Monday, January 19, 2009

Teaching Shmot

This is from one year ago, when I was teaching Shmot. This year we spent a month on Vayikra and mostly are doing BaMidbar. Every year the whole school does the same Chumash. It used to be that we spent 2 years on Beishit, then 2 years on Shmot, then one year o each of the other books. Now, it's being switched to do all four books in four years.
Teaching In class today we discussed the questions on the previous post: Amram was a man of action - going back and taking his wife again, standing up against the decree of Paroh. He did this based on his young daughter's advice. Imagine how great she felt years later knowing the redemption was a result of her childhood activism! activism runs in the family for Levi, as we see from they way they take down Shechem in defense of Dina. He was a grandson, she was an actual daughter of Levi, both sharing Levi's inclination toward spiritual activism. Some note that the description of this baby matches the description of the original man. Just as Adam was born perfect, which means there was no need for circumcision, so too Moshe was born circumcised. The Ohr HaChayim says though that the real pshat in her seeing that he was good is that she saw that he was healthy (having feared that he would die at birth due to being premature). She his him when she realized he was a healthy baby and not a miscarriage. This type of תיבה is only described twice in all Tanach. It's a clear call back to Noach. Both of these men oversaw the recreation of the world (the ten plagues undid the world created with ten statements - the greatest civilization at the time, and led to a recreation via the Jewish People's birth. It's unclear if the baby was placed on the edge of the water on the shore, or on the edge of the water in the water itself. As one of my students asked - wouldn't a river be a dumb and unsafe place to put an infant? But another kid chimed in that maybe they chose to put him in the water as some kind of in your face to Paroh. There are sources to back this up - that they put him in the water because that was supposed to bring his end, but they had faith that he'd live. One might imagine that the Nile (graphic image to follow) was filled with dead babies, as that's where they were all being thrown and killed. So maybe it was the smartest place to throw a baby in a cradle, as it would be assumed to be another deceased one. Also, the astrologers thought the baby would be killed by water so even if he was alive they'd get the vibe that he was half way there. On the other hand maybe the shore, within the reeds, makes more sense in terms of Miriam being able to watch/visit and in terms of general safety. One student said maybe the parents were "dumb." Another smartly countered that maybe they were filled with faith. I think this is behind the statement that Miriam was waiting to see what would happen to him. It doesn't say she was worried, it doesn't say she was standing guard. There's a serenity here; she was awaiting Providence. And when Paroh's daughter appeared and took hold of the child there was good reason to take it hard. But Miriam calmly works with it - offers to get a nurse... She was the little girl who knew miracles were possible and was just doing her best to help facilitate those miracles. This reminds me of how Yosef was experiencing extreme providence and was punished when he nervously tried to push it instead of waiting and watching in faith.

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