Amongst the unsung heroes of the Jewish people are Shifra and Puah. Despite the genocidal decrees of the Egyptian regime against Jewish newborns, these two unknown women risked their lives to save the lives of others. This is all the more remarkable according to those commentaries that claim that Shifra and Puah were non-Jews, and thus, the first of the Righteous Gentiles.
“And Moshe was frightened and he said, behold the incident is known. And Pharaoh heard about the affair and he sought to kill Moshe” (Shemot 2:14-15). How did Moshe's killing of an Egyptian become public knowledge? Did not Moshe “look this way and that way” and see “that there was no man” (Shemot 2:12)? While it is possible that Moshe simply failed to notice some passing Egyptian, such an interpretation seems highly unlikely. If the Torah tells us that he looked and saw no one, it is most likely that there was no one to see.
What a difference 59 years can make. Despite Yaakov's insistence to be buried in Israel, "Yosef dwelt in Egypt, he and his father's household" (Breisheet 50:22). Whether he continued in his role of Viceroy of Egypt or retired from political life, the Torah does not say. Nonetheless, it does appear Yosef did have time to enjoy his old age at ease, spending precious time with his family. "Yosef saw Ephraim's grandchildren, and the children of Menashe's son Machir were also born on Yosef's lap" (Breisheet 50:23).
In today's world of the 30-second soundbite, good oratory skills are a necessary ingredient for any aspiring politician. Good politicians are often able to talk themselves out of difficult positions spouting half truths, equivocations, and at times, outright lies. A good politician knows how to talk without saying anything. Yet the greatest political leader of all time, Moshe Rabbeinu was a kvad peh vkvad lashon, a stammerer. He was also Moshe Emmet, the man of truth who could tolerate no falsehood.
"And these are the names of the sons of Israel who came to Egypt". The above verse serves as the opening to the second book of the Torah, setting the background to Jewish life in Egypt. One would also be correct in stating that the above verse is taken from parshat Vayigash, listing those who came to Egypt. In other words, the opening of verse of Shemot appears most redundant, adding no new information to the story of the Jewish people.
"And he saw an Egyptian man hitting a Hebrew of his brothers" (2:11). To the slave in Egypt, being beaten up by our tormentors was the norm, and the Jewish people--having no recourse or justice--suffered in silence. Moshe's act of fighting back on behalf of some "lowly" slave was shocking for those immersed in Egyptian culture, and it nearly cost him his life.
“And Moshe was tending to the sheep of his father-in-law, Yitro the priest of Midian...and an angel of G-d appeared to Moshe” (3:1-2). Apparently, there is a connection between Moshe tending sheep and G-d appearing to him with the charge to redeem the Jewish people from Egypt. Rashi notes that Moshe tended the flock “on the edge of the desert”, so that there would be no possibility of the sheep grazing in the fields of others. This ethical refinement was the necessary ingredient for G-d to choose him as the leader, redeemer and teacher of the Jewish people.
Sefer Shemot, literally, “book of names”, seems to be a misnomer for our Parsha. (Rabbinic writings often refer to it as “book of redemption".) While the Torah lists the names of the 12 sons of Jacob who came to Egypt with their families, the Jewish people quickly became a nameless and faceless people; something that, in all likelihood, contributed to their eventual slavery. While numerous, there were apparently no outstanding leaders worthy of mention.