Category Archives: Parshat שמות

Parshat שמות

Parshat שמות  Exodus 2:13 Raising One’s Hand Against Another

Exodus – 2:13  – He went out on the second day, and behold, two Hebrew men were quarreling, and he said to the evil one, “Why are you going to strike your friend?”

Gemora: Sanhedrin 58(b): Resh Lakish said, “One who raises his hand against his friend, even though he never [actually] hits him, is still called a wicked person”. This is demonstrated by the verse “and he said to the wicked one, ‘why are you going to strike your friend?”  It does not say “why have you hit your friend?” but rather “why are you going to strike your friend?”

Torah Temimah Colloquial Translation on Note #38:

In other words, even though [Moshe] only saw them quarrelling, nevertheless he still said “why will you hit your friend?” {Moshe] said this because he saw the man acting in a way that showed that he would hit his friend; namely that he had lifted his hand. Since Moshe called this person ‘wicked’ we see that one who only raises his hand against his neighbor is called ‘wicked’.

Rashi on this verse writes regarding the phrase “why will you hit your friend” and explains that ‘friend’ implies ‘equal in wickedness to you’. This statement of Rashi needs further explanation [how could one conclude from this verse that the hitter was wicked?]  It appears according to the Responsum of the Mabit (Moshe ben Yosef Trani) that it is permitted to hit an evil person since they are not behaving according to the ways of our people. If that was the case, then clearly one who hits a wicked person is not called wicked. Additionally, since as we see from the previous note that the two people in this story who are quarrelling with one another are the [wicked] Datan and Aviram. If this is the case, how could Moshe call the “hitter” wicked since, indeed, he was hitting a wicked person?

The answer is that one must conclude that it would only be ok to strike a wicked person if one, himself, is [totally] righteous. However, for a wicked person to hit a wicked person is totally forbidden. Therefore, in our case, a wicked person is hitting a wicked person, it is appropriate to call him wicked!

This answers the [apparent] question regarding how Rashi could conclude that someone was wicked just because he was hitting a wicked person. [The answer is that Moshe knew it was Datan and Aviram who were fighting. The proof that the person was wicked or righteous does not lie in the fact that one is hitting an evil person.]

Look also in Choshen Mishpat Section 34: Subsection 4; there the Rema states that anyone who lifts up his hand against another become invalid for testimony in court. The reason for this according to what the Sefer Meir Eineim writes in the name of the Beis Yosef. He writes that even though [lifting up one’s hand to strike another] is forbidden biblically, nevertheless since it does not have the punishment of lashes, the prohibition of such a person giving testimony in court is only rabbinic.  Also, look in the Urim V’Tumim there.

In the book רה”ז he writes that the halachic practical distinction between whether the prohibition is rabbinic or biblical relates to the requirement to publicize the guilt versus no requirement to publicize it. If the guilt is biblical it would not need to be publicized (because everyone would know that this person is not kosher to be a witness) while if the guilt is rabbinic it would require publicizing.  Truly, according the previously cited opinion of the Mabit that lifting one’s hand is a biblical transgression but does not make one liable for lashes, then such a case would not require announcing because everyone would be aware of a biblical transgression.   If so, according to the opinion that we wrote that this prohibition is rabbinic only because it does not have a punishment of lashes but is, in reality, a biblical prohibition – then according to all opinions, announcing would not be required.

Translator’s Note: It is interesting to note that lifting one’s hand against another seems to be a separate prohibition from the prohibition of hitting another person. Further, the Torah Temimah’s main point may be that there is no assumption of righteousness to one who is hitting an evil person. He could very well be as evil as the person he is hitting.


Parshat שמות Shmos 2:5 – Was It a Hand or a Maidservant?

Shmos 2:5 – Pharaoh’s daughter went down to bathe by the river and her maidens walked along the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and she sent her maidservant and she took it.

Gemora Sotah 12b: And sent her handmaid to fetch it — R. Judah and R. Nehemiah [differ in their interpretation]; one said that the word means ‘her hand’ and the other said that it means ‘her handmaid’. He who said that it means ‘her hand’ did so because it is written ammathah; he who said that it means ‘her handmaid’ did so because the text does not explicitly say yadah [her hand]. But according to him who said that it means ‘her handmaid’,it has just been stated that Gabriel came and beat them to the ground! — He left her one, because it is not customary for a king’s daughter to be unattended. But according to him who said that it means ‘her hand’, the text should have been yadah! — It teaches us that [her arm] became lengthened;

Torah Temimah Colloquial Translation on Note #27:

Because she stretched out her hand in order to reach the basket. According to the one who believes that the word “ammathah” means maidservant, it is clearly because it did not write “yadah” explicitly as is often done. Further the one who thinks the word means maidservant, does not accept the teaching that her arm [hand] miraculously lengthened. The one who holds that the word means ‘hand’ it is from the phrase אמת יד  which means arm. Apparently, it is difficult to understand what forced this disagreement since the simple meaning of the word ammathah is indeed maidservant.

Perhaps the Midrash is being careful in explaining the words of this posuk. In the first part of the posuk it uses the word   נערתיה to mean “her maidservants”. So too in the second part of the posuk it should have used the same word to refer to the maidservants. Truly, it is the customary way to refer to a king or queens servants as נער out of respect for the king or queen instead of the using the word slave or maidservant. This is customary in the world at large and also in the Tanach. The word נער [youth or lad] is more polite than saying slave.

So from the fact that the posuk changed its phraseology from  נער to אמתה (ammathah) that is the source of the explanation that it actually means that it was her hand that she “sent” and stretched out because the basket was far away from her.

Additionally, in Midrash Rabba it mentions that the Rabbis say that Pharaoh’s daughter had tzaraat (a type of leprosy). That was the reason why she went down to the river to wash. As soon as she touched the basket, she was healed. That is why she had mercy on him and loved him so much. <end quote of the Midrash>

It is not clear where is the hint in this posuk to what the Midrash says. Perhaps it is from the idea that it just says she went down to the river to wash but it doesn’t mention whether she’s going to wash her face, her hands or her feet. You’d have to say, as we do in many places in the Tanach, that she was intending to wash her whole self. In other words, her intent was to immerse in the Nile and to wash off all the tumah/impurity. Since it wouldn’t make sense to say that she was immersing for religious reasons, one is forced to say that it was a physical washing of her whole body due to the leprosy.

DBS Note: I once heard a wonderful rabbi explain that Pharaoh’s daughter knew the basket was too far for her to reach. She stretched out her hand anyway because she had to do everything she could to rescue Moshe whether it seemed rational or not. Similarly, we must strive to accomplish great things whether we think they are rationally attainable or not.

Parshat שמות Shemos 4:1 They Won’t Believe Me

Shmos – 4:1 – And Moshe answered and said they won’t believe me and they won’t listen to my voice because they will say that G-d did not appear to you

Gemora: Shabbos 97(a): They won’t believe me – Resh Lakish says one who is suspicious of innocent people will be stricken in his body as it says “And Moshe answered and said they won’t believe me” And afterwards Moshe was stricken in his body as it says (in Shmos, Chapter 6) “and Moshe’s hand was leprous, white as snow”

Torah Temimah Colloquial Translation on Note #1:

It explains in the Gemora that it was revealed to G-d that the Jews would believe Moshe. So, G-d told Moshe that the Jews are “believers, the children of believers”. This is proven because it says about the Jews “and they believed” <need to quote the source for this> and it says about Abraham in Parshat Lech Lecha “he believed G-d”.

Yet the language of the Gemora here seems more wordy than it needs to be. It should have said simply that Moshe said they wouldn’t believe him and, in fact, they did. It is possible that the long wording is necessary because from this incident alone it is not possible to say that they are “believers, the children of believers”. In this case, the reason why they believed in Moshe was because of the signs and wonders that he demonstrated to them and also because of the special words that Moshe used when telling the Jews that he had come to redeem them. These special words are explained by Rashi in his comment on Shemos 3:18. Because of these special circumstances of the signs, wonders and special words, the Jews believed Moshe. However, G-d [who is All-Knowing] knew that despite this, the Jews are “believers, the children of believers” and would have believed Moshe without all these. The explains the longer wording in the Gemora.

The reason why Moshe needed the signs and wonders in addition to the special words was not for the sake of the Children of Israel but rather for him (Moshe) because he was worried that they wouldn’t believe him. Therefore, G-d gave Moshe the signs and wonders in order to ensure that Moshe would accept to go on the mission.

DBS Note: PLEASE CHECK OUT an amazingly similar comment that the Gemora makes on Genesis 18:4. The link for that article is here: