THOUGHT FOR PARSHAT SHEMOT 5779

BY RABBI CHAIM FACHLER

 

Wow! What a Parsha! So much to discuss. So much to learn. So many questions. So many answers. But let’s focus on two issues, and then I’ll leave one question temporarily unanswered.

 

The word Shemot (names) is used to describe both the Parsha and the Book. The commonly used English name for the Book is of course Exodus, which is indeed the central theme. But Chazal also refer to it as Sefer Hasheni – the Second Book. This might seem somewhat unoriginal, but in fact it sends the strongest of messages. Bereishit and Shemot are Parts I and II of the same story - The Creation.

 

We learn from this that the Creation had a single purpose – to give the Torah to Am Yisrael. And if we were to decline to receive the Torah, HaShem would return the world to Tohu Vavohu - emptiness and void. Luckily, we accepted the Torah. But with it we, the entire Jewish People, took upon ourselves an enormous and universal responsibility. Chilling stuff.

 

Now let’s look at verses 7 and 8. “And the Children of Israel were fruitful, teemed, increased, and became strong – very, very much so; and the land became filled with them. And a new King arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph.” What an interesting juxtaposition.

 

The Netziv explains that the word “land” refers not to Goshen where the Jews first settled, but rather to Egypt itself. Both Yakov and Yosef were adamant that in order to preserve their Jewish identity, the people needed to stay secluded from the corrupt and decadent Egyptians. Unfortunately, after Yosef died, the people decided to interact with their “hosts.” Many went to live in Egypt proper, hoping that they would “get on”. The result was the exact opposite. A catastrophe.

 

At the very end of the Parsha, Moshe has harsh words for HaShem. Very harsh. So harsh in fact that according to one Medrash, in HaShem’s response lies a veiled hint that Moshe just forfeited his right to enter the Promised Land!

 

Moshe, who didn’t want the job, only accepted the mission when HaShem got really angry with him. When Moshe saw that the people’s plight got even worse, his frustrations understandably got the better of him. And for this, his most fervent wish was denied him? Sounds unfair, no?

 

Definitely lots of food for thought.

 

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Chaim Fachler