Reaching Beyond Our LimitationsDecember 17, 2013 - 8:26 pm
“Then Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the riverbank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her female slave to get it.”—Exodus 2:5
The Torah portion for this week is Shemot, which means “names,” from Exodus 1:1–6:1, and the Haftorah is from Isaiah 27:6–28:13; 29:22–23.
A few months ago, I read the tragic story of Gershon Burd, a Chicago native who had moved to Israel where he married and had five children. On October 4th, Gershon was celebrating his 40th birthday when he decided to go for a swim in the Mediterranean Sea. Out of nowhere, a large rock hit Gershon on his head. He fell unconscious and drowned.
But the story doesn’t end there. In fact, it is only after his death that the world learned the real story of Gershon’s life. During the mourning period, person after person came to Gershon’s wife with stories of her husband’s generosity and secret giving. Some of his hidden charity included paying for a young man’s school tuition, feeding many of Jerusalem’s poor, and providing a “free” airline ticket for a woman who needed to return to America to nurse her ill mother. Gershon must have spent thousands upon thousands of dollars in his undercover charity work. The big question remained: Where did he get the money?
Gershon’s wife and friends were puzzled. Gershon earned very little and spent almost nothing on himself. He bought used shoes and used clothing. This accounted for some of what Gershon saved, but how he afforded the amount that he gave away will always remain a mystery. However, this week’s Torah portion may give us a hint of an answer.
In this week’s selection, we read about baby Moses tucked away in a waterproof basket and set on the Nile. His parents hoped he would be saved from the Pharaoh’s cruel decree to drown every Hebrew baby boy in the sea. According to Judaism’s oral tradition, Pharaoh’s daughter was horrified by the decree. When she saw Moses in the basket, she asked her maid to fetch it so that she could save the baby. The maid couldn’t reach the baby, so Pharaoh’s daughter reached out her own hand. Miraculously, her hand stretched to reach the floating basket, allowing her to save the precious baby boy.
According to the Sages, the miracle that occurred for Pharaoh’s daughter teaches us all a lesson. The message is that when we want to do something good, yet challenging, we are to make the effort and then God will help us reach the goal. Perhaps this explains the mystery of Gershon Burd, whose money seemed to have stretched in ways that no one can explain. And it ought to be a perspective we all share. When there is an opportunity to do God’s will, we don’t need to know how we will succeed. All we need to do is reach beyond ourselves and do our best; God will do the rest.