The Living Torah is a weekly publication distributed in and around North West London. Written by members of Hasmonean High School's Sixth Form programme - we aim to bring you divrei torah for your Shabbat table each and everyweek.

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Thursday, 7 January 2010

A Man Thinks, and G-d Laughs

"כָל־הַבֵן הַיִלוֹד הַיְארָה תַשְלִיכֻהוּ"
[כא - א]
“… ‘Every son that will be born - into the river you shall throw him!’ ...”

The Pasuk says that Pharaoh tried different methods to stem the tide of the Jewish population explosion. His first attempt was his instructions to the Jewish midwives to kill all the boys and save the girls.

However, Pharaoh saw that this did not work, so he invented another idea: "All sons that are born shall be thrown into the river...". Where did he get this idea from? Isn't there a more effective way than throwing the babies into the Nile?

The answer is that Pharaoh wasn't a fool. He was no reactionary; he acted on the advice of his advisers. Chazal tell us, based on the Gemara [Sanhedrin 101b] that the astrologers of Pharaoh saw that the saviour of Israel would meet his downfall through water. Therefore, Pharaoh, who had this inside ‘intelligence’ decided to throw the Jewish babies and eventually all boys into the Nile, in order to nip this pestilence in the bud and pre-empt and outwit the 'Jewish problem.'

The Steipler Gaon says that this act is a living example of a Pasuk in Mishlei:

רַבוֹת מַחֲשָבוֹת בְלֶב־אִיש
וַעֲצַת ה‘ הִיא תָקוּם
"Many are the thoughts/ideas in the heart of man;
but Hashem's plan will be established" [19:21].

The Malbim in his commentary on this Pasuk writes that a human being believes himself to be full of possibilities, potential modes of thought and courses of action, to choose as he wills. Yet the single counsel or plan that actually goes into practical effect is often decided by Hashem overriding a man’s apparent freedom.

How ironic it is that the plan that was supposed to kill the saviour of Israel is in fact none other than the spark that sets Moshe on his journey. The plan, which was implemented on the advice of Pharaohs’ expert advisers, did not kill the saviour of Israel, it had the opposite effect. Moshe was placed into in his flimsy basket made of cheap inferior wood and was retrieved by none other than Pharaoh’s own daughter who took this Moshe into -- of all places -- Pharaohs’ household. He was saved by, and nurtured in, Pharaoh’s house. He was supported by Pharaoh’s money. He was educated at Pharaoh’s expense. He was saved by the very plan that was intended to kill the Jewish saviour.

This is not only true with Pharaoh. We each have our own ideas, plans and calculations. We think we are going to be smart. We think we are going to outwit somebody. Foolishness! Our machinations are all for nothing.

There is an amazing gematria quoted in the name of Rav Auerbach ztl regarding these two plans:

Pharaoh was afraid:
הָבָה נִתְחַכְמָה לוֹ פֶן־יִרְבֶה
“Let's come up with a plan lest they increase in population...”.

The numerical value of this phrase is 12+523+36+130+217 = 918.

Pharaoh wanted to bring down our population figures, however Hashem had a different plan:
…וַיאמֶר לָהֶם אֱלקִים פְרוּ וּרְבוּ -
“and G-d said to them: Be fruitful and multiply”.

The numerical value of this phrase is 257+75+86+286+214 = 918.

Similarly, when the first plan failed Pharaoh orders:

כָל־הַבֵן הַיִלוֹד הַיְארָה תַשְלִיכֻהוּ
“all males born shall be thrown into the river.”

The numerical value of this phrase is 50+57+55+221+771 = 1154.

This plan also failed. Quoting the very same Pasuk in Mishlei used above:

"Many are the thoughts in the heart of man, but Hashem’s plan prevails",
וַעֲצַת ה הִיא תָקוּם

 = 566+26+16+546 = 1154.



  1. I do love this, but you stole my "Ah!" too! :)

  2. Hi N,

    Hmmm... I probably did see it on yours although I didn't want to use 'Geshamck', thought that it might be intruding slightly ;)

    I saw a thought recently on the LT archives:

    If one was to take a look at this weeks Parasha then there is a pasuk that seems out of place. The pasuk that tells us how old M and A were - (7:7).

    Rav Schwab says that there is an undercurrent to the pasuk. Here are M and A living, breathing manifestations of Pharaoh's decrees made null and void - a fine example of "Ve Atzat Hashem Hee Takum".

    (Although I am not sure how this is seen by telling us their exact ages.)