Guest Post By My Student Miles Bronstein
Parshat Shemot contains some of the most renowned stories of the Torah such as Moshe and the burning bush, and the start of the Passover story.
I have chosen a seemingly minuscule point that relates to life in school and to all other aspects of life. In Shemot 1:7 the Torah says “The Children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly and became strong- and the land became filled with them.” The midrash tells a story in relation to this pasuk from which we can learn a great deal.
Once Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi was giving a lecture and noticed that his students had stopped paying attention to him and were even dozing off. To recapture their attention he said that a woman in Egypt bore six hundred thousand children in just one birth. As soon as he said this one of his students (Rabbi Yishmial) inquired how that could have been possible. Rabbi Yehudah answered that he was referring to Yocheved who was said to be equivalent to six hundred thousand children.
Why did Rabbi Yehudah use this story to recapture the students’ concentration? To answer the question we must realize that Rabbi Yehudah was born fifty years after the destruction of the second Temple and was the leader of the fourth generation after the obliteration. At this time the Roman government demoralized the Jews, resulting in a loss of faith in G-d and a loss of hope in redemption.
Rabbi Yehudah realized that the reason that his students - and the larger community - had lost attention to his lecture and what it represented was because they were feeling that there might not be redemption and they would stay in exile forever. They had lost hope in Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi’s Torah and more-so they lost hope in moshiach.
Rabbi Yehudah mentions how Yocheved gave birth to Moshe who would eventually bring six hundred thousand children of Israel out of Egypt. Rabbi Yehudah uses this anecdote to give hope to the Jewish people and to send the message to always believe. Just like in class a student might not feel the need to take notes or pay attention, or simply drift off, you still should not give up. In order to prevail you cannot let go of hope, confidence or belief. Just because you missed fifteen minutes of class you can shoot back instantly and learn something.
Moshe and the redemption he heralded appeared in the blink of an eye to save the Jewish People at a time when they had almost given up. . Similarly, if you don’t do so well on a test you should not give up or lose self confidence, you should keep trying. The Jewish People still believe in G-d and await His redemption despite the Holocaust, destruction of the Temples, Israeli conflict, and financial crises.
If it was not for the Jewish People’s perseverance and even more-so their belief in G- d we would not be here today as the oldest living nation. This lesson was conveyed by way of a seemingly ludicrous statement of Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi. He gained his students’ attention and then inspired them and filled them with faith and hope. Our teacher’s also use humor and dramatic effects to get us to listen, learn, and live inspired lives. I hope you take to heart my points and utilize them in your daily life! Shabbat Shalom!