Growth Spurts

There’s nothing quite like seeing a child’s face when they realize they grew an inch or two since the last time they were measured. Graduating from the highchair to the kitchen table or no longer needing the car seat are momentous and memorable for a child and their family.

Yet there is another type of positive growth as well. This growth comes from inside us and impacts the world around us.

This week we begin the second book of the Torah called Shemot / Exodus and read of the beginnings of our millennia of slavery and ultimate redemption and exodus from Egypt. So significant is this time in history that it has influenced societies for thousands of years forward.

Rabbi Jonathan Sachs z”l wrote, “The story of the exodus has inspired not only Jews. When Oliver Cromwell made the first speech of his parliament, when Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin chose their images for the Great Seal of the United States, when black Americans struggled for civil rights and when South American Catholics shaped their liberation theologies, they chose the model of Moses leading the Israelites towards the promised land.

The entire Exodus was inspired and coordinated by Moses, a young man who was hidden at birth for three months, saved by the daughter of Pharaoh, and grew up in the palace of the King. Yet the Torah states twice “He grew up” in consecutive verses – Why?

Exodus 2:10-11

וַיִּגְדַּ֣ל הַיֶּ֗לֶד וַתְּבִאֵ֙הוּ֙ לְבַת־פַּרְעֹ֔ה וַֽיְהִי־לָ֖הּ לְבֵ֑ן וַתִּקְרָ֤א שְׁמוֹ֙ מֹשֶׁ֔ה וַתֹּ֕אמֶר כִּ֥י מִן־הַמַּ֖יִם מְשִׁיתִֽהוּ׃וַיְהִ֣י בַּיָּמִ֣ים הָהֵ֗ם וַיִּגְדַּ֤ל מֹשֶׁה֙ וַיֵּצֵ֣א אֶל־אֶחָ֔יו וַיַּ֖רְא בְּסִבְלֹתָ֑ם וַיַּרְא֙ אִ֣ישׁ מִצְרִ֔י מַכֶּ֥ה אִישׁ־עִבְרִ֖י מֵאֶחָֽיו׃

When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, who made him her son. She named him Moses, explaining, “I drew him out of the water.” Some time after that, when Moses had grown up, he went out to his brothers and witnessed their labors. 

How does a person grow up twice?

The Malbim, Meir Leibush ben Yehiel Michel Wisser (1809 – 1879) of Eastern Europe explains that the first growth mentioned was physical, and the second growth was when Moses went out to his brothers and felt their struggle and advocated on their behalf. Rabbi Wisser points out the unique display of sensitivity and care by Moses because so often when one is distant and amidst a different class of society, it is common to turn a blind eye and ignore the plight of those in need. 

We will read how Moses not only recognized the misfortune of the Israelites but took up their cause as his own. This is true growth and leadership. This is how Moses became Moshe Rabbeinu – Our Teacher Moshe.

In life we are appropriately concerned and caught up with our own day to day responsibilities and concerns, however, we learn from Moses to look outside of ourselves and care for and stand up for our brothers and sisters in need.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Epstein
Community Scholar in Residence