By Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss
The Alshich HaKodesh, the Holy Alshich, Zt”l, Zy”a, asks a penetrating and fascinating question. When Moshe Rabbeinu was born, Yocheved was frightened that the Egyptian death squads would confiscate him and throw him in the Nile. The Torah informs us that she constructed a little ark made from bulrushes; she coated it with mortar and pitch and put it in the reeds at the Nile’s edge. The commentators first point out that the reason she used bulrushes was not only because it was durable, pliable and lightweight, but also because it was the perfect camouflage to blend in with the reeds at the edge of the Nile. Her plan, in putting Moshe there, was two-fold. Firstly, the last place they would look for him would be in the Nile itself. Secondly, she hoped that by putting him in the Nile, the Egyptian astrologers would see in the stars that the Jewish savior was already drowned and therefore they would cancel the decree to drown the babies. (This was what actually did occur.) Little did she realize that Hashem would cause the ark to float out 400 cubits so that the daughter of Paroh would discover and retrieve him, and raise him royally in the palace of Paroh.
Now, here is the question of the Alshich: the Torah is very specific in informing us that it was Yocheved herself who built the ark, coated it, and took it, dodging the Egyptian killers, and placed it in the reeds. Where was Amram, her husband, the Godol HaDor? Why didn’t he help in the ark’s construction? After all, that’s more a man’s thing rather than the job of Yocheved who was 130 years old at the time. Why didn’t Amram do the very risky exercise of putting Moshe in the Nile, an action that could have gotten Yocheved arrested and worse? It’s a powerful question, but his answer is even better than the question.
The Alshich explains that Amram’s wife Yocheved was also the midwife, Shifra, who defied Paroh and saved the Jewish babies. Amram wanted that the hand that saved the Jewish babies should construct the ark and place Moshe Rabbeinu into the Nile. He felt that those hands had a special merit and were more likely to deserve saving their son.
What a lesson! Yocheved had what we call in Yiddish gebentchta henteh, blessed hands. There is a Chassidic custom that when a chossid opens up a store or a business, he asks the Rebbe to come and put up the mezuzah. I wondered about the custom. After all, the Gemora says, “Mitzvah bo yoser mi b’shluchoh – The mitzvah is more upon the one who has the responsibility than upon his agent.” Since the store owner has the requirement, isn’t it preferable that he should put up the mezuzah? However, in light of this Alschich, we can understand this custom. The Rebbe’s hand that saves people with his blessings and care are especially suited to put up the mezuzah which protects and saves the occupants of the store or home.
This teaching has broad applications. Our sustenance is referred to in the Gemora as maaseh yodai’im, our handiwork. If we stretch out our hands often to give charity, it is more likely that those hands will prosper in making a livelihood. On the other hand (no pun intended), if we strike our child unfairly or we decline a poor person’s overtures, then our hands are certainly not blessed. The hands of a mother that lovingly bathes a child and prepares the food for Shabbos, while thinking holy thoughts, and sets out her husbands clothes with feelings of endearment, those hands are invested with special powers.
This concept, is of course not relegated to the hand. Feet that walk multiple times on Shabbos, to shul and shiurim. Ears that listen to lectures, or to the troubles of the lonely, the childless, the sick. A mouth that speaks warmly and soothingly to loved ones, that davens with concentration and speaks about the Holy Torah, and that sings zemiros on Shabbos. These orfices and limbs have special powers. May Hashem bless us that we should be able to supercharge our 248 limbs and in that merit we should be blessed with long life, good health, and everything wonderful.
Please learn and daven for the refuah sheleima of Miriam Liba bas Devorah, b’soch shaar cholei Yisroel.
Sheldon Zeitlin takes dictation of, and edits, Rabbi Weiss’s articles.
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