Shemot: (Don't) Go Figure!

We cannot know how all the pieces fit.

Rabbi S. Weiss,

Judaism נגבי
Arutz 7

Sefer Shemot revolves around two primary themes: the enslavement and the liberation of Am Yisrael; and the heroic leadership of Moshe Rabbeinu.

But Moshe might never have been born had his big sister Miriam not spoken up on his behalf. You see, Amram - Moshe's father - had decided to separate from his wife Yocheved, so as not to bring any more children into what he perceived as a cruel and painful world. Others followed Amram's example and separated from their wives, too.

Then came Miriam, who voiced her strong opposition to Amram's decision. "Pharaoh decreed against just the boys," she scolded, "but you decree against the boys and the girls! Pharaoh wants to take away this world from our children, but you want to rob them of this world and the next world!" (Chazal say even a fetus which is still-born or miscarried has a place in Olam HaBa.)

Thankfully, Amram heeds Miriam's advice and Moshe is born. Moshe avoids death at the hands of Pharaoh's henchmen and goes on to lead us to Redemption.
Making too many "cheshbonos" is the wrong way to go.

A fascinating story is told in Yeshayahu. The prophet informs King Chizkiyahu that he has been sentenced to death - and will not merit Olam HaBa - because he refused to marry and have children. (Chizkiyahu had seen in a vision that his offspring would include Menashe, an evil, idol-worshipping despot.) Yeshayahu castigates him: "You have your job to do - to bring children into the world - and G-d has His job; do your job and let G-d do His!"

Chizkiyahu then turns to Yeshayahu: "OK then, you have a daughter - I will marry her!"

He does so; and Menashe, the child that results, will eventually assassinate Yeshayahu, his own grandfather. But Menashe's grandson Yoshiyahu will go on to become one of the most righteous monarchs in our history, who will lead a major teshuvah movement.

Taken together, these two stories pack a powerful punch. We humans have Divine imperatives to perform in this world; we must do them, without second-guessing how they will play out in the broad scheme of history. That is G-d's department; He must "pick up the ball" where we leave off. At times, our actions may appear irrelevant or even counter-productive. Often - such as when we perform the great mitzvah of living in Israel - they require great self-sacrifice. Yet, we must do them anyway, for we cannot know how all the pieces of the puzzle will ultimately fit in.

We Jews are very proud of the many accountants and economists and CPAs we have in our fold. But sometimes, making too many cheshbonos is the wrong way to go. When all is said and done, we will be able to look back and say, "That figures!"