Parsha Shemot Rabbi Fishel Todd

Moses grew up went amongst his people and observed their burdens… (2:11)

The Torah records little about the early life of Moses. By the time he ‘stood before Pharaoh’ he was already 80 years old (7:7): and entering the last third of his life.

What is recorded develops with three incidents where he firmly and effectively applies the principles of leadership and social justice. These bring out the vital characteristics Moses needed to do his life’s work. That was to found the Israelites as distinct people: a ‘holy nation’ (19:6). It was his task to deliver and enforce the message of G-d. That would determine the precise terms of their being able to be, and continue as, a ‘holy nation’.

Rabbi FIshel Todd
Rabbi Fishel Todd

These leadership features are within the fabric of the stories. He needed courage, and at the same time discretion: when he saw the Egyptian beating the Hebrew ‘he looked this way and that way and saw no man. He struck the Egyptian…’ (2:12) There was courage, and yet discretion. He was no more sympathetic to the Hebrew who was beating a fellow Hebrew (2:13). There was consistency in justice; not one law for insiders and another for outsiders. He intervened on behalf of Jethro’s daughters, who were being unfairly elbowed and shoveled by the brawny shepherds to the back the queue (2:17). Might was not to conquer right. And he also knew his place in the hierarchy. He was given seemingly impossible orders by G-d to put the Exodus in motion. He did not fear to voice his gravest doubts and ask for help, but still placed himself in G-d’s hands (4:10-18).

Rabbi Fishel Todd These qualities balanced humility before the Creator with the vital qualities of leadership, justice, determination, and impartiality needed to win the confidence and command of the nation.

Yet there is one thing that is missing from the account. That is Moses previous experience as a leader of an important division of the Egyptian army, for Pharaoh. There are records (both in the Midrash and in Josephus, as well as a passing hint in ‘the Ethiopian wife that Moses married’ – Num. 12:1), but the text is silent about Moses’ previous successful campaign on behalf of Pharaoh on the southern border of the Egypt against the people of Ethiopia.

The reason for the silence could be as follows. It is to teach that new tasks are precisely that. Some values – humility before G-d, courage, determination, and social justice are applicable to all situations. Others are counterproductive. Indeed many people who transfer positions in life are unsuccessful because they will not learn the job afresh. They just put ditto marks and say: ‘It’s one more job, it should (and it better had) be like the last place’.

Moses knew that. The Israelites were not the Egyptian army. They were a very difficult group of people who did not have Pharaoh’s backing in carrying out Moses’ orders. His previous experience was not only irrelevant, but potentially counterproductive – had he led the Israelites as though it was an army, he would have failed.

Instead – it was back to the drawing board – with the burning bush.



Rabbi Fishel Todd A new king arose over Egypt who did not know Joseph. He said to his people: ‘Behold! The children of Israel are too many and too mighty for us…’ So they appointed taskmasters over them in order to afflict them with their work… (1:8-11)

The text relates how the rapidly-grown Israelite population in Egypt was frightening the host population. On one hand, their loyalty to Pharaoh and Egypt was beginning to become suspect. On the other, they were too useful a sub-group for Pharaoh to be permitted to leave the country.

The Ohr HaChayim translates the word mi-menu ‘from us’. He suggests that the words Pharaoh used to incite his population against the Israelites were: ‘The children of Israel are too many and too mighty – and that came from us – the Egyptians’. In other words: ‘They flourished at our expense – by taking advantage of our hospitality during and after the famine (c.f. Gen. 47:21,27). And now is the time to take back what really belongs to our own people’.

No mention of it being Joseph’s wisdom that kept them alive. Had Joseph not organized the Egyptian land, finance (and effectively become the first Israelite banker), and grain reserves, they would have no longer been around. As they themselves declared generations ago: ‘It is you that has kept us alive’ (Gen. 47:25).

This aspect of selective memory shows how it is possible to put together a series of facts each not necessarily false, but when joined together give a picture that is an entire distortion of the truth. It is that principle which has been the basis of much anti-Semitism ever since. When they were needed, the Jews were treated well. When it was in the national interests to treat them with suspicion or dispense with them completely, the selective memory came into play.

And further light on this subtle form of anti-Semitism is shown in the story of the conflict between the shepherds of Isaac with the shepherds of Gerar (the host population) over the well that Isaac’s servants had dug. (Remember that the Patriarchs had lots of sheep and cattle, with local water shortages keeping them on the move until towards the end of Jacob’s life when the lack of water made them move down to Egypt.)

Rabbi Fishel Todd
Rabbi Fishel Todd

As the text states:

Isaac’s servants dug in the valley. They found a well of fresh water. The servants of Gerar quarreled with the servants of Isaac saying: ‘The water belongs to us’ (Gen. 26:19-20).

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch observes that Isaac’s servants supplied the initiative labor, but King Abimelech’s servants – the servants of Gerar – claimed that the water was theirs. He emphasizes that ‘the enterprise and the work was yours, but the products are ours’ is the part of the mechanics of anti-Semitism. Even when there would have been no water at all, but for the initiative of Isaac’s servants…

Similarly with Pharaoh and the Israelites – ‘the initiative for saving us was theirs, but the benefits are all ours…’

Haftorah Shemos

“So in an obscure speech and a foreign tongue they [the prophets] speak to this nation. But who will say to them, ‘This is transquility, bestow it to the weary, this is inner happiness!’–for they do not want to listen.” (Isaiah 27:11-12)

Rabbi Fishel Todd Picture for a moment the life of the Jew in seventeenth century Europe. He is shut out from most occupations; he lives in a walled-in ghetto area. He is always in danger of attack from the Gentiles who surround him, and who have been known in the past to attack and plunder his community on one pretext or another. When he travels outside the ghetto walls, he is eyed with mistrust by the non-Jews, who feel no affinity with him.

But within the home! There we find another scenario. There is found peace and harmony. On the Shabbos, the candles bestow their glow over a home transformed and infused with the radiance of the holy Shabbos day. The old, faded bookshelves hold the precious, worn out sefarim over which the man pores late into the night. There in the home the Jew may find respite from all the hardships, all the travails which await him outside. “This is tranquility, bestow it to the weary, this is inner happiness!” The sanctity-filled life which the Jew led made all the difficulties bearable; indeed, through it he was even able to find cheer and inner peace, despite the obstacles which the world heaped before him.

Rabbi Fishel Todd Now let us shift the scene and envision this man’s einekle (descendent) two centuries hence. The walls of the ghetto have come tumbling down, the world lies invitingly before him. Intoxicated with the spirit of the new era, our friend has drunk deeply of the world’s culture. He is a man of taste. He can rub shoulders with the highest born and the urbane sophisticates. On a shelf at home he possesses a fine bound copy of Mendelsohn’s Biur, the commentary of the Pentateuch written in classic, flowing German. The book has gathered quite a bit of dust from years of sitting usused on the shelf. For the Torah, though translated now into the rich cadences of the German tongue, has ceased to speak his language. “In an obscure speech and a foreign tongue they speak to this nation.” The Torah’s teachings fail to resonate in the ear of our newly Enlightened friend.

Rabbi Fishel Todd
Rabbi Fishel Todd

If we find that the Torah’s words don’t strike true in our own hearts, then we must look within ourselves. These same words provided solace to countless of our ancestors in generations past; if they now appear to be foreign ideas, then it can only be we who have distanced ourselves. Hashem’s teachings are tailor-made especially for us; they alone contain the key which can enable us to truly understand ourselves. It is our job to relearn the language.

Rabbi Fishel Todd


16 Replies to “Parsha Shemot Rabbi Fishel Todd”

  1. Hello! First time seeing your article but its obvious you write so well and Inform deeply. It was a beautiful story, I enjoyed reading it. This has really changed for how I see some of these verses from the Bible. It was great to learn a few things about Hebrew. Really great read

  2. Reading articles that are very helpful makes it very much easier for us to go about our endeavors, I love your articles, they are very insightful and they are of good information, it has been made known as your works are always very understandable and straight forward. It’s good we can translate

  3. Hello there, thank you so much for sharing this. this is a very awesome piece and a very detailed one. I’m really happy I came across this.  Reading about this article parsha shemot rabbi fishel todd sounds really exciting. Going through this article was indeed informative and helpful. It was an eye opener for me. I enjoyed reading every bit of this article 

  4. Haha thanks for the article my guy! Ya know, to be completely honest with you, I really don’t know too much about Rabbi Fishel Todd. But, he’s a pretty cool guy! I’m surprised that no one else is talking about him as much as you are. This is information that people should know, and I’m glad you’re creating content on it. 

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  7. The topic gave me a new insight into the history of the Jewish people.  The website is very focused and I am encouraged to return to learn more. It would be nice if the video could be inserted  so that  miscellaneous don’t play and take the viewersfocus into unrelated topics. The site addresses a serious subject and keeping the focus to that would be helpful.

  8. Hello there, Thanks alot for sharing another great study of the word. It’s really nice to always keep the bible in mind. There is always alot to learn from the scriptures and these bible stories. Everyone should have a quiet time where he can study these things. It’s really great to know more about the jewish and hebrew culture too.

  9. What a more advanced and explicit overview of the story of moses and thr pharaoh. This is so much Kore interesting and has given us a lot more to understand and I really appreciate this because all these kind of knowledge do not come easy for understanding at all times. I actually value this here and the things that it entails too. Thank so much for sharing this here with us. 

  10. Thanks again for sharing the amazing insights of Rabbi Fishel Todd with us. I have to say that I believe that we all have the same god. As long as we just trust his teaching and doing good any teaching of any religion is something that I am always be opened minded to learn. I have to say that I leaned a lot about Moses lately thanks to you. 

  11. Hello there! It is always a pleasure to come by your article! Always an interesting read. Thanks for sharing this article with me, Really glad I came by it. There is always a new deep way your article makes me see these biblical stories. I cant explain it. Thanks alot for this piece

  12. Hello there! This is a really well written article. You know, your articles are very unique because I often run into a lot that talk about business and making money. It starts to get a little dry after a while after seeing them multiple of times. This article helps keeps things very interesting and also gives me new knowledge on things. Always good to have some exposure to religion in our daily routine also. Thanks for this post!

  13. It wasn’t until Moises observed his peoples burdens that he realized his calling. But he certainly had a lot of energy and felt he could do things his way. Leaders need to be wise when taking steps. They sometimes need to consider carefully before giving steps and not go with the flow of their feelings.

  14. Thanks a million times for writing about the parsha shemot rabbi fishel Todd, this as changed my view about the Jewish community and there history, although a have been through this story in the Bible, but it never gave more details as this, and I think now am more educated about this.

  15. Hello and thanks for writing about this topic. There is a lot we can learn by reading deeply into the Holy Bible verses, and it seems you’re successful to share your understanding of the particular verses greatly. It’s interesting to learn about Rabbi Fisher Todd and I hope to learn another lesson from you. I hope to see regular updates on your website here. Thanks

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