Parsha from Brendan Stern: Shemot – Moshe’s ‘Identity Crisis’

“[Moshe] saw an Egyptian man beating a Hebrew man, one of his brethren. He turned this way and that way (vayifen koh va’choh), and saw that there was no man (vayar ki ein ish); so he struck the Egyptian and hid him in the sand (Shemot 2:11-12).

The simple meaning of “[he] saw that there was no man” is that Moshe was worried about any potential witnesses. However, we find elsewhere that Moshe is not scared to stand up publicly against people acting maliciously with the episode involving the shepherds and Yitro’s daughters (Ibid. 2:17).

That being the case, why is he worried about any potential witnesses to his courageous act sticking up for his fellow Jew? Additionally, why does the Torah say “he turned this way and that way” rather than simply “he looked around”?

Rav Isaac Bernstein explains that Moshe was raised as an Egyptian prince in Pharaoh’s palace and thus grew up immersed in the culture of Egypt and his regal surroundings. When he witnesses the sadistic cruelty of a fellow Egyptian inflicting a life threatening beating on one of his Israelite brothers this triggers an intense identity crisis.

Moshe is part of the Egyptian aristocracy yet experiences a profound sense of kinship with the victim.“Vayifen koh va’choh” – He looked this way and that way – asking himself, so to speak, “Am I a Jew or an Egyptian”. “Vayar ki ein ish” – he realised that there was no man – i.e. that he could not be both Egyptian and Jewish simultaneously.

Accordingly, to resolve this cognitive dissonance, he struck his “Egyptian” self and buried it in the sand.We too need to ensure that no matter how comfortable we are in the society around us, we first and foremost define ourselves as proud members of the Jewish people!


Shabbat in at 4.25, out at 5.39.


Pre-shacharit parsha at 8am. ELC (Rav Berzon), Eretz Chemdah (Rav Kimche) and Shir Chadash in Talbiya (Yaakov Rubin Street #1-on the border of Talbiya & the German Colony)

Ramban: shiur at 4.50pm

Nitzanim: Rav Shai after mincha at 4.20.

Daf Yomi: Hour before Shabbat out at the Katamon Shteiblech.

Kiddushim after minyanim.

Comments are closed.