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Shmot(Exodus 1:1-6:1)

Showing You Care

In this week's parsha, Moses is saved by Pharaoh's daughter, Batya. She risks her life to bring a Jewish boy, who is condemned to death, into her father's palace. She does so because she cannot watch a child die. Miriam, meanwhile, is also concerned about her brother, Moses. Unable to do anything to help, she at least goes to the riverside and follows the little basket as it floats down the river, until she sees that he is rescued by Batya.

The Sages tell us that each was rewarded for her action. Batya's reward was that Moses was known by the name she gave him (as opposed to the name "Tuvia" which was given by his parents). Miriam's reward was that the Jewish people had a well of water accompany them in the desert for 40 years.

Now let's look at this for a moment. Which is the greater deed? Surely that of Batya; she risked her life for Moses. Miriam merely went and watched. And yet which is the greater reward? Surely that of Miriam; her reward gave water to the entire Jewish nation, while Batya merely had Moses called by her name.

The Sages explain why Miriam received the greater reward.

God does not just look at action; He also looks at intent. When Moses was born, the house filled with light. It was clear to everyone that this was no ordinary child. This child was a potential leader of the Jewish people - perhaps the leader who would bring them out of Egypt. Miriam's concern was not just for one child, nor even for her brother - her intent was for the Jewish nation. Batya, on the other hand, saw one child who needed help and she saved him.

Each was given a reward befitting of her deed. Miriam was concerned for the Jewish people, so her reward was to provide water for the Jewish people for 40 years in the desert. Batya was concerned for one child, and her reward was that child.

Jews understand that God leads us in the way we want to go. We usually get what we want - as long as we care about it deeply enough.

Miriam cared about the Jewish People. She had no real way of saving Moses. But what she could do, she did. She was rewarded by being able to bring about that which she cared for - the continuity of the Jewish people. It was not in the way she expected, but it happened through her, nonetheless.

The extent to which we care and show our care through action, is the extent to which God will enable us to be a part of that which we care about. Maybe not in exactly the way we plan, but God has his ways. His job is to make things happen. Our job is simply to care.

Published: January 11, 2009

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