Dear Aish Family,
I want to begin by saying THANK YOU! Many of you were so incredibly generous in contributing and donating this past week as 2020 came to a close. Our “AISH-Vision 2030” to get 3 million Jews to study Torah starts today! We will need all of you to roll up your sleeves and dig deeply into your pockets to make our dream a reality. We will need the three “W’s” from all of you. Wealth, wisdom and work. Buckle your seatbelts because it will be an amazing ten year ride as we fundamentally affect the hearts and minds of Jews across the world. 

I was very moved this week when I saw the video of Jonathan and Esther Pollard landing in Israel. There is no doubt that the story is a complex one. Jonathan was imprisoned for 30 years for spying on behalf of Israel against the United States. I remember being a teenager in camp when Jonathan’s father-in-law came to speak to us about his case and the unusual punitive penalty that was handed down. It is something that has been on the minds of the greater Jewish community for decades. 

When the Pollards landed in Israel, Prime Minister Netanyahu was waiting by the plane to hand them Israeli passports. In an amazing moment of gratitude, Jonathan motioned for the Prime Minister to wait as they both got down on the ground to kiss the land of Israel. 

There are two governing Judaic principles that have kept the Jewish Nation together for 3000 years. The first is that we never leave a Jew behind. No matter where a Jew lives they are part of the greater Jewish family and we will always do everything in our power to save them. The second is that Israel is home. Period. End of story. Welcome home Jonathan and Esther. 

There is and will always be one homeland for the Jewish people and that is Israel. We must transmit that value to the Jewish youth around the world. To see Jonathan, after 30 years of incarceration and yearning to go to Israel, get on his hands and knees to kiss the tarmac as his first action, symbolized the Jewish yearning for Israel throughout the ages.

As soon as the current worldwide pandemic gets under control one of the first orders of business for the Jews of the diaspora must be to travel to Israel. Aish will be waiting to welcome you with open arms. 

... Shalom,
Rabbi Steven Burg
CEO, Aish Global


Torah reading: Sh'mot



 After all the historical dramas of the book of B’reshit, Sh’mot begins the Moses period of Israelite history.

We see how he is given by the king’s daughter the name Moshe (Ex. 2:10). The root of this name means "to draw out".

The commentaries regard the name as an indication (and a prophecy) that this baby boy would grow up to take out the people from slavery.

There is a Midrash that the original intention was that this would be the Messiah, indeed that Moses himself appealed to G[-]d to let him be Mashi’ach. G[-]d determined that there was a different role for Moses to carry out and the Mashi’ach would be a different, later figure.

Moses would not be the end-of-days Mashi’ach but he would prepare the people to be equipped for future messianism by means of Torah and mitzvot.


The Midrash has some remarkable insights.

It says that when Pharaoh decreed destruction for the Israelite babies, it was not only Amram’s wife and daughter who took action. Other Biblical figures were involved.

Job (Iyov) remained silent and was later punished by a series of personal afflictions. He should have spoken out and insisted that the Hebrews be properly protected. Maybe he felt his voice would not be heeded, but he had no right to keep silent.

Yitro heard the decree and ran away, yet later he was rewarded by having his descendants officiate in the sanctuary.

Maybe he recognised that his protest would go unheeded but he could not stay there and keep silent: that would have suggested that he condoned the evil, so he had to flee.


The first chapter of Sh’mot introduces us to the wives of the Israelite people in Egypt and calls them "chayyot", "lively" or "energetic".

The midwives get there to find that the women have already given birth on their own (Ex. 1:19). This is said in order to explain why – in spite of Pharaoh's orders – Israelite baby boys cannot be prevented from being born.

The Targum Onkelos calls the mothers "wise women", which denotes the expertise to handle childbirth. In the Mishnah (Rosh HaShanah 2:5) midwives are called wise women.

The term wisdom eventually settled down to indicate intellectual capacity but in its earlier meaning it seems to mean the possession of practical skills.

When we meet the wise son in the Haggadah the notion of wisdom has acquired an intellectual quality.

Moses asks G[-]d, "Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh?" (Ex.3:11-12).

The answer is, "When you bring the people out of Egypt and serve G[-]d on this mountain" – i.e. your identity will be shown in your actions.

You are not what you claim to be but what you do.

The Ishbitzer Rebbe (R. Mordechai Yosef of Isbitzes, early 19th cent.) used to say that who I am is not merely a question of name, age, address or occupation.

I am revealed in my relationship with my soul and in the way I relate to others. If I do not deal with other people in a moral and ethical way there is something wrong with my identity.

Hence Moses was told to prove himself in terms of others (bringing Israel out of Egypt) and his own soul (worshipping G[-]d on the mountain).​​​​

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       27 Tevet-4 Shevat, 5781                                        Jan. 11-17, 2021 -- THE JEWISH OBSERVER, LOS ANGELES--644th Web Ed.