Weekly Reading Insights: Shmot 5766


Overview of the Weekly Reading: Shmot

To be read on 21 Tevet 5766 (Jan.21)

Torah: Exodus 1:1-6:1  Haftorah: Isaiah 27:6-28:13, 29:22-23 (because its opening verse parallels Ex.1:1)

Shmot is the 1st Reading out of 11 in Genesis and 13th overall, and 18th out of 54 in overall length.

The Egyptians afflicted the Jews with forced physical labor, and decreed drowning all Jewish newborn males. Moshe was born. His mother hid him in a basket in the Nile, where he was discovered and adopted by Pharaoh's daughter. One day, when already adult, Moshe killed and buried an Egyptian supervisor who beat a Jew. The next day, realizing his deed was public knowledge, Moshe fled to Midian where he married one of Yisro's daughters, Tzipporah, and they had a son, Gershom. The Jews cried to G-d because of the slavery. G-d's angel appeared to Moshe in the form of a burning bush. G-d told Moshe that he would redeem the Jews, and that Moshe should relay this to Pharaoh and to the Jews, even though Pharaoh would not agree to let the Jews go. Moshe begged G-d to appoint a messenger besides himself. G-d decided that Aharon, Moshe's brother, should be Moshe's spokesman. Moshe began his return journey to Egypt with his wife and sons. Tzipporah circumcised their second son, Eliezer, when stopping at an inn. In Egypt, the Jewish elders listened to Moshe, saw the signs, and believed in G-d's promise to free them. But after approaching Pharaoh, Moshe and Aharon were rebuked and thrown out of the palace. Pharaoh instructed to harden the Jews' labor. The foremen blamed Moshe for the Jews' misfortune. Moshe told G-d that the situation had worsened. G-d answered that in the end, Pharaoh would force the Jews to leave his land.


From the holy Zohar, teachings of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (Z:1366/Shmot)

Now when the Holy One wished to establish the world, He created Abraham with the secret of chochma. It was for this reason that he was previously known as " Avram" [in Hebrew, "Abram"] - "Av Ram" [literally, "supernal father", relating to the partzuf of Abba /"father" and the sefira of chochma, signifying the loftiest level of chochma known as "the intellect that is hidden from all thought" ( Torah Or, Lech Lecha p. 11a)]. Only later did he embody the quality of chesed, when he became Abraham - "the patron of numerous nations" (Gen. 17:5).

For the full article, click to the "Weekly Torah" section on our KabbalaOnline site.

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From the holy Ari, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria of Safed (A:1366/Shmot)

How is it possible to steal there? Since, when a person repents [out of love of G-d] his intentional sins are transformed into merits, [these sinners] try to repent once they reach the Purgatory of Snow. They hope that their repentance will spare them having to undergo the Purgatory of Fire. This is the "theft" that they commit there, for they don't realize that repentance is effective only in this world.

For the full article, click to the "Weekly Torah" section on our KabbalaOnline site.

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From Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman (O:1366/Shmot)

Thus G-d explained to Moses that the name Eh-yeh, which He commanded him to tell the children of Israel, corresponds to this Great Name [the name Havayah] and that they are alike in language [as both signify eternal existence] and in letters, for the two final letters of the first name [Eh-yeh] constitute the first ones in Havayah. And may the Holy One, blessed be He, show us wonders in His Torah.

For the full article, click to the "Weekly Torah" section on our KabbalaOnline site.


"They made their lives bitter with hard labor." (1:14)

The Egyptians embittered the Jews' spiritual existence (the literal meaning of the word translated as "lives") by making it difficult for them to observe mitzvot, which was why it was later manifested in physical subjugation. Had the Jewish people resisted the Egyptians' spiritual pressure, they would never have become enslaved in the literal sense.

(Likutei Sichot)


from the Chabad Master series, produced by Rabbi Yosef Marcus for

www.ascentofsafed.com and www.kabbalaonline.org


"G-d heard their groaning, and G-d remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob." (Ex. 2:24)
When the Israelites were unable to endure the harsh exile in Egypt, they cried out to G-d. Indeed, G-d heard their cry and sent Moses to redeem them. So it is with us in our present exile. When we cry out, "Take us out of galut and bring Moshiach!" G-d will certainly hear our cry and send the Redeemer. Moreover, our mere being in a state of readiness to call upon G-d is already enough for Him to respond, as it states in Isaiah, "Before they call, I will answer, and while yet they speak I will hear."
(The Rebbe, Parshat Tavo, 5751)

[Reprinted with permission from L'Chaim Magazine.]

An essay from Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, director of Ascent

(for a free weekly email subscription, click here) (W:1366/Shmot)

The Torah portion begins with the words, "These are the names of the children of Israel...70 souls came down to Egypt." Why are both names and numbers mentioned in the verse? Counting something portrays how it is equal to the other items that are counted (the counted number has no greater or lesser inherent value).

On the other hand, naming something demonstrates its individuality. Therefore, we see how this verse teaches us that each Jew has both of these qualities-we are both equal and connected to each other, but we are also unique and special, which is why we have a name.

G-d demonstrates His love for us with both aspects-we are one big 'equal' family, and each of us has something special to offer, above and beyond all the rest.

Developing the idea of a number further, not only does a number show the equality of one element to another, it also emphasizes the individual importance of each detail. Something that is counted-singled out as significant and distinct-can not be nullified. If you a label marble with the number 'one', then it can not become indistinguishable from within a bunch of other marbles.

This is similar to the concept of a name. A name demonstrates the individuality of an object. An analogy of this is that Jewish law (Mishna Peah, 7/1) requires that a farmer leave a certain amount of grain in the field for the poor. The corner of the field, what falls off a harvest wagon, what is forgotten, all become ownerless and are available for the poor. Alternately, something that has been named, even if forgotten in the fields, does not become ownerless and free for the taking.

How does this apply to the parsha? At the outset of the Jewish descent to Egypt, G-d counted the people to express their individual importance, and to strengthen them to withstand the exile and the enslavement, without losing their identity and assimilate into the amoral Egyptian environment. For this same reason, G-d called them each by name.

This was true for the Egyptian exile, and remains true in every place and every time, even in the deepest exile and troubles. The Jewish people are always in the domain of the Almighty, are never forgotten and can never become truly lost. We are unique and have the strength to overcome the obstacles.

The Kabbalists explain that the totality of the soul is almost unimaginably immense. Only a very small part of the soul is actually enclothed in the body because the body is too small to contain any more. In fact, the much greater majority-the essence of the soul-remains outside and above the body. The part of the soul that actually enters the body is called shem-'name'. Why? Just as a name describes only the part of ourselves that we share with others (so others may identify me), but does not touch our essence, so also, the part of the soul that enters the strange entity called 'the body' is called 'name' because it does not impact on the essence.

This is also hinted at in the above verse. 'These are the names of the children of Israel who came to Egypt'. Only the 'names' of the Jewish people, the very smallest part of the soul that is enclothed in the body, entered into the Egyptian exile. This also applies to the 'exile' of soul into the body within the confusing material world. Only the smallest part of the soul is actually here.

Any time a Jew becomes entangled in a difficult situation, he can always draw strength from the knowledge that essence of the soul, is above and outside of all of the turmoil and the confinement of the body and this physical world. The essence of the soul remains above as a constant source of new energy and strength to the part that is enmeshed below. Yes, what you are experiencing may be difficult, but you can move through it unscathed, ready to move on and succeed. (Adapted from M'ma'ayanei HaChassidut)

Shabbat Shalom , Shaul

P.S. Please also read my weekly Shabbat Law, below.)

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