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Table Talk: Shemot II: There Was No Man Print E-mail

Table Talk“He turned this way and that and saw that there was no man.” (Exodus 2:12) Moshe understood that the Egyptians did not even view the Jews as men, as human beings. At that moment he understood that he had to fight for them as people. Moshe began as a leader of Israel by restoring to them their sense of humanity.

We can also understand this verse as saying that the Jewish man being attacked by the Egyptian did not view himself as a human being, and therefore did not fight back.

Moshe understood that as long as the people did not view themselves as human beings, and saw themselves as simply slaves, they would not be careful with their interactions with others: He turned this way and that and saw that they did not even treat each other as human beings. Moshe fought to help them relearn the laws of human relationships.

We have to wonder whether it was so unusual for an Egyptian to strike a Jew. The verse implies that what Moshe saw was an anomaly. What was different about the scene that Moshe witnessed? “He turned this way and that and realized that no man even took notice of an Egyptian hitting a Jew. Neither Jew nor Egyptian saw this as unusual. It was this awareness that motivated Moshe to kill the Egyptian. He wanted everyone to recognize that they cannot ignore such a horrible action. (Pardes Yosef – Shemot)

What are the practical implications of each of these readings of the verse?

Arguers and Manna Savers:
“He went out the next day and behold! Two Hebrew men were fighting.” (Exodus 2:13) Rashi quotes the Talmud (Nedarim 64b) and Midrash (Shemot Rabbah 2:29) that the two men who were arguing were Datan and Aviram, who were also the two men who went against Moshe’s command and attempted to keep some of their Manna overnight. (Exodus 16:19-21)  The Sages are teaching us that there is a connection between these two stories: The Talmud (Yomah 38b) teaches that a person who believes in Divine Providence will understand that one person cannot take that which God has prepared for someone else. A person of faith will not fight with someone else. This also applies to the lessons of the Manna; One who has enough to eat today and worries about tomorrow is lacking in faith. (Mechilta, Beshalach 16:4, Sotah 48b)

Datan and Aviram participated in Korach’s rebellion. How do these two stories connect to Korach?

Honoring In-Laws
The Berach Sheleima, the son-in-law of the B’nei Yissaschar, quotes his father-in-law as explaining that the reason Moshe asked Yitro’s permission to go to Egypt is that we have a greater obligation to honor someone who opens the doors of opportunity for us, more than are are obligated to honor our parents. Yitro opened such doors to Moshe when he allowed Moshe to marry Tziporah. (See Samuel I 24:12, Yoreh Deiah 240:24, with Shach, Taz, and Gra.)
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