Shemot – A “New” Story 5777
As we enter sefer Shemot שְׁמוֹת (The Names also known as Exodus) and this week’s parasha I am again struck by the huge amount of information we are given in this section. (Shemot 1;1-6;1) The children of Ya’acov are enslaved, we meet Moshe, we meet Hashem on the Mountain of God, we meet Yitro and his daughters. We meet Aaron. Moshe is given the high task of confronting the evil Pharaoh who knew not Yosef and attempting to give hope to a hopeless people. Moshe is given God’s name and several divine signs to show Phar’oh. The section ends with God’s statement: “Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh; for under compulsion he will let them go, and under compulsion he will drive them out of his land.”
Last week’s lesson included the verse which explained a new Phar’oh arose, one who did not know Yosef. Before we move forward let us get some background from the book of Yasher which might help us understand how the Hebrews became enslaved in the first place. We should note that Yasher accounts many battles which involved the sons of Esau and Ishmael. There were many occasions of miraculous victory for the sons of Ya’acov and Yosef and it is well seen that the dread of them, and knowledge of their valor and strength in battle was renown. Yasher also explains why Aaron had “free reign” to leave the land and come to Canaan where he met with Moshe. [Note: Yasher is referred to twice in Tanakh and once in the Apostolic scriptures. It is a valuable research tool not to be taken ‘above’ the canonized scriptures. Joshua 10;13;2 Sam.1;18, 2 Tim. 3;8]
58; 1 And it came to pass in the thirty-second year of the Israelites going down to Egypt, that is in the seventy-first year of the life of Joseph, in that year died Pharaoh king of Egypt, and Magron his son reigned in his stead. 2 And Pharaoh commanded Joseph before his death to be a father to his son, Magron, and that Magron should be under the care of Joseph and under his counsel. 3 And all Egypt consented to this thing that Joseph should be king over them, for all the Egyptians loved Joseph as of heretofore, only Magron the son of Pharaoh sat upon, his father’s throne, and he became king in those days in his father’s stead. 4 Magron was forty-one years old when he began to reign, and forty years he reigned in Egypt, and all Egypt called his name Pharaoh after the name of his father, as it was their custom to do in Egypt to every king that reigned over them. 5 And it came to pass when Pharaoh reigned in his father’s stead, he placed the laws of Egypt and all the affairs of government in the hand of Joseph, as his father had commanded him. 6 And Joseph became king over Egypt, for he superintended over all Egypt, and all Egypt was under his care and under his counsel, for all Egypt inclined to Joseph after the death of Pharaoh, and they loved him exceedingly to reign over them. 7 But there were some people amongst them, who did not like him, saying, No stranger shall reign over us; still the whole government of Egypt devolved in those days upon Joseph, after the death of Pharaoh, he being the regulator, doing as he liked throughout the land without any one interfering. 8 And all Egypt was under the care of Joseph, and Joseph made war with all his surrounding enemies, and he subdued them; also all the land and all the Philistines, unto the borders of Canaan, did Joseph subdue, and they were all under his power and they gave a yearly tax unto Joseph. 9 And Pharaoh king of Egypt sat upon his throne in his father’s stead, but he was under the control and counsel of Joseph, as he was at first under the control of his father. 10 Neither did he reign but in the land of Egypt only, under the counsel of Joseph, but Joseph reigned over the whole country at that time, from Egypt unto the great river Perath. 11 And Joseph was successful in all his ways, and the Lord was with him, and the Lord gave Joseph additional wisdom, and honor, and glory, and love toward him in the hearts of the Egyptians and throughout the land, and Joseph reigned over the whole country forty years.
59; 25 And it came to pass after this that Joseph died in that year, the seventy-first year of the Israelites going down to Egypt. 26 And Joseph was one hundred and ten years old when he died in the land of Egypt ….28 And it came to pass after the death of Joseph, all the Egyptians began in those days to rule over the children of Israel, and Pharaoh, king of Egypt, who reigned in his father’s stead, took all the laws of Egypt and conducted the whole government of Egypt under his counsel, and he reigned securely over his people.
63; 1 And in the ninety-third year died Levi, the son of Jacob, in Egypt, and Levi was a hundred and thirty-seven years old when he died, and they put him into a coffin and he was given into the hands of his children. 2 And it came to pass after the death of Levi, when all Egypt saw that the sons of Jacob the brethren of Joseph were dead, all the Egyptians began to afflict the children of Jacob, and to embitter their lives from that day unto the day of their going forth from Egypt, and they took from their hands all the vineyards and fields which Joseph had given unto them, and all the elegant houses in which the people of Israel lived, and all the fat of Egypt, the Egyptians took all from the sons of Jacob in those days. 3 And the hand of all Egypt became more grievous in those days against the children of Israel, and the Egyptians injured the Israelites until the children of Israel were wearied of their lives on account of the Egyptians. 4 And it came to pass in those days, in the hundred and second year of Israel’s going down to Egypt, that Pharaoh king of Egypt died, and Melol his son reigned in his stead, and all the mighty men of Egypt and all that generation which knew Joseph and his brethren died in those days. …
….5 And another generation rose up in their stead, which had not known the sons of Jacob and all the good which they had done to them, and all their might in Egypt. 6 Therefore all Egypt began from that day forth to embitter the lives of the sons of Jacob, and to afflict them with all manner of hard labor, because they had not known their ancestors who had delivered them in the days of the famine. 7 And this was also from the Lord, for the children of Israel, to benefit them in their latter days, in order that all the children of Israel might know the Lord their God.
64; 33 And all the Egyptians cried unto the children of Israel, saying, Hasten to us and assist us and save us from the hand of Esau, Ishmael and the children of Chittim. 34 And the hundred and fifty men of the children of Israel ran from their station to the camps of these kings, and the children of Israel cried unto the Lord their God to deliver them. 35 And the Lord hearkened to Israel, and the Lord gave all the men of the kings into their hand, and the children of Israel fought against these kings, and the children of Israel smote about four thousand of the kings’ men. 36 And the Lord threw a great consternation in the camp of the kings, so that the fear of the children of Israel fell upon them. 37 And all the hosts of the kings fled from before the children of Israel and the children of Israel pursued them continuing to smite them unto the borders of the land of Cush. 38 And the children of Israel slew of them in the road yet two thousand men, and of the children of Israel not one fell. 39 And when the Egyptians saw that the children of Israel had fought with such few men with the kings, and that the battle was so very severe against them, 40 All the Egyptians were greatly afraid of their lives on account of the strong battle, and all Egypt fled, every man hiding himself from the arrayed forces, and they hid themselves in the road, and they left the Israelites to fight.
65; 4 And thou hast also seen their strong power, for this power is unto them from their fathers, for but a few men stood up against a people numerous as the sand, and smote them at the edge of the sword, and of themselves not one has fallen, so that if they had been numerous they would then have utterly destroyed them. 5 Now therefore give us counsel what to do with them, until we gradually destroy them from amongst us, lest they become too numerous for us in the land. 6 For if the children of Israel should increase in the land, they will become an obstacle to us, and if any war should happen to take place, they with their great strength will join our enemy against us, and fight against us, destroy us from the land and go away from it. 7 So the king answered the elders of Egypt and said unto them, This is the plan advised against Israel, from which we will not depart, 8 Behold in the land are Pithom and Rameses, cities unfortified against battle, it behooves you and us to build them, and to fortify them. 9 Now therefore go you also and act cunningly toward them, and proclaim a voice in Egypt and in Goshen at the command of the king, saying, 10 All ye men of Egypt, Goshen, Pathros and all their inhabitants! the king has commanded us to build Pithom and Rameses, and to fortify them for battle; who amongst you of all Egypt, of the children of Israel and of all the inhabitants of the cities, are willing to build with us, shall each have his wages given to him daily at the king’s order; so go you first and do cunningly, and gather yourselves and come to Pithom and Rameses to build. 11 And whilst you are building, cause a proclamation of this kind to be made throughout Egypt every day at the command of the king. 12 And when some of the children of Israel shall come to build with you, you shall give them their wages daily for a few days 13 And after they shall have built with you for their daily hire, drag yourselves away from them daily one by one in secret, and then you shall rise up and become their task-masters and officers, and you shall leave them afterward to build without wages, and should they refuse, then force them with all your might to build. 14 And if you do this it will be well with us to strengthen our land against the children of Israel, for on account of the fatigue of the building and the work, the children of Israel will decrease, because you will deprive them from their wives day by day (This was the first phase of Egypt’s unsuccessful effort to control the Israelite population)….19Whosoever of you from all Egypt and from the children of Israel will come to build with us, he shall have his daily wages given by the king, as his command is unto us. 20 And when Egypt and all the children of Israel heard all that the servants of Pharaoh had spoken, there came from the Egyptians, and the children of Israel to build with the servants of Pharaoh, Pithom and Rameses, but none of the children of Levi came with their brethren to build. 21 And all the servants of Pharaoh and his princes came at first with deceit to build with all Israel as daily hired laborers, and they gave to Israel their daily hire at the beginning. 22 And the servants of Pharaoh built with all Israel, and were employed in that work with Israel for a month.23 And at the end of the month, all the servants of Pharaoh began to withdraw secretly from the people of Israel daily.24 And Israel went on with the work at that time, but they then received their daily hire, because some of the men of Egypt were yet carrying on the work with Israel at that time; therefore the Egyptians gave Israel their hire in those days, in order that they, the Egyptians their fellow-workmen, might also take the pay for their labor. 25 And at the end of a year and four months all the Egyptians had withdrawn from the children of Israel, so that the children of Israel were left alone engaged in the work.26 And after all the Egyptians had withdrawn from the children of Israel they returned and became oppressors and officers over them, and some of them stood over the children of Israel as task masters, ….
…. to receive from them all that they gave them for the pay of their labor.27 And the Egyptians did in this manner to the children of Israel day by day, in order to afflict in their work.28 And all the children of Israel were alone engaged in the labor, and the Egyptians refrained from giving any pay to the children of Israel from that time forward. 29 And when some of the men of Israel refused to work on account of the wages not being given to them, then the exactors and the servants of Pharaoh oppressed them and smote them with heavy blows, and made them return by force, to labor with their brethren; thus did all the Egyptians unto the children of Israel all the days.30 And all the children of Israel were greatly afraid of the Egyptians in this matter, and all the children of Israel returned and worked alone without pay….32 But the children of Levi were not employed in the work with their brethren of Israel, from the beginning unto the day of their going forth from Egypt. 33 For all the children of Levi knew that the Egyptians had spoken all these words with deceit to the Israelites, therefore the children of Levi refrained from approaching to the work with their brethren. 34 And the Egyptians did not direct their attention to make the children of Levi work afterward, since they had not been with their brethren at the beginning, therefore the Egyptians left them alone.
This last section about Levi should be noted. It is taught that one of the most depressing parts of the enslavement was the inability for the people to serve Hashem. Their time was not their own, they worked around the clock and all days of the week. (This is one reason Shabbat was one of the first things given- aligning with B’reshit and Creation- upon the “recreation” of this nation of Hashem. They now had the capability to devote a sanctified day as an offering in worship to acknowledge Hashem as their creator and the Master of all time, “who was, and is, and will be”. It is taught that while his brethren worked Levites would teach them the ways of Hashem. This is the key to why they were able to exist at all in such conditions.
From an interview with Rabbi Lau : “…how can you always talk about the full half and deny the fact that the other 50% of the cup is empty.” … “You can’t drink from the empty half,” Rabbi Lau explained. “If you are thirsty and want to satisfy your thirst you have to pay attention to the 50% that’s full. From emptiness, you have nothing. Therefore in my life, I always try to pay attention to the full part because from it you can derive benefit and hope.”
With that background, let us dive into this new book of the Torah. The passage below relates to us a situation connecting to that of the Israelites in Egypt. Where once they had been like princes and mighty men now they were in the mud, performing the lowliest of tasks under the worst imaginable conditions.
Koheles 10;1 Dead flies make a perfumer’s oil stink, so a little foolishness is weightier than wisdom and honor. 2 A wise man’s heart directs him toward the right, but the foolish man’s heart directs him toward the left. 3 Even when the fool walks along the road, his sense is lacking and he demonstrates to everyone that he is a fool. 4 If the ruler’s temper rises against you, do not abandon your position, because composure allays great offenses. 5 There is an evil I have seen under the sun, like an error which goes forth from the ruler— 6 folly is set in many exalted places while rich men sit in humble places. 7 I have seen slaves riding on horses and princes walking like slaves on the land.
B’reshit 9; 24 When Noah awoke from his wine, he knew what his youngest son had done to him. 25 So he said, “Cursed be Canaan; A servant of servants he shall be to his brothers.” 26 He also said, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem; and let Canaan be his servant. 27 “May God enlarge Japheth, and let him dwell in the tents of Shem; and let Canaan be his servant.”
Yes, it seems that after Yosef and his brothers die, the curse of Noach upon his grandson from the line of Cham (who bore Mizrayim) is turned on its head, as the sons of Shem (sons of Avraham, Yitsach and Ya’acov) are in enslaved to him.
B’reshit 10; 6 The sons of Ham were Cush and Mizraim and Put and Canaan.
Another word the sages relate Mitsrayim to:
#4212 (masc.n) metsar מֵצַר – distresses.
Tehillim 116:3 The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow.
Tehillim 118:5 I called upon the LORD in distress: the LORD answered me, and set me in a large place.
Eicha 1:3 Judah is gone into captivity because of affliction, and because of great servitude: she dwelleth among the heathen, she findeth no rest: all her persecutors overtook her between the straits.
The sages also note that Pharaoh is connected to the word oref:
#6203 (masc. N) oref עֹרֶף- the neck, to turn the back.
#6547 (masc. n) Par’oh פַּרְעֹה – of Egyptian derivation-Pharaoh “great house”, the common title of the king of Egypt.
Ezekiel 29;2 Son of man, set your face against Pharaoh king of Egypt and prophesy against him and against all Egypt. 3 Speak and say, ‘Thus says the Lord God, “Behold, I am against you, Pharaoh king of Egypt, the great monster that lies in the midst of his rivers, that has said, ‘My Nile is mine, and I myself have made it.’
Pharaoh is the epitome of worldly power and control. How often he turns his back on God, God’s messenger, his own advisors and his people. How often he turns his back on his own conscience, hardening his heart.
Excerpt from Rabbi Greebaum of azamra.org: The book of Genesis is the “head” of the Torah: BEREISHIS, “at the head”. The first word and first verse of Genesis contain the entire creation “in a nutshell”. The first book of the Torah is the head and brain in the sense that it introduces us to all the fundamentals of true religion. The rest of the Torah is the “body”. Exodus is the “arms” (“for with a mighty HAND G-d took you out of Egypt” Ex. 13:9). Leviticus is the middle and heart of the Torah: “You shall be holy, for I HaShem your G-d am holy” — “and love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus ch. 19 v. 2 and v. 18). The Book of Numbers is the “legs”: the Children of Israel are on the move through the wilderness — “these are the journeys of the Children of Israel” (Numbers 33:1). Finally Deuteronomy is the “feet” — Malchus, the lowest level: “the END of the matter, when all has been heard: fear G-d and observe His commandments, for that is the Whole Man” (Ecc.12:13).
With the opening of the book of Exodus, we are at the beginning of the transition from “the head”, Genesis, to the “body”, the rest of the Torah. We are at the “neck”. This is why we must now encounter Pharaoh, the “back of the neck” — the real Pharaoh, no longer Joseph’s “friendly” patron but a wicked tyrant who, to perpetuate his own rule, is hell-bent on keeping the world from KNOWING G-D.
Sh’mot 1; 5 All the persons who came from the loins of Jacob were seventy in number, but Yosef was already in Egypt. 6 Yosef died, and all his brothers and all that generation. 7 But the sons of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly, and multiplied, and became exceedingly mighty, so that the land was filled with them. 8 Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Yosef.
#4390 (v) mala מָלָא – to be filled, to be full, to be filled or completed. (some examples:
B’reshit 1:21 God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarmed after their kind, and every winged bird after its kind; and God saw that it was good. 22 God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.”
B’reshit 6;11 Now the earth was corrupt in the sight of God, and the earth was filled with violence.12 God looked on the earth, and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth.
B’reshit 9;1 And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. )
[looking at the root for Ah’tsuwm #6105 Ah’tsam עָצַם – to be strong, powerful, to become strong, to be strong and numerous, to break or gnaw bones.
B’reshit 26:12 Now Isaac sowed in that land and reaped in the same year a hundredfold. And the LORD blessed him,13 and the man became rich, and continued to grow richer until he became very wealthy;14 for he had possessions of flocks and herds and a great household, so that the Philistines envied him.15 Now all the wells which his father’s servants had dug in the days of Abraham his father, the Philistines stopped up by filling them with earth. 16 Then Abimelech said to Isaac, “Go away from us, for you are too powerful for us.” (this1st context shows a picture of another group becoming ‘concerned’ about the prosperity of the son of Avraham, no matter what covenant he had made with their king they moved with baseless hatred- sinat chinam, an irrational logic which causes them to fill in wells of water in the desert!)
The second occurrence is from Sh’mot 1;7
Phar’oh- frustrated from the continued growth and prosperity of the Hebrew people takes his ‘game’ up a level and asks the midwives to kill the male children at the time of birth. Here we find our third and last occurrence of this shoresh ________ :
Sh’mot 1:19 The midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not as the Egyptian women; for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife can get to them.” 20 So God was good to the midwives, and the people multiplied, and became very mighty. 21Because the midwives feared God, He established households for them. 22 Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, saying, “Every son who is born you are to cast into the Nile, and every daughter you are to keep alive.”]
Sh’mot 1:8 Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. 9 He said to his people, “Behold, the people of the sons of Israel are more and mightier than we. 10 “Come, let us deal wisely with them, or else they will multiply and in the event of war, they will also join themselves to those who hate us, and fight against us and depart from the land.” 11 So they appointed taskmasters over them to afflict them with hard labor. And they built for Pharaoh storage cities, Pithom and Raamses. 12 But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and the more they spread out, so that they were in dread of the sons of Israel. (2nd occurrence of עָצוּם )
#6099 (adj) ah’tsuwm עָצוּם – strong, robust, powerful, numerous.
B’reshit 18:17 The LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do,18 since Abraham will surely become a great and mighty nation, and in him all the nations of the earth will be blessed?19 “For I have chosen him, so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring upon Abraham what He has spoken about him. (This first occurrence of עָצוּם is found in regard to the promise made of Avraham by God. It’s second occurrence from above shows a fulfillment of God’s promise, even in Mitsrayim, and this is what ‘concern’s the Phar’oh who knew not Yosef.)
Bemidbar 14:11 The LORD said to Moses, “How long will this people spurn Me? And how long will they not believe in Me, despite all the signs which I have performed in their midst? 12 “I will smite them with pestilence and dispossess them, and I will make you into a nation greater and mightier than they. 13 But Moses said to the LORD, “Then the Egyptians will hear of it, for by Your strength You brought up this people from their midst,14 and they will tell it to the inhabitants of this land. They have heard that You, O LORD, are in the midst of this people, for You, O LORD, are seen eye to eye, while Your cloud stands over them; and You go before them in a pillar of cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night. (This 3rd context is Moshe’s second time refusing God’s offer to ‘start over’ with him. Unlike Noach, who was also ‘saved’ in an ark, Moshe will not allow the people to become destroyed, he won’t be a part of that ‘story’.)
Bemidbar 22:2 Now Balak the son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites. 3 So Moab was in great fear because of the people, for they were numerous; and Moab was in dread of the sons of Israel. 4 Moab said to the elders of Midian, “Now this horde will lick up all that is around us, as the ox licks up the grass of the field.” And Balak the son of Zippor was king of Moab at that time. 5 So he sent messengers to Balaam the son of Beor, at Pethor, which is near the River, in the land of the sons of his people, to call him, saying, “Behold, a people came out of Egypt; behold, they cover the surface of the land, and they are living opposite me.6 “Now, therefore, please come, curse this people for me since they are too mighty for me; perhaps I may be able to defeat them and drive them out of the land. For I know that he whom you bless is blessed, and he whom you curse is cursed.”
[The fourth occurrence of עָצוּם is in a parallel context which aligns in that here we see a foreign king who fears the people of Israel, he looks out at them and see’s in them a ‘swarm-like’ number, his fear is based upon several things (including baseless hatred- sinat chinam) one of which include’s the possibility of them joining with an ‘enemy’ of said ruler and rising up against him. It is also interesting that when Balak enlists Bil’am’s help he makes a statement connecting us to the promise to Avraham “those who bless…”]
Sh’mot 2;1 Now a man from the house of Levi went and married a daughter of Levi. 2The woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw that he was beautiful, she hid him for three months.3 But when she could hide him no longer, she got him a wicker basket and covered it over with tar and pitch. Then she put the child into it and set it among the reeds by the bank of the Nile.4 His sister stood at a distance to find out what would happen to him.
#2896 (adj, fem N, mas N) טוב tov – good, kind, upright, what pleases, goodly, fair, beautiful, pleasant, agreeable, well off, prosperous, happy, distinguished, great, excelling.
The first time we see something was good, tov, in the bible (in B’reshit) is the created light:
B’reshit 1;1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. 3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.
[ take a look at the first context for the verbal root form of tov. Think about how it connects us to a very similar passage in which another woman see’s that something is tov and that it is good for food :
#2895 (v) tov טוֹב – it is good, it is well, beautiful, pleasant, to be cheerful, merry, to make fair, adorn, to make cheerful.
Bemidbar 11:18 “Say to the people, ‘Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow, and you shall eat meat; for you have wept in the ears of the LORD, saying, “Oh that someone would give us meat to eat! For we were well-off in Egypt.” Therefore the LORD will give you meat and you shall eat. 19 ‘You shall eat, not one day, nor two days, nor five days, nor ten days, nor twenty days, 20 but a whole month, until it comes out of your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you; because you have rejected the LORD who is among you and have wept before Him, saying, “Why did we ever leave Egypt?”’” ]
B’reshit 6 When the woman הָֽאִשָּׁה saw וַתֵּרֶא that the tree was good כִּי טֹוב for food, and that it was a delight (#8378 תַֽאֲוָה ta’avah- pleasant )to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.
The first place in Sh’mot that we see something was good, tov, in the bible is when the woman (Yocheved) see’s that Moshe is good:
Sh’mot 2; 2 The woman הָאִשָּׁה conceived and bore a son; and when she saw (וַתֵּרֶא) that he was beautiful כִּי טֹוב, she hid him for three months.
There are only two contexts where the following Hebrew word is found in Tanakh, in reference to the flood and of the ark which saved baby Moshe from the waters of the Nile.
# 8392 (Fem.n) Tevah תֵּבָה – a chest, an ark, coffer.
B’reshit 6:14 “Make for yourself an ark תֵּבָה of gopher wood; you shall make the ark הַתֵּבָה with rooms, and shall cover it inside and out with pitch.”
Sh’mot 2:3 But when she could hide him no longer, she got him a wicker basket תֵּבָה and covered it over with tar and pitch. Then she put the child into it and set it among the reeds by the bank of the Nile.
*As Yocheved puts Moshe in the river Nile’s waters it echoes the parents in Europe as another evil decree was closing in on them. They put their children on trains, arks of hope, without knowing if they would live or die…it was their only chance and despite the need to hold them close a little longer they gave their children’s lives a chance through their selflessness.
Into the Arms Of Strangers- documentary; Kinder transport – A Journey to Life; Nicholas Winton*
#2550 (v) Chamal חָמַל – to pity, to have compassion on, to be sparing of any thing.
Malachi 3;13 “Your words have been arrogant against Me,” says the LORD. “Yet you say, ‘What have we spoken against You?’14“You have said, ‘It is vain to serve God; and what profit is it that we have kept His charge, and that we have walked in mourning before the LORD of hosts? 15 ‘So now we call the arrogant blessed; not only are the doers of wickedness built up but they also test God and escape.’”16 Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another, and the LORD gave attention and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the LORD and who esteem His name. 17 “They will be Mine,” says the LORD of hosts, “on the day that I prepare My own possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him.”18 So you will again distinguish between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve Him.
Sh’mot 2;5 The daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the Nile, with her maidens walking alongside the Nile; and she saw the basket among the reeds and sent her maid, and she brought it to her. 6 When she opened it, she saw the child, and behold, the boy was crying. And she had pity וַתַּחְמֹל on him and said, “This is one of the Hebrews’ children.”
If you could summarize the main theme of B’reshit what would it be?
B’reshit begins with a question, will ‘you’ take an interest in your brother? Do you consider ‘yourself’ involved in your brother’s life? Will ‘you’ take responsibility for your brother’s life?
B’reshit starts with Cayin whose response is “No. I don’t care about my brother, I want nothing to do with my brother….”
B’reshit 4;9 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” And he said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?”
Sh’mot must begin a different way, and it does. Immediately we witness the transition from a life of comfort and security to a situation of gradual degradation until the people are enslaved and oppressed. The “Auschwitz” situation. Yet, much like that unthinkable time of evil, we find heroes who were willing to risk it all to be responsible for their brother. We find women who were brave enough to encounter evil face to face and stand for what was right. Shifra and Puah (whose houses were established by God see Sh’mot 1;15-21) are the Hebrew midwives who defied the evil decree of a wicked king, one who could take their lives at a moments whim. We find Phar’oh’s daughter Batyah who took in a Hebrew slave and raised him as her own at the risk of defying her father’s evil decree. Batyah even gives this Tov child a name which will remind him of where he came from. By giving him this name [Moshe] Phar’oh’s daughter meant to impress upon him that “as long as he lives he must never forget that he was thrown into the water and that she drew him up there.” For this reason his heart should always be filled with compassion for the sufferings of others and that he should be ready at all times to be a Moshe, to “draw out” others from distress. In sefer Shm’ot we meet Mirjam, who takes an interest in her brother and stands by him ensuring she is actively involved in his fate. Her mother Yocheved see’s not the short 3 years she will have with her son as futile. She instills in him all the hope, love, and heritage she possibly can while God has blessed her to be able to nurse him. (Sh’mot 2;5-10)
These cases are examples that teach us Sh’mot is going to be a “new” story.
Sh’mot 2; 11 Now it came about in those days, when Moses had grown up, that he went out to his brethren and looked on their hard labors; and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his brethren. 12 So he looked this way and that, and when he saw there was no one around, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. 13 He went out the next day, and behold, two Hebrews were fighting with each other; and he said to the offender, “Why are you striking your companion?” 14 But he said, “Who made you a prince or a judge over us? Are you intending to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” Then Moses was afraid and said, “Surely the matter has become known.” 15 When Pharaoh heard of this matter, he tried to kill Moses. But Moses fled from the presence of Pharaoh and settled in the land of Midian, and he sat down by a well.
Here we meet Moshe the man, a ‘prince’ in the most powerful kingdom in the world. He knows “who he is” (a Hebrew with knowledge of covenantal promises and the accounts of his fathers) yet he is surrounded by the excess and decadence of a society totally removed from the service in humility of the One Righteous God of the universe. Moshe stands to lose everything, yet he is willing to give up everything for that brother. Moshe makes the worst “career move” he could ever make.
** Mark 10; 17As He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 18And Yeshua said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. 19“You know the commandments, ‘DO NOT MURDER, DO NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, DO NOT STEAL, DO NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS, Do not defraud, HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER.’” 20And he said to Him, “Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up.” 21Looking at him, Yeshua felt a love for him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” 22 But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property. **
Phar’oh has no value for life. Not Egyptian life, certainly not the lives of slaves. He is not seeking to punish Moshe because he killed an Egyptian. Moshe is a “prince of Egypt”. ( Yasher 67; 19 For a son will be born to Israel who will destroy all Egypt and its inhabitants, and bring forth the Israelites from Egypt with a mighty hand.) So perhaps because he knew of a ‘redeemer’ who was to come and lead the Hebrew slaves out of Phar’oh’s control, in Moshe’s act of compassion for his true brother and rebellion against the Egypt system, perhaps Phar’oh saw the true threat : that there could be a wave of “countenance lifting”, that the people will see that they can find true freedom inside no matter what crushing harshness or burdens he laid upon them. The true threat was that someone might lead the people to master the despair (sin) which was always for them. Phar’oh saw Moshe set that example, this is why he hunted Moshe. The response of one of the Hebrew men who were ‘fighting’ the next day is stark, it is almost as if he says, “Who do you think you are? Your brother’s keeper?”
# 584 (v) anach אָנַח – to groan, to sigh. [Found only from passage below in Torah]
Sh’mot 2:23 Now it came about in of those many days that the king of Egypt died. And the sons of Israel sighed וַיֵּאָנְחוּ because of the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry for help because of their bondage rose up to God.
# 585 (Fem.N) anachah אֲנָחָה – a groan, sigh.
Tehillim 102; 1 A Prayer of the Afflicted when he is faint and pours out his complaint before the Lord. Hear my prayer, O Lord! And let my cry for help come to You. 2 Do not hide Your face from me in the day of my distress; Incline Your ear to me; in the day when I call answer me quickly. 3 For my days have been consumed in smoke, and my bones have been scorched like a hearth. 4 My heart has been smitten like grass and has withered away, indeed, I forget to eat my bread. 5 Because of the loudness of my groaning אַנְחָתִי my bones cling to my flesh.
Moshe flee’s Egypt and what is the first thing he does? (Remember our lessons about the Hebrew’s being abhorred by the Egyptians. Shepherds were considered to be despicable to them. Animals were worshipped as gods.) Moshe chooses to become a shepherd. Moshe now understands himself as separate, and ‘nothing to do with Egypt’. Moshe is working. He is doing his job yet he is not ‘too busy’. He stops what he is doing and looks. He is drawn to this mountain, drawn to Hashem. Drawn to Torah, this is the site of revelation and he MUST ‘know’ the ‘why’. Know what his forefathers experienced there, know what he is meant to experience there. He is seeking out God. ( Can you read these words? השם, משה What do you notice? )
Sh’mot 3;1 Now Moses was pasturing the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian; and he led the flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 The angel of the Lord appeared to him in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush; and he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, yet the bush was not consumed. 3 So Moses said, “ I must turn aside now and see this marvelous sight, why the bush is not burned up.” 4 When the Lord saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.”
This book will end a different way- with fire, the shkinah, the Glory of God from heaven. The revelation with Moshe at the burning bush is a prelude to the revelation at Sinai for Matan Torah. The glory of God in fire on the mountain is a prelude for the Divine Presence resting above the Ark which houses the Tablets of Testimony in the Holy Mishkan. The Temple service and all its functions and facets are a prelude to Yeshua Messiah’s first coming when the Word and Wisdom of God, the Torah made flesh came and tabernacled among men. Yeshua’s first coming was a prelude to the eternal Shabbat when our physicality, spirituality, time, space, our ALL becomes dedicated entirely to the Eternal God of the Universe in service for His Righteous and Perfect Kingdom.
Sh’mot 1; 13 The Egyptians compelled the sons of Israel to labor rigorously; 14 and they made their lives bitter with hard labor in mortar and bricks and at all kinds of labor in the field, all their labors which they rigorously imposed on them.
(This word coming from an unused shoresh meaning “to break apart” #6531 (Masc.N) Perek פֶּרֶךְ – oppression, tyranny….explains to us what the Egyptians first step was to ‘destroy’ the Jewish people. Much like during the Holocaust, the first step was to separate them away from the ‘native’ population. It is fascinating that the Feminine Form of this word is found only in reference to a different kind of separation.A holy separation. I believe it could shed light on the fact that the people forgot the part of their mission which included being a Holy and Set Apart people, forgetting where their True Home was and remaining in Egypt longer than the famine which ‘brought them’ there lasted. The sign that they will eventually become that “redeemed” people is when they come and serve God on Har Sinai and then in the Mishkan:
# 6532 (Fem. N) Parochet פָּרֹכֶת – a vail.
Sh’mot 26; 33“You shall hang up the veil under the clasps, and shall bring in the ark of the testimony there within the veil; and the veil shall serve for you as a partition between the holy place and the holy of holies.
Going forward we can not forget where we have come from, a series of falls and dysfunctional episodes and interwoven throughout are triumphs and the testimony which goes with us into Shemot. This is the book where the Name of God is shown, WHO HE IS and where the people He has chosen decide what makes them who they are. They must to learn to realize that they not slaves but Torch bearers. As we read let us do so with new eyes of freshness and empathy, as though we are right there with them.
B’reshit 15:13 God said to Abram, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers (גָּר #1616- ger, the Egyptians separate the people making them as foreigner in Egypt) in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved (עָבַד #5647- abad, to serve. The people were compelled into service through “all their labors which they rigorously imposed on them.”) and oppressed ( עָנָה #6031 anat-oppressed and afflicted… “the more they afflicted them”) four hundred years.
This is not someone else’s story, this account has been played out before our eyes upon the pages of the scroll, in the past as we remember the parallel atrocities of the Holocaust and again as the world again seeks to distance, separate, despise, afflict, boycott and force Israel to diminish herself in strength and significance. Nevertheless, her importance with the One Who was, is and will be is steady and central as ever.This story is our story too. We will see a parallel account unfold before our eyes and we will do well to take a look once more at the essence of the separation between brothers, nations, peoples. Cain ceased to see himself in the image of God, he feels as though he has fallen from God’s grace and favor. Eventually the self loathing converts to rage and jealousy which we see in the other accounts of brothers in dissent. The biggest danger to the Jewish people in Egypt is that they forget it too, that they are meant to bear the image of God in the world…this is why the Nazi’s degraded the Jewish people by taking their hair and clothing and families and attempting to steal their faith from them. Dehumanizing them and categorizing them like Phar’oh did as a swarm of inhuman ungodlike creeping things covering the surface of the earth. The only reason for HATE in PEOPLE is WHEN YOU BLIND YOURSELF to the SPARK OF GOD IN THEM. Yocheved saw the light that was good in Moshe, Moshe looked and saw in his people the spark that they were numb to. Perhaps we too can turn aside from our work, our selves and look to see something in someone else you might not have “noticed” before. To grant someone else the ability to acknowledge that they bear the spark, and image of God is to defeat Pharaoh’s evil decree’s, it is to defeat the lingering effects of Nazism and Anti semitism. It is to defeat the accusations of the destroyer.
Yoav 1; 8 The Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil.” 9 Then Satan answered the Lord, “Does Job fear God for nothing? 10 Have You not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But put forth Your hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse You to Your face.”
When our hedges and our houses are shaken to dust, if our security and horses are taken and we are fallen to the mud and ashes of mourning, where will we find our strength to continue. I pray for each one of us it will be as the words of the Levites in the ears of their brothers, the blessings and chants of the sages who dug pits for their brethren in the camps…the words reminding us we are in the image of Hashem and nothing can take that away.
Sh’mot 3;13 Then Moses said to God, “Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel, and I will say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you.’ Now they may say to me, ‘What is His name?’ What shall I say to them?” 14 God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”
אֶֽהְיֶ֖ה אֲשֶׁ֣ר אֶֽהְיֶ֑ה eh’yeh asher eh’yeh
Chaya, Choveh and Yeheyeh – past, present, and future. The idea isn’t just that God was is and always will be, but that He transcends time. God exists in the past, present and future — simultaneously.
Being stuck in a finite world, this is something we cannot fully comprehend, but the concept of God being Infinite is something powerful and humbling. If our periods of slavery remind us of our own limitations, it could be a great thing. It could bring us to rely on that which does not have limitations, namely God. Hashem. Healthy dependence is a great way to build a relationship and this is our true task, service, mission, destiny, bond– to forge a relationship with the Creator. I pray our journey into Shemot together will be an illumination of all that is Tov about Him and that it strengthen that relationship along the way.
resources: see homepage and click on My Resources entry for all the links I use to compile these lessons.