Weekly Reading Insights: 



From The Masters Of Kabbalah and Chumash (5 Books of Moses)

13th century - "RambaN" - Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman

14th century - "Bachya" - Rabbi Bachya ben Asher

16th century - "Alsheich" - Rabbi Moshe Alshech of Tsfat

17th century - "Shelah" - Rabbi Yeshaiya Horowitz

18th century - "Ohr HaChayim" - Rabbi Chaim Ben Attar


"And they shall say unto me: What is His name? What shall I say unto them?" [3:13]

This name [Eh'yeh Asher Eh'yeh] does contain the answer to Moses' question of G-d as we have explained it to you. Namely, that Moses asked by what Divine attribute is his mission to them, whether with the attribute of E-il Sha-dai which stood by the patriarchs, or with the high attribute of mercy with which signs and wonders, new phenomena in creation, will be done to speed their redemption. He informed Moses that he is being sent to them with the attribute of justice, which is within the attribute of mercy, suggesting that the miracles which will be done on behalf of their deliverance from the bondage will at the same time be acts of judgment against the Egyptians. This is the sense of Eh'yeh Asher Eh'yeh: "I will be in judgment that which I will be in mercy."
And then G-d said to Moses "Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel: Eh'yeh sent me unto you", thus teaching the unity [of the two attributes, which explains why the Divine Name is not mentioned here twice].
It is for this reason that G-d commanded Moses yet further "Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel: The Eternal...hath sent me unto you" for this Name, [i.e., the Tetragrammaton] indicates the attribute of mercy, and thus they will know "that He hath caused His glorious arm to go at the right hand of Moses" [Isaiah 63:12] and He will make new signs and wonders in the world. Thus G-d explained to Moses that the Name Eh'yeh which He commanded him to tell the children of Israel corresponds to this Great Name [the Tetragrammaton] and that they are alike in language, [as both signify eternal existence], and in letters, for the two final letters of the first Name [Eh'yeh] constitute the first ones in the Tetragrammaton. And may the Holy One, blessed be He, show us wonders in His Torah.


Rabbeinu Bachya

"..and Moses was a shepherd…." [3:1]

A kabbalistic approach to our verse: The Torah writes: 'and Moses had been a shepherd' instead of 'Moses became a shepherd'. When the Torah described Hevel's occupation it also wrote 'Hevel became a shepherd.' This is a hint that Moses was a reincarnation of Hevel; hence the Torah could write that Moses had been a shepherd (once before in another incarnation), instead of simply 'he tended sheep, etc.' We have mentioned earlier that Moses (as the reincarnate of Hevel) had been destined to slay the Egyptian who represented the brute force of Kayin (compare 2:12) and this is why the Torah mentioned here "the flame of fire". [the author refers to a theory that when G-d accepted Hevel's sacrifice Hevel looked at the heavenly fire to understand the phenomenon. This had been sinful and led to his death by murder at the hands of Kayin. Ed] Moses, his reincarnation, had learned the lesson not to look.



"He went a man from the House of Levi and he married a daughter of Levi." [2:1]

The word 'he went' in this verse is superfluous. The Talmud (Sotah 11) explains it to mean that Amram (Moses' father), went after his daughter's advice. She, Miriam, had accused him of being harsher than Pharaoh, who wanted to kill only male Jews, whereas divorcing wives would lead to cessation of Jewish continuity altogether. What may have persuaded Amram are considerations such as are expressed in the Zohar (Vayeshev). The tzadik can perform miracles with relative ease, by manipulating the 4 basic elements earth, fire, water, and wind, since those are not subject to the exercise of free will. When man is involved however, it is far more difficult to work a miracle, since G-d does not brook interference with free will. As long as Pharaoh's attempts to kill Jewish babies were channeled through human agents, i.e. creatures equipped with free will, Amram considered it futile to have children. Now, that the decree to kill Jewish baby boys was subject to the action of one of the basic elements, i.e. the river, he could imagine that a miracle would save such babies. Hence, he agreed to re-marry. His demonstration of such faith resulted in his 130 year old wife becoming pregnant. The Torah hints at such a miracle by calling Yocheved bat, daughter.



The word "gedula" (meaning "greatness", also hinted to in the above verse) refers to the tower of Babel, with Moses' speech impediment being equivalent to the confusion of language at that time. His being placed in the basket smeared with clay is reminiscent of the clay used to make the bricks for the tower of Babel. His being cooped up without seeing anything in the basket amid the reeds of the Nile River is comparable to the blindness the men of Sodom had been smitten with. The word "nofelet", "was falling" (like "overcame") refers to the destruction of Sodom. By being exposed to water Moses and the Jewish people atoned for the generation of Enoch part of whom were drowned whereas part survived. Every difficulty Moses experienced was in some way a means of atoning for other past generations' shortcomings. Moses' experience in Egypt paralleled that of mankind up to that point, i.e. he suffered to achieve mankind's rehabilitation.


Ohr HaChayim

"G-d said: "I have surely seen the plight of My people in Egypt." [3:7]

Why is the verb "seen" doubled? Why is "in Egypt" stressed? Surely their location is well known. The Torah may have written this phrase in order to demonstrate G-d's identification with the Jews in their suffering. Inasmuch as they were His people, He was part of their suffering.

Another reason why G-d doubles "seen" is that in addition to the suffering of the Jews which G-d had seen, He also saw that there were no more holy souls which had been taken captive by the forces of the "other side" and which were to be rescued by the Jewish people. Seeing that the exile had accomplished also this part of its function, the way was now clear for redemption. Pesachim 119 compares Egypt at the time to a pond which had been drained of fish. There was therefore no point in continuing to angle (for souls) there. Continued residence of the Jews in Egypt could only have counterproductive effects from that time on.



Ramban - credits
Adapted from the 13th century classic by the illustrious scholar, philosopher and defender of the faith, Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman-known as 'RAMBAN' or 'Nachmanides', a master kabbalist in his own right and a major link in the transmission of Jewish mysticism-based on the excellent annotated English translation, Nachmanides on the Torah, by Rabbi Dr. Charles B. Chavel

Bachya - credits
Selected with permission from the seven-volume English edition of The Torah Commentary of Rabbeinu Bachya, as translated and annotated by Eliyahu Munk. Rabbi Bachya ben Asher [1255-1340] of Saragosa, Spain, was the outstanding pupil of Rabbi Shlomo ben Aderet (the "Rashba"), a main disciple of Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman (the "Ramban"). Several books have been written about the Kabballah-based portions of R. Bachya's commentary.

Alsheich - credits
Adapted from Torat Moshe - the 16th commentary of Rabbi Moshe Alshech, the "Preacher of Zefat" on the Torah, as translated and condensed in the English version of Eliyahu Munk)

Shelah - credits
Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz was born in Prague around the year 1565. He served as Rabbi of Cracow and other congregations before he was appointed as the Rabbi of the community of Frankfurt on Main in the year 1610. In 1916, Rabbi Horowitz moved to Prague where he became the Chief Rabbi of the city. He moved to Eretz Yisrael about 1621. He was rabbi in Jerusalem and in Tiberias, where he died in or about 1630. In addition to his magnus opus, Shenei Luchot HaBrit, he also compiled an edition of the prayer-book with a comprehensive commentary. Many of his innovations, including his formulation of the Kol Nidrei prayer, have become part and parcel of the Ashkenazi Siddur.

Ohr HaChayim - credits
Selected with permission from the five-volume English edition of Ohr HaChaim: the Torah Commentary of Rabbi Chaim Ben Attar, as translated and annotated by Eliyahu Munk.
The holy Rabbi Chayim ben Moses Attar was born in Sale, Western Morocco, on the Atlantic in 1696. His immortal commentary on the Five Books Of Moses, Or Hachayim, was printed in Venice in 1741, while the author was on his way to the Holy Land. He acquired a reputation as a miracle worker, hence his title "the holy," although some apply this title only to his Torah commentary.

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