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  • Rabbi Mordechai Lipskier

Denying the Nile


Shemos Every father is obligated to teach his son a vocation or trade with which to support himself. According to one opinion, a father is also obligated to teach his son to swim.[1] The Avnei Nezer suggests[2] that these two are essentially the same: To teach the child how to navigate challenging waters, one physical and one allegorical, by employing the same technique: the body is immersed in water, but the head remains above it. In this week’s parsha we read about Pharaoh’s decree to throw the Jewish children into the Nile. What relevance does this have to us today? Egypt worshipped the Nile. Why? Because it was their source of sustenance. Instead of rain, they depended on the Nile waters to irrigate their fields. Eretz Yisroel, conversely, depends heavily on rain because Hashem wants a Jew to look “up” and reflect on the fact that everything a Jew has is dependent only on Hashem.

The Egyptians wanted the Jews to become submerged in the “Nile,” meaning, to forget about Hashem and instead immerse themselves in the power and the pleasures of the Egyptian economy. Today’s “Egypt” is the belief that we should worship our financial security. This force wants us to see Amazon, real estate, college degrees or the stock market as the Niles that provide for us. It wants us to feel vulnerable when the channels of the Nile seem blocked, and strong when they flow successfully. This “Egyptian” force also wants us to prioritize material success and pleasure over spiritual growth and commitment. But we don’t sink to that level. We deny today’s Niles when we don’t allow financial setbacks or successes to determine our happiness; when we follow halacha in business, especially when it’s difficult; and when we prioritize Yiddishe values over materialistic indulgences. When we overcome the rush to check work-related emails before davening, this is equivalent to looking up at Hashem for rain instead of at the Nile. These are all indications that we’re not drowning in the Nile, we’re swimming with our heads above water. From a very young age, a Jew must be know that everything we have comes from Hashem. Our children rely on us to save them from drowning, to teach them how to navigate the waters as they flow. And children who observe this in their parents are more likely to learn how to swim with ease. Interestingly, although mothers are not obligated to teach their children to swim, they were the ones to save the children from drowning in the Nile. And today as well, women as the mainstays of the home have the unique power to teach their children these values, primarily by example.[3] Gut Shabbos, Rabbi Mordechai Lipskier [1] Kiddushin 29a. [2] Ne’os Deshe pg. 254. [3] Likutei Sichos vol. 1 pg. 111 and pg. 140. The Flint family l’zecher nishmas Reb Avraham Michoel ben Yaakov Shimon Halevi a"h

The Moshe Group Moshe and Rivky Majeski