Saturday 18th January 2020 21st Tevet 5780
PARASHAT SHEMOT Herschel
Exodus 1:1 – 6:1; Isaiah 27:6 – 28:13; Matt 2:1-12
And (or now) these are the names of the children of Israel who came to Egypt;
“V’eila shemot B’nei Yisrael haba’im mitzrayimah
‘Shemot’ means ‘names’. And so, as is the custom, the 1st parasha and the entire book of Exodus share the same name - úåîù - Shemot – Names!
Notice the ‘and’: ‘and these are the names’ (some translations say ‘now these are the names’). The sages infer that the ‘and’ (Hebrew ‘ve’) - connects the books of Genesis and Exodus. In other words, Exodus continues where Genesis left off.
In the latter chapters of Genesis, we see Jacob and his entire family began the process into exile by going down to Egypt because of the severe famine in the region.
2. The Hebrew word ‘haba’im’ translates more accurately as ‘who were coming to Egypt’. äîéøöî íéàáä ìàøùé éðá úåîù äìàå
Why does it express this in the present continuous verb form?
The sages suggest that it is because it indicates a new phase in their lives in Egypt. Jacob had already died and now, Joseph’s death was imminent. As long as Joseph was alive, Pharaoh and the Egyptians treated the Israelites with deference and respect. However, Joseph’s passing introduces Israel descent into spiritual slavery. Furthermore, it was the death of the 70 souls that came down to Egypt, including the twelve sons, that marked Israel’s descent into physical slavery. This was expediated by the ascension of a new Pharaoh who did not know Joseph or the special arrangement with the Israelites. And therefore, it was as if they were just arriving in Egypt for the first time!
There are 2 dominant themes that underscore the entire book of Exodus and I recall this very clearly because over 20 years ago, Rabbi Russ Resnick taught a module titled “Torah and Messianic Judaism” here in Cape Town and he emphasized this point.
1 Afterward Moses and Aaron went in and told Pharaoh, "Thus says the LORD God of Israel: 'Let My people go, that they may worship Me in the wilderness.'"
This is repeated 8 times in the book of Exodus!
Let My people go
That they might worship Me
And that, dear friends, is the Good News realized in the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Yeshua, our Messiah! The messianic redemption, as I have taught on numerous occasions, will follow the pattern of the exodus from Egypt. Just as Moses led the Israelites out of the physical oppression in Egypt, so too, will the “Righteous Branch” of Jeremiah’s prophecy in chapter 23, lead God’s people out of exile into the Promised Land of the Kingdom, there to live in peace.
Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks has this to say about the book of Exodus.
The opening chapters of Exodus plunge us into the midst of epic events. Almost at a stroke the Israelites are transformed from protected minority to slaves. Moses passes from prince of Egypt to Midianite shepherd to leader of the Israelites through a history-changing encounter at the burning bush. Yet it is one small episode that deserves to be seen as a turning point in the history of humanity.
Its heroines are two remarkable women, Shifra and Puah, who were midwives. They were instructed by Pharaoh to commit infanticide but they refused his direct orders.
The Hebrew description of the two women as ha-meyaldot ha-ivriyot, is ambiguous. It could mean “the Hebrew midwives.” Most translations and commentaries read it as such – the were Hebrew midwives! But it could equally mean, “the midwives to the Hebrews,” in which case they may have been Egyptian.
That is how Josephus, Abarbanel and Samuel David Luzzatto understand it, arguing that it is simply implausible to suppose that Hebrew women would have been party to an act of genocide against their own people. They feared God more than they feared man!
There are ‘firsts’ recorded in our Torah portion that appear for the first time in history.
1. The new Pharaoh issued instructions for infanticide, the murder of Jewish baby boys, in order to halt their numerical and exponential growth. This is the 1st recorded instance in world history were a nation attempts to deal with the Jewish problem.
2. This is the first recorded instance in history of civil disobedience: refusing to obey an order, given by the most powerful man in the most powerful empire of the ancient world, simply because it was immoral, unethical, and inhuman.
7 And the LORD said: "I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their
taskmasters, for I know their sorrows.
8 "So I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up from that land to a good and large land, to a
land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites
What is HaShem’s solution to Israel’s suffering in Egypt or His people anywhere else in the world, for that matter? What is God’s promise in the light of the suffering in this present generation? ãøàå - ‘va’areid’ – ‘I have come down’. The root word ‘yarad’ means ‘to descend to the lower regions’. This concept of G-d coming down is evident throughout our scriptures.
Centuries later, during the 2nd Temple period, when HaShem saw his people groaning under the burden of sin, He once again intervened for the sake of His righteousness. And so, in the fullness of time, Messiah was born as a human being in order to fully identify with our plight and to provide a way of escape from the cruellest of all taskmasters, the adversary himself!