steady stream of volunteers and missions to Israel.

I think that all of this is succinctly summarized in a beautiful passage in the Tractate Ta’anit, folio 11a:

תַּנְיָא אִידַּךְ: בִּזְמַן שֶׁהַצִּבּוּר שָׁרוּי בְּצַעַר, אַל יֹאמַר אָדָם: אֵלֵךְ לְבֵיתִי, וְאוֹכַל וְאֶשְׁתֶּה וְשָׁלוֹם עָלַיִךְ נַפְשִׁי…. אֶלָּא, יְצַעֵר אָדָם עִם הַצִּבּוּר…וְכׇל הַמְצַעֵר עַצְמוֹ עִם הַצִּבּוּר — זוֹכֶה וְרוֹאֶה בְּנֶחָמַת צִבּוּר.

“It is taught in a Baraita: At a time when the community is in trouble, a person should not say, ‘I will go home, and I will eat and I will drink and everything will be fine’… rather he should afflict himself with the community…and whoever afflicts himself with the community, will live to see the comfort of the community.”

Therefore, we hope and pray that this Jewish unity will continue and that, with the help of the Jews of Israel and the Jews of the Diaspora working together, we will win this war, free the hostages, and bring peace to the State of Israel.


Shavua Tov from Schechter!

David Golinkin is President of The Schechter Institutes, Inc. and President Emeritus of the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies. For twenty years he served as Chair of the Va’ad Halakhah (Law Committee) of the Rabbinical Assembly which gives halakhic guidance to the Masorti Movement in Israel. He is the founder and director of the Institute of Applied Halakhah at Schechter and also directs the Center for Women in Jewish Law. Rabbi Professor Golinkin made aliyah in 1972, earning a BA in Jewish History and two teaching certificates from The Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He received an MA in Rabbinics and a PhD in Talmud from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America where he was also ordained as Rabbi. For a complete bio click here.

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