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Parshat Va-Era

By: Mrs Malka Hubscher

Our Parsha begins in the middle of a conversation between Moshe and Hashem. At the end of Shemot, Moshe questions G-d's intentions in sending him to 'redeem' the people if life has only gotten worse for the Jews since Moshe's arrival. Through the four 'leshonot' of Geula, G-d teaches Moshe the important lesson of patience. Redemption is a process, it comes in stages and G-d's ultimate plan will triumph even if man can understand the details as they play out in history.  G-d reiterates his command to Moshe and Aaron to go speak to Paroh and demand that he sets the Jews free.

After the conversation between G-d and Moshe ends, the Torah digresses and begins a genealogical listing of the Shevatim and their descendants. At first this text seems to be an almost exact repetition of Beresheit 46 where all the 70 descendants of Yaakov are listed as they journey down to Egypt. Reuven and Shimon and Levi are enumerated together with their descendants and then the Torah suddenly ends the listing when Moshe and Aaron, the sons of Levi are mentioned and the Torah resumes its regular narration of the drama of Jews in Egypt.

Why is this genealogical listing necessary here? Why only list the first three Shevatim? Why does the text end with Moshe and Aaron.

Rashi addresses this question in his comment on 6:14. He explains that the Torah's primary motivation was to tell the lineage of Moshe and Aaron. However, it may be perceived as a lack of respect to Reuven and Shimon to begin only at Shevet Levi. Every genealogical listing in the Torah always begins with Reuven, Shimon etc. Once Moshe and Aaron are mentioned there is no real need to continue on the other tribes born after Levi and so the Torah just ends the listing of Levi.  Rashi offers an additional explanations specifically these three tribes who were harshly rebuked by Yaackov before his death and therefore to reinforce their stature and importance the Torah reiterates their lineage as if to reiterate that despite their failings they are still legitimate Tribes of Am Yisrael.

In his perush, Rav S. R. Hirsch explains the strange placement of the genealogical list here specifically in the middle of our parsh.  Up until this point, Moshe has essentially been unsuccessful at his mission to free the Jews from slavery. The people have lost their faith in him and Paroh has only made life more miserable for the Jews. Immediately after the above mentioned conversation between Hashem and Moshe the winds begin to turn. The makot begin, the strong hand of G-d is apparent and the Egyptian downfall begins. It is precisely at this point when the Torah digresses to affirm Moshe "absolute human origin." Although Moshe performs many miracles and the greatest leader to ever live, he is a human none the less surrounded by a father, mother, siblings and cousins.

The greatness of Moshe lies in the fact that he was an ordinary human being, not a god or a angle. He was chosen for his sincerity, humility and leadership abilities. It is precisely these human qualities in Moshe that make him a role model and inspiration to all generation of Jewish leaders.




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