Unlike Sefer B’reishis, which relates the story of Creation and how our ancestors revealed the glory of the Almighty to the world, Sefer Sh’mos is a progression of actions, a series of miraculous events, that catapult the children of Israel into becoming the Chosen Nation of klal Yisrael. It teaches us how, in the future, we are going to see not just the good deeds that we do, but the ripple effects of those deeds and how they manifest themselves in the world. How special it is when a person sees the fruits of his labor. That feeling of seeing the fruits of every one of our deeds will be unparalleled. Now is the time to do the labor, to grab every opportunity to perform a good deed. That will be our glory and that is our lives.
Rabbi Shaul Rosen is the Founder and Director of A-Time, an organization devoted to assisting childless Jewish couples yearning for a baby of their own. Helping a couple through infertility has staggering costs, and A-Time consistently turns sighs of distress into sighs of contentment, transforming tears of despair into tears of joy. Rabbi Rosen recently told a story about Rabbi Tzvi Kamenetzky, who was married for many years without children.
In 1987, Rabbi Tzvi and his wife received the incredible news that she was expecting, and the months of anticipation heightened their anxiety. Ultimately, the child was born prematurely and only weighed 2½ pounds at birth. The prognosis was very grim. Doctors did not know if the baby was going to make it. For the next two months, the little infant fought for his life, and then, baruch Hashem, he came home to his parents. At the bris milah, they named him Yaakov.
Rabbi Tzvi and his wife were overwhelmed with gratitude to the entire staff at the hospital for putting in every possible effort to save their child’s life. They wanted to buy a meaningful gift for the nurses, doctors and other healthcare professionals who were involved in saving little Yaakov’s life. They really wanted to show their appreciation, but they couldn’t think of just the right thing to buy. As a true ben Torah, Rabbi Tzvi went to ask his Rosh Yeshivah, Rav Elya Svei zt”l, for advice. The Rosh Yeshivah told him as follows: “It says in Parshas Sh’mos, ‘Hashem did kindness to the Jewish midwives, Shifrah and Puah, for risking their lives to save the Jewish babies who were born in hiding, to avoid the Egyptian soldiers who were under orders to kill them by tossing them into the Nile River. Their reward, however, is not specified until the following pasuk, when it says, ‘Va’yaas lahem batim.’ Rashi tells us that Hashem made them houses: batei malchus and batei k’hunah (houses of royalty and houses of priesthood). So which kindness is this first pasuk referring to?”
The Rosh Yeshivah answered, “The kindness of this pasuk is the final words of the pasuk: Va’yirev ha’am vaatzmu m’od – Hashem showed Shifrah and Puah the magnificent fruits of their labor. They were able to see that because of their efforts, klal Yisrael multiplied and became a strong nation. This is a great kindness and it gave them such satisfaction.”
Rav Elya looked at his talmid and then gave the following advice. “What should you buy the hospital staff? Don’t buy them anything – do something instead! Every year, on your little Yaakov’s birthday, bring him down to the NICU and show the nurses and doctors how he is growing and becoming stronger. Let them see the fruits of their labor. Allow them to bask in the knowledge that they helped this little boy live. That will bring them the most satisfaction.”
R’ Tzvi took his Rosh Yeshivah’s advice and brought his son Yaakov, on his first birthday, to the NICU where he showed the staff his gratitude in the most meaningful way. He did this year after year, and then, on the child’s 13th birthday, R’ Tzvi posted an invitation in the NICU, inviting the entire staff to Yaakov’s bar mitzvah celebration.
That night, he received an unexpected phone call from the head nurse in the NICU. She told him, “Rabbi Kamenetzky, you surely realize that most of our current staff was not around 13 years ago, when your son was being treated here. But I want you to know, we’re all planning to attend the bar mitzvah. You know why? Because your son is our poster child for success. Each nurse being trained-in, gets to hear all about little Yaakov Kamenetzky. ‘Be sure to do your utmost for every infant,’ we tell them. ‘You never know – the child you are treating might become the next Yaakov Kamenetzky!’”