EXODUS – SHEMOT
Week 1 – Shemot – Names
The focal point of this second book of the Torah is the Exodus from Egypt, which happened at a particular time in ancient history and yet, in each generation, the story is ever new. The lessons to be learnt and the meanings to be discovered are vitally real and accessible to each individual soul at the moment of searching.
The name of the second book of the Torah and this week’s portion is taken from the first verse’s listing of the Hebrew names (shemot) of the sons of Israel. As a result of Pharaoh’s senseless hatred and persecution (in what, in effect, is the first record of deliberate Anti-Semitism), these descendants of Jacob have lost their identity and become nameless slaves. Then a son is born to one of these lowly enslaved families, whose name will rise as a star in the history of the Jewish people and the nations—Moses, Moshe. God will choose this man to lead His people from the exile of Egypt into freedom and redemption.
We read that Moses, after his flight from Egypt into the Midian wilderness, marries Zipporah, the daughter of Jethro the wise Midianite priest, and serves his father-in-law by tending his sheep. Moses leads a settled,contented life until the day he encounters God in a bush that is burning but not consumed.
God speaks to him from the heart of the flames. He calls Moses to return to Egypt and to demand that Pharaoh let the Israelite people go that they might worship God in the desert. He assures Moses that He will be with him and reveals His Name to him: YHWH (yod, heh, vav, heh) the God who was who He was, is who He is, and will be who He will be. He is the same God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—the God of Israel—yesterday, today, and forever.
Week 2 – Va’era – And I Appeared
The stage is set for a dramatic confrontation between the God of Israel and the ruler of the then known world—Pharaoh. God warns Moses that Pharaoh’s heart is hardened and he will not be willing to hear them. A battle of wills is imminent but the outcome will demonstrate the extent of God’s power above the gods of Egypt, chief of which is Pharaoh himself.
The simple, yet vital, tool of the shepherd in Moses’ hand becomes the symbol of God’s authority. A carved branch of wood is transformed to bear the miraculous power of the Almighty Creator of the universe. Through the process of the ten plagues God progressively demonstrates His power as Creator over water and land, over animals and people, and over life and death. Ultimately Pharaoh himself, although unwillingly, will also bow to His Name.
The four expressions in chapter 6, verses 6-7, represent the progressive stages of redemption from Egypt and provide the basis for the four cups of wine at the Passover Seder.
Ve’hotzati – I will bring you out. God Himself will do it. The role of the people is one ofobedience in following His guidance. We only need to hear and to obey His voice; God does the rest.
Ve’hitzalti – I will rescue you. The Hebrew verb hitzil implies rescue from an impendingdanger. He goes before us to prepare the way, and is our protection and strength in times of trouble.
Ve’ga’alti – I will redeem you. Ga’al denotes redemption from an existing destructive process. The go’el, redeemer, steps in on behalf of an indebted or enslaved kinsman to pay the ransom and to gain his release. This role of Kinsman Redeemer in the wider universal application is perfectly filled by Messiah Yeshua.
Ve’lakachti – I will take you to Myself as a people. This is the first statement of Israel’s destiny as a people set apart unto God. Their existence is founded upon Him and their destiny inextricably bound up with Him. Israel is His, forever.
Week 3 – Bo – Come
In Genesis, God commands Abraham: “Lech! Go! Go… to the land that I will show you.” It is a command that calls for the obedience of faith. Now God says to Moses: “Bo! Come!” He says, in effect: “Come to Me and we will go to Pharaoh together.” God is with him. Moses simply needs to join Him and cooperate with the plan already set in place.
Our Father has a unique plan for each of His children. When He calls us to participate in His plan we can only respond in loving trust, no matter the negative opposition or the challenging obstacles placed in our way.
The parasha contains an interesting emphasis on the new month, Aviv (Spring) that begins on the eve of the Exodus. “This month shall be for you the beginning of months (Rosh Chodashim); it shall be the first month of the year for you” (12:2). The Exodus from Egypt marks a fresh beginning in the history of mankind, and Israel is now given a new calendar based on the lunar cycle. Each new moon will mark the start of a new month, Rosh Chodesh.
Week 4 – BeShalach – When He Sent
BeShalach contains the inspiring Song of Moses sung at the edge of the Sea of Reeds. It is a spontaneous outburst of praise and rejoicing at the faithfulness of the God of Israel, evidenced in their deliverance from Pharaoh’s army by His miraculous act of redemption. In clear recognition of His mighty power and in surprised, joyful knowledge of His great love and protection, the Israelites now can say, “Zeh Eli! This is my God!” (Ex.15:2).
The bitterness of the past is redeemed and they are drawn to dance, and then called to walk, in the light of His Divine countenance. In the Song of praise they are raised to a higher place of beauty, hope and destiny as a people.
The Song of Moses gives voice to the desire of God’s heart that His people be the Temple of His Presence; that the nation be holy—set apart unto Him, and the individuals be priests in His service. When the only-too-human Israelites fall short of this aspiration, God gives detailed instructions for building the physical Tabernacle, the blueprint for the later Temple.
The newly birthed Israelites now move into the wilderness. The wonder and inspiration of their deliverance soon wanes and the murmuring and complaining begin. During three days of journeying they find no water and they criticize Moses. By means of another miracle Moses makes bitter water sweet. Next they grumble and complain of hunger. God responds by providing quails and manna—bread from heaven (16:12- 15). They are instructed to gather sufficient manna early each morning to satisfy their need for the day. On the sixth day they are to collect a double portion, to provide enough for the following day. This would be the Sabbath, on which they were to rest and do no work, but set it apart as holy to the Lord—a time of special meeting with Him (16:23).
At the culmination of the parasha they encounter an enemy; one who represents those who would seek the destruction of the people Israel throughout history—the evil Amalek.
Week 5 – Yitro – Jethro
Yitro opens with an account of the arrival of Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, together with Moses’ wife Zipporah and their two sons. As well as a family reunion it is a significant spiritual turning point for Jethro, a renowned priest in Midian. He has recognized the power of the God of Israel and he desires to unite his spiritual destiny with that of the Israelites.
The great highlight this week is the revelation of God and His Word at Mount Sinai. It is seven weeks, forty-nine days, since the deliverance from Egypt and, at the invitation of God, His people are prepared to meet with Him. They hear an extended blast of the Divine shofar, thunder booms, lightning flashes and, as tongues of flame shoot forth above them, God speaks the Ten Words that will change the world. The earth and the people tremble in fear. It is the first Pentecost.
The foundation charter, as it were, of God’s Kingdom is first presented here at Mount Sinai, in the magnificent Ten Words. They encapsulate the truth, wisdom, guidance and instruction of the complete Word of God and, in essence, define the yoke of His Kingdom. Thus Yeshua, the Incarnation of this Word, could say: “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
Upon the willing acceptance of this yoke of the Kingdom of God, one discovers it is a yoke of unfathomable love. Every word of instruction is for the good and highest well being of the subjects of the King.
~Keren Hannah Pryor
Based on A Taste of Torah available via FFOZ.org