Headlines »

March 6, 2007 – 12:38 am | 1,550 views

Two Fears
In his first inaugural address, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt declared, “We have nothing to fear, but fear itself. “ (1) Contrast that with Moses, who proclaimed, in his final address to the nation, “All G-d your lord desires from you is that you fear him.” (2)

Read the full story »
Parsha Insights

Where Biblical law and Torah tale is brought vividly to life

Concepts

The Jewish perspective on topical and controversial subjects

Life Cycle

Probing for meaning in our journey and its milestones.

Yearly Cycle

Discover depth and mystique in the annual Jewish festivals

Rabbi’s Desk

Seeking life’s lessons in news items and current events

Home » Shemot Parshah

Shemot: Food for Thought at your Dinner Table

Submitted by on December 16, 2007 – 12:16 amNo Comment | 2,447 views

Sunday: Commitment at all Costs

When Pharaoh’s astrologers predicted the birth of a child, who would liberate his brethren from Egypt he instructed the Jewish midwives to kill all Jewish male newborns. Disregarding the danger to themselves, the midwives defied the royal decree and set a tone for future generations of commitment to Torah, despite all odds.
Rebbetzin Esther Jungreiz relates a remarkable episode of Jewish courage that occurred during her childhood in the infamous death camp, Bergen Belsen. Shortly before Rosh Hashanah word spread through the camp that her father, Rabbi Jungreiz, was in possession of a Shofar. Jewish ritual was outlawed in Bergen Belsen and breaking these laws was punishable by death. Despite the danger, scores of Jews lined up in front of their barracks to hear the soulful blasts of the Shofar.
This image imprinted itself upon her young mind and remained with her forever. It is this super-rational tenacity that has shaped our nation’s course and persevered our heritage in times of danger.

Monday: Sublimating Egyptian Wisdom

When Pharaoh demanded an explanation for the fact that the newly born Jewish babies were still alive, the midwives declared, “Jewish women are unlike Egyptian women, they give birth before we arrive” A closer, more literal, examination of the Hebrew yields a different translation. No, the Egyptian / Jewish women give birth before we arrive.” What is an Egyptian / Jewish woman?
Neither Jewish nor Egyptian women knew how to midwife their own births. However, once Jewish women integrated their birthing knowledge with the knowledge they gleaned from Egyptian women they discovered this newfound art.
Torah can only be found among Jews, but wisdom can be found among all nations. Throughout history, Jews have adapted and sublimated non-Jewish ideas, language and music to Judaism. The Talmud, for example was written in Aramaic, rather than Hebrew. Adapting non Jewish knowledge to Jewish purposes is a noble and highly Jewish endeavor. Or Hachayim

Tuesday:  A Secret Benefactor

Moses came of age in Pharaoh’s home and was  appointed  to oversee various offices of government, including the department of Jewish slaves. Moses, masquerading as an Egyptian, toured the Jewish work sites and instituted many improvements under the guise of enhancing productivity for Egypt.
Arguing that rested workers are more productive, Moses instituted a weekly day of rest. Arguing that healthy workers can work longer hours, Moses banned corporeal punishment and improved medical conditions. Arguing that disgruntled workers sabotage productivity Moses insisted that the Jewish dead be treated with dignity and be brought to proper burial.
For each of these improvements, Moses was rewarded in kind. Moses instituted a day of rest and merited teaching Jews about Shabbat. He improved medical conditions and was rewarded with a long, healthy life. He ensured proper burial for the dead and was buried by G-d Himself. Midrash Rabbah

Wednesday: The Heart of the Fire

In the flame that engulfed the thorn bush, Moses saw G-d. The Hebrew word for flame shares root letters with the Hebrew word for heart, prompting Rashi’s comment that Moses saw G-d, “in the heart of the flame.” Flame, in this context, symbolizes a soulful yearning for G-d enhanced by smoldering passion and ecstatic love. The heart of the flame represents wholehearted acceptance and unquestioning faith in G-d.
This unquestioning faith can only be found in a thorn bush. The Torah compares humankind to a tree. The righteous are compared to fruit-bearing trees. A simple Jew is compared to the unadorned bush. It was not in the sophisticated Torah scholar that Moses found G-d, but in the wholesomeness of the simple Jew. The all-embracing faith of the simple Jew is unadorned and unsophisticated, but it is pure and enduring.
The great Moses was taught a profound lesson. Understanding the commandments and nurturing a love for G-d is imperative. However, Judaism endures in the unadorned simplicity of faith. It is this purity of soul and nobility of character that comprises the heart of the Jewish flame. Sefer Hasichos 5742

Thursday: The Need to Ask

G-d appointed Aaron as Moses’ interpreter to ensure that Moses’ speech handicap would not hamper his communicates with Pharaoh. Why did G-d not simply cure Moses? Nachmanidies explained this was because Moses never asked for it. If G-d saw fit to inflict him, Moses would not pray for healing.
Faith and trust are two concurrent, yet conflicting Jewish values. We believe that all suffering is for a good purpose even as we pray to G-d for deliverance and trust Him to resolve our troubles. We do not take a fatalist view and believe that whatever occurs is fated. On the contrary, we believe that G-d wants us to build our own vessels through which He can channel blessings of deliverance. In the end G-d helps those who pray for His assistance and who work to solve their problems. Nachmanidies

Friday: Your Enemies Have Died

Just before Moses left for Egypt, G-d informed him that it was safe to return for those who had wanted to kill him had since died. Why did G-d wait till the last minute with this report?
As mentioned above, G-d waited for Moses to pray for healing. Had his speech ailments been cured Moses would have no cause to fear his old enemies. More than fifty years had passed since they last saw him and tried to kill him; his old time nemeses would hardly recognize him.
Now that Moses refused to pray for healing he would return with his distinctive lisp and there was thus a danger of being recognized by his old enemies. G-d therefore informed him at this time that his enemies had already died.
Why didn’t Moses pray to be healed? Aware of his perfection and talents, Moses may have been concerned about personal hubris. Maintaining his handicap would ensure that he remain humble. Ktav Sofer

Shabbat: Worship in the Desert

Moses appealed to Pharaoh to liberate the Jews so that they might worship G-d in the desert. Moses surely knew that the Jews were destined to enter Israel, why did he not mention that they would worship in the Holy Land?
Moses, who knew the future, was aware that the generation that left Egypt would not in fact enter Israel. They would sin by accepting the slanderous report of the spies and, in punishment, would die in the desert. Moses, a man of truth, measured every word he uttered. His statement was highly accurate as the Jews, who left Egypt worshiped only in the desert. Or Hachayim
Tags:

Leave a comment!

Add your comment below, or trackback from your own site. You can also Comments Feed via RSS.

Be nice. Keep it clean. Stay on topic. No spam.

You can use these tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

This is a Gravatar-enabled weblog. To get your own globally-recognized-avatar, please register at Gravatar.