Kenneth Cohen

Best Environment

The last few words of the previous Parsha was that G-d promises that we will be driven from the land of Egypt with a יד חזקה, a strong hand. The beginning of Parshat Va’era, describes how Hashem speaks to Moshe about the coming redemption.

The Baal Haturim points out the סמיכות הפרשיות, the connection between the two adjacent subjects. The implication here is that Moshe was unable to receive Divine messages when he was surrounded by the filth of Egypt. He always needed to go outside the city limits, in a clean, open area, in order to be able to hear, the word of Hashem.

This is seen as teaching an important lesson. We are never able to thrive as Jews, if we are living in a place where immorality and corruption, is all around us. It is almost impossible to be surrounded by all of this negativity, and not be affected.

We are to always choose a place to live where there are good, upright, Torah Jews. If everyone around us fails to observe the Torah, it makes it that much more difficult for us to remain strong.

The only exception to this rule, is living in Israel. The Talmud tells us that it is preferable to live in a city of idol worshippers in Israel, rather than live among Torah Jews, outside of Israel. The holiness of the land protects us, and still allows us to be elevated spiritually. Outside of Israel, there is an inherent impurity known as טומאת העמים, the impurity of the nations.

If we want to give our children the greatest opportunity for success, we must be certain to put them in the best possible environment. Even Moshe Rabbeinu was unable to overcome such impurity. He needed to go somewhere clean and untainted, in order to hear the word of G-d.

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for over twenty years while also teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach of Old Katamon. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles. He recently published a series of Hebrew language-learning apps, which are available at