Parashat Shemot: I Come From Eretz Yisrael!

"An Egyptian man saved us from the shepherds, and he even drew water for us and watered the sheep" (Shemot 2:19)

Moshe Rabbenu looked like an Egyptian. He dressed like an Egyptian, had an Egyptian haircut, an Egyptian beard and an Egyptian accent. He looked like an Egyptian from head to toe. But our Rabbis expressed somewhat of a criticism of Moshe Rabbenu. They state (Devarim Rabbah 2:8): "One who identifies with his Land will be buried in the Land, and he who does not identify with his Land will not be buried there." Yosef identified with the Land when he said: "For indeed I was kidnapped from the Land of the Hebrews" (40:15), and he was therefore buried in Shechem. But Moshe Rabbenu did not acknowledge the Land. When Yitro's daughters say to their father: "An Egyptian man saved us from the shepherds," Moshe heard himself being referred to as an Egyptian and kept quiet. Based on this, our Sages conclude that since Moshe did not identify with the Land, he did not merit being buried there.

Rabbi Meir Yechiel of Ostrovtza, one of the great Chasidic Rebbes in Poland, asked this question: what did they want from Moshe Rabbenu? Yosef saying that he was from Eretz Yisrael made perfect sense: he was raised there. But Moshe was born and raised in Egypt! Was he expected to lie and say he was from Eretz Yisrael? His answer: Every Jew is obligated to see him or herself as an Israeli. Even if he was born elsewhere – by historical error - he nonetheless belongs to the Land of Israel. A Jew should always say: I come from Eretz Yisrael! Rabbi Moshe from Kutzi, the author of the "Semag" and one of the Tosafot, would sign his name: "Moshe from the Exile of Jerusalem who is in France." It is true that I am in France, but I am from Jerusalem. When a Jew is asked: "Where are you from," he must therefore respond: I come from Eretz Yisrael.

I was once invited to a Brit Milah. When we sat down to eat, a man quickly ran into the hall and said: "When is the Brit Milah?" The participants told him: "It just ended. Mazel Tov!" He took a deep breath: "Oy vey, I missed it!" He sat down at the meal. I was sitting nearby and heard his conversation with the others.
- They asked him: "Where are you from?"
- He proudly said with a German accent: "From Frankfurt am Main!"
- I thought to myself: Poor guy, he came all the way from Frankfurt am Main to the Brit Milah and missed it by a few minutes… Everyone felt sorry for him.
- They asked: "What kind of work do you do?"
- He said: "I sell Sifrei Kodesh (holy book)."
- "In Frankfurt am Main?"
- "No, no. In Bayit Ve-Gan (a Jerusalem neighborhood)."
- ????
- "I live in Bayit Ve-Gan."
- "Didn't you just say that you are from Frankfurt am Main?"
- "Yes, yes. I live in Bayit Ve-Gan but I am from Frankfurt am Main!"...
He may live in Bayit Ve-Gan, but where is he really from? Frankfurt am Main! He breathes Frankfurt am Main, thinks about Frankfurt am Main and lives Frankfurt am Main. This is how German Jews felt right before the Holocaust.