Hadrash Ve-Haiyun
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by Efraim Levine

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She opened it and saw him, the child, and behold, a lad that was crying. She took pity on it and said this is one of the Hebrew boys. (Bereishis: 2:6)

The above posuk describes Basya’s experience as she discovered Moshe. It is noteworthy that the words “and behold” throughout the Torah generally connote the unexpected. For example, when Yaakov discovered that he was deceived into marrying Leah the posuk says, “When it was the morning and behold it was Leah” (Bereishis 29:25). We may thus ask what was so unexpected that prompted the Torah to introduce Basya’s experience with the words “and behold.” We cannot suggest that the discovery of the child itself was unexpected. If this were the Torah’s true intent then the words “and behold” should have appeared at the beginning of the posuk. The posuk should have been written “and she opened it and behold there was a child who was crying. The fact the Torah first informs us that there was a child and then goes on to say “and behold the child was crying” indicates that there was something unexpected regarding the child itself.

Chazal note that the posuk here describes Moshe as a na’ar. This is difficult because generally the word na’ar is used when describing an older child or young adult. For example, we find this word used with regard to Yosef who was seventeen at the time (Bereishis 37:2). The appropriate word for an infant is yeled. Indeed, the beginning of this very posuk describes Moshe as a yeled. Why then did the posuk suddenly switch to na’ar? Rashi answers that Moshe’s voice was mature as a na’ar. Since the posuk wished to describe his cry, it refers to him as a na’ar.

Perhaps we may suggest the following. Obviously, Moshe was not an ordinary child. Basya recognized from the very start that this child possessed an unusual degree of maturity. The posuk refers to him as a na’ar. Homiletically we may suggest that the word na’ar indicates not just a mature voice but also emotional, mental and spiritual maturity. Normally, with maturity comes the ability to contain one’s feelings and suppress one’s emotions. It is not common to see an adult cry. However, Basya saw something unusual. On the one hand Moshe was mature, yet he was crying. This combination was unexpected and unusual, thus “And behold a na’ar is crying.”

Moshe manifested true qualities of Jewish leadership. Moshe is described as a na’ar bocheh. The connotation of the word na’ar carries with it the characteristics of maturity, self-confidence, youthful energy and optimism. Indeed the Jewish people as a whole are described positively with this title. “Yisroel is a na’ar and I (Hashem) love him” (Ho’shay’ah 11:1). However, Moshe is also described as a bocheh, one that cries. The word bocheh carries with it the connotation of emotion, sympathy, pain and compassion. Moshe on the one hand was a strong powerful and aristocratic leader, yet at the same time a man of great compassion, a man that was able to relate to the pain and suffering of his people. “And it was in those days when Moshe was grown and he began to go out to his brethren and he saw their burdens (Shemos 2:11). This unique unexpected combination is what Jewish leadership is all about. “And behold a na’ar bocheh.

It is noteworthy that in the Torah there is another individual who possessed these same two characteristics. This was Yosef. The posuk clearly describes Yosef as a na’ar (Bereishis 37:2). The Torah also records numerous times that Yosef cried. (Bereishis 42:24; 43:30; 45:2,14,15; 46:29; 50:1). Yosef was also a na’ar bocheh.

Perhaps this explains the secret of Yosef’s successful leadership and sheds light on the relationship between Yosef and Moshe. We find many connections between the two. Yosef at the end of his life told the Jewish People that Hashem would surely remember them with the words “pokod yifkod” (Bereishis 50:24,25). There was a longstanding tradition that the one who would utter these words would be the redeemer. Generations later it was Moshe who uttered these exact words and thereby inspired the Jewish people to redemption (Shemos 5:31).

When the Jewish people were preparing to leave Egypt they were preoccupied with borrowing gold and silver from the Egyptians. At the same time Moshe was busy retrieving the bones of Yosef.

The common denominator of Moshe and Yosef is the characteristic of na’ar bocheh, a unique quality and necessary element of our past and future redemption.


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Efraim Levine 5761/2001