My name is Lauren, and I am so pleased to be able to share my Dvar Torah with you, this Shabbat morning.
When any major event takes place in our lives, or really before anything important can happen, first one usually needs to prepare for it.
Whether it is studying for an exam, training before running a marathon, or even simple things, like shopping before cooking.
It is clear, that usually without preparation, sometimes physical, sometimes emotional, and sometimes preparation that needs both, we cant succeed in our lives, without preparing.
Today, celebrating my Bat Mitzvah with you, I have done many emotional and physical preparations, like my lessons to help me learn my dvar torah and my spiritual journey to understand what it means to become a Bat Mitzvah – a young adult, now responsible, for my behaviour and actions.
Today, is the Shabbat before Pesach – Shabbat Hagadol – the Grand Shabbat. It is called the Grand Shabbat, because it used to be, that the people stayed in shul, for the longest period of time, learning all the laws of Pesach in order to know how to prepare for the chag.
All this preparation, made me think, about how the Jewish people, were able to leave Egypt, in the middle of the night, with really no preparation at all. Then leave the land that they had inhabited, for over 200 years. And we know, that in this rush, they had no time, to let the dough rise, to make bread. That is one of the reasons, we will be eating Matzah, for the next 8 days.
It takes me forever, to get all my stuff ready for school, in the morning. So how did they manage, to pack up, and leave without weeks, or months of notice?
To explain how that happened, let me tell you the story, of 3 remarkable women. The story is written, throughout the Book of Shemot, and reaches its climax, right here, and right now, at the Chag of Pesach.
We know, that the Hero, in the book of Shemot, is Moshe Rabeinu - Moses our leader. It is written about him in the Torah, that he was the most humblest, of all people, ever to have lived. Yet at the same time, he was also known, as the greatest leader.
The courageous women, we are going to look at today, all, had a major part to play, in the making of Moses. They also played, a major part, in the redemption that we are going to celebrate, during Pesach.
Firstly, let me introduce Yocheved. She was the wife of Amram, and the mother of 3 Children, that were to become, the greatest leaders of the Jewish people – Miriam, Aaron and Moses himself. It was Yocheved, who at the height of the Egyptian persecution, had the courage, to have a child, hide him for 3 months. Then device a plan to have him rescued.
She is also mentioned in the Torah, by the name of Shifra.
She was one of the two midwives, that really frustrated Paraoh, by fearing G-d, more than fearing his instructions, to kill every Jewish baby boy. She escaped punishment, and continued to save lives, by constructing, an ingenious cover story. She told Parao, that the Jewish women, deliver their babies, so quickly, that by the time, she and the other midwife arrived, it was too late, and the babies were already born.
What I learn from Yocheved is bravery, and resourcefulness. Not just bravery and courage, for her own family, and those close to her, but for the Jewish people at large. She was guided, by her maternal quality, of caring. Her strength of character, lead to the saving of many hundreds of baby boys, and ensuring the continuity of the Israelites.
The second woman, I want to talk about, is actually Yocheved’s daughter - Miriam.
Miriam, was Moshe’s elder sister. She kept watch over him, as his wicker basket, floated over the river nile.
Miriam is mentioned, in many different situations, both before the redemption, and afterwards when the Jewish people were in the desert.
Miriam, was just a six year old little girl, when she approached Pharao’s daughter, on the banks of the river nile. She suggested, that Moshe be nursed, by a Hebrew woman.
We encounter her fearlessness, even before that incident. It was when she challenged her father, Amram, over his decision, that no more children be born, after pharaoh’s decree, of killing every Jewish baby boy. She told her father:’ your decree, is even worse than Parao’s, as his affects only the boys, but yours, affects the girls too. Amram listened, to his daughter, and his son Moses, was born, soon after that.
Miriam, is also known as Puah, in the Torah, and the second midwife, mentioned, alongside her mother Yocheved.
Puah, comes from the word cooing – she was the one who sang lullabies, to the babies they rescued.
Miriam, is also the one who told the women to take tambourines, and musical instruments, when leaving Egypt.
She knew deep in her heart, that very soon, it will be a time of thanksgiving, to Hashem. She wanted the women, to come prepared and have instruments, to be able to join together, in music and song, and give praise, for being saved, from the slavery, in Egypt.
What I learn from Miriam, is faith in Hashem. From when she was just a little girl, she knew, that it was not Pharaoh who ran the world. All her brave acts of heroism, like speaking up to her father, instructing the daughter of the king, and telling the women, what to take with them, when leaving Egypt, all came from one, and the same source. Her faith in Hashem. Her faith was so strong, and steadfast, that it guided her, on a journey of heroism and bravery.
The final woman, I will mention today, is the most intriguing, of them all. It’s pharaoh’s daughter. How does one defy, one’s own father, the mighty king, and rescue an Israelite child, and bring it up as her own, in the very palace, where her father, was plotting, the destruction of the Jews. Could we imagine, the daughter of Hitler, doing the same?
There is something, so inspiring, and so gracious, about this woman, the woman, who gave Moshe his name.
The Torah, actually does not reveal her name when telling us about this part of history. However, in the First book of Chronicles, there is a mention, to a daughter of Pharaoh, named Bitya, and it was she, that sages identified, as the woman, that saved Moshe, and actually named him.
The name Bitya, means the daughter of G_d. The sages teach us, the following very important lesson :’Hashem said to her: Moses was not your son, yet you called him your son. You are not my daughter, yet I will call you my daughter.
From Bitya, I learn, that when things, happen around me, I have a choice – I can either, ignore it, and continue with my own life, or, I can make a difference of Tikkun Olam – healing of the world. Bitya, by just stretching out her arm, to try, and save a little baby boy, made a difference, to the history, of the Jewish people. So, the lesson I have been taught by her, is that by even a small act, one of reaching out to another, I can achieve great things and make a difference to the world.
Neither Yocheved, Miriam or Bitya, held official positions, or positions of leadership. Yet, they were leaders in their own right, because they had courage and conscience. They knew right from wrong and refused to be intimidated or defeated by what was happening around them.
These women, together with the faith of so many other women in their generation, set the wheels in motion, with both physical and spiritual preparations that lead to the possibility of the huge event of the exodus of Egypt.
It is clear who the real heroes of the exodus were and who’s efforts Hashem was rewarding. The courage of the women is still a source of inspiration today and leaves me with the desire to be able to follow in their footsteps and give Nachat to my friends family and the whole community.