Parashat Shemot: Exodus 1:1 to 6:1

Week of Friday, January 5, 2024

The second book of Torah is called Shemot, which means “names,” that is, we have a list of the names of Jacob’s sons who entered Egypt. The key phrase is, “there arose a new king who knew not Joseph.” Thus begins the exile of the Israelite people, which will ultimately lead to liberation and redemption in chapters 12 and 13.

Our Torah portion features a striking dialogue between God and Moses in which the Almighty tries to convince the shepherd to assume leadership of the Israelites. Moses has doubtful credentials. After all, did he not sacrifice a life as prince of Egypt in order to avenge the life of a Hebrew slave? Shortly afterwards, when he tries to stop a fight between two Hebrew men, they mock him and say, “who made you ruler and judge over us? Will you kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” So Moses tells God that he doesn’t want to be the leader. Chapters 3 and 4 are a textbook dialogue in which Moses finds many ways to say “no” to God. Indeed the midrash even deduces that the Almighty punishes Moses for his reluctance, taking the priesthood away from him and placing it upon Aaron’s shoulders.

Perhaps Moses’ reluctance is an example of humility, or anxiety?

We have to delve deeper into the Torah story to understand the dynamics of faith. For the Holy One tells him: “I will be with you.”

How do we know when God is truly with us? Join us for Torah study this Shabbat morning.

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