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January 21, 2017 / 23 Tevet, 5777
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The Redemption

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In the land of Midyan there lived a pagan priest, Yisro, who was greatly respected by his people. He worshiped idols of stone and wood and so did his countrymen.

But Yisro was not a fool. Indeed he was a clever and analytical thinker, and he soon came to the conclusion that his worship of these idols was futile and foolish. They were not really gods, he saw, and so he called his people together and said:

“My people, I have a very important message to tell you, and I would like you to listen very carefully. I have grown old and I can no longer worship and lead you in the worship of all these gods.

“I call upon you, therefore, to please choose some other man to be your priest. Choose a younger and stronger man, and allow me to retire in my remaining years.”

People Angry

But the people understood Yisro’s real reason for wishing to step down as their priest, and they grew angry.

“Cursed be the man who befriends Yisro and who helps him do his work and who shepherds his flocks!”

Thus was Yisro ostracized, and his life became difficult. However, since he had seven daughters, he called then in and said:

“Since we have no one who is willing to help us any longer, you must become shepherds and take care of our flocks.”

But the people of Midyan would not even allow this, and they made it a point to drive away the daughters of Yisro when they appeared at the well to take water for their flocks.

It was at just such a moment that Moshe, the son of Amram, who had been raised in Pharoh’s palace, suddenly appeared on the scene. He saw the shepherds chasing away the young girls, and he felt sorry for them. He came forward and drove away the bullies, thus allowing the girls to draw water for their flocks.

And the Almighty looked down and saw what Moshe had done.

“Because Moshe did such a thing,” He said, “and because he had pity on strange girls, he shall now be called the servant of the Lord, and the people of the world shall know that My servants are good to all and that their mercies are on all the creatures of the Lord.”

The Sin

And the daughters of Yisro rushed home to their father and excitedly told him about the incident.

“Father,” they exclaimed, “an Egyptian saved us from the shepherds who tried to drive us away from the well.”

Moshe stood outside the home and heard the words of the daughters of Yisro. He did not, however, come forward to correct their mistake.

Because of this, the Almighty said: “Because Moshe did not object to being called an Egyptian, because he did not call out and say that he was a Hebrew, therefore will he not be privileged to enter the Land of the Hebrews, and his bones will not be buried there.”

Thrown Into Prison

When Yisro heard his daughters’ words, he asked them:

“If this man did such a good thing for you, why did you not invite him in to eat? Go, get him.”

And so Moshe was brought into the house of Yisro, and they spoke.

“I am a Hebrew and I come from Egypt,” said Moshe, who then told Yisro all that had befallen him.

Yisro listened carefully to all that Moshe told him and thought to himself:

“Can this be? Can a man who has comfort and wealth give it all up for principle and ideals? I cannot believe such a thing. Surely, there was some evil action that he did. I will have him thrown into prison until the Egyptians send for him.”

And so, Moshe was seized and thrown into a deep and dark pit. There he remained for years and would have surely died of hunger if not for Tzipporah, the daughter of Yisro, who would come secretly every day and feed him. Yisro knew nothing of this, and put Moshe out of his mind.


One day Tzipporah approached Yisro. “Father,” she said, “Ten years ago, you placed the man Moshe in the pit. You ordered all to refrain from feeding or giving him drink. Why do you not send one of the servants now to see if he still lives?”

Yisro looked at his daughter in astonishment and said:

“You speak foolishly, daughter, How is it possible for a man who had not eaten for 10 years to live?”

His daughter persisted, however, and Yisro went to the pit where he had placed Moshe. Looking down into the dark hole, he was astonished to see Moshe, standing and praying to G-d for deliverance. He was dirty and haggard, but he was alive.

“It is a miracle!” cried Yisro. “He is still alive after all these years without food and water.”

Ordering his servants to take Moshe out of the pit, he then had the prisoner taken to his home, where he was bathed and given fresh clothing.

“Now I know that you are truly a man of G-d,” said Yisro. “For only so could you have survived all these years in the pit.”

And Moshe was allowed out and soon after took Tzipporah as a wife.

Moshe And The Kid

One day, as Moshe was tending Yisro’s flocks, he took the sheep and goats to the edge of the desert area where they could eat the soft and lovely grass that grew there.

Suddenly, he saw one of the sheep run in the direction of the desert.

“Stop!” cried Moshe, and he began to pursue the kid.

The animal, seeing Moshe pursue it, grew frightened and began to run even faster. It headed directly for a spring of water and began to drink thirstily.

Moshe, coming upon the kid, saw what was happening and realized that the kid had not intended to escape, but rather was very thirsty and merely wanted to drink.

Coming closer, Moshe put his arms around it and said:

“My little kid, I am sorry. Had I known that you were thirsty, I would never have chased you and frightened you.”

He allowed the kid to finish drinking, and then lifted it to his shoulder, saying:

“I will carry you back to the herd, for you are young and weak.”

And the Almighty looked down and saw Moshe’ actions, and He said:

“How great are your mercies, Moshe. You have pity on a kid because you are merciful. Because of this you are fit to be the leader of My flock Israel, and I know that you will be a faithful shepherd and a merciful leader for them, too.”

The Burning Bush

And so, the time was now ripe for God to appear to Moshe and appoint him leader of Bnei Yisrael. Thus, Moshe was in the desert one day, as was his custom, since he hesitated to let his flocks gather in populated areas because of the danger that they might graze in other people’s fields.

Suddenly, he noticed a very strange bush. It was very low and bent, and there were no flowers or leaves on it – just thorns.

“How strange,” thought Moshe as he looked at it. “It is so similar to my people who have become low and depressed and who have become ugly because of their slavery.”

And as he continued to look at it, a flame suddenly burst forth from the midst of the bush.

“The bush is similar to my people,” thought Moshe. “Is this flame meant to represent the enemies of the Jews who will consume them?”

But even as he thought these words, Moshe beheld a wonderful thing. The flames surrounded the bush and encircled it, but could not consume it.

“This is a good sign,” he said happily. “Just as the flame could not consume the bush, so shall the enemies of the Jews never be able to overcome them.”

His Father’s Voice

God now spoke to Moshe for the first time, but not wishing to frighten him, made His voice sound like that of his father Amram.

“Moshe, Moshe!”

Moshe looked around and said, “Father, is that your voice?”

Now the Almighty answered, “No, it is the voice of the Lord.” Thus was Moshe introduced to his role of leader.

Rabbi Sholom Klass

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