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Parshaht Shemot

Exodus 1:1 6:1

Our Parshah opens by once more listing the names (shemot) of the sons of Jacob who came with him to Egypt, where "the children of Israel were fruitful, and proliferated, and multiplied, and grew very, very strong; and the land was filled with them."

The Children of Israel multiply in Egypt. Threatened by their growing numbers, Pharaoh enslaves them and orders the Hebrew midwives, Shifrah and Puah, to kill all male babies at birth. When they do not comply, he commands his people to cast the Hebrew babies into the Nile.

The Birth of Moses

There went a man of the house of Levi, and took to wife a daughter of Levi.

And the woman conceived, and bore a son. And she saw him that he was good; and she hid him three months.

When she could not longer hide him, she took for him a box made of papyrus, and daubed it with clay and with pitch, and put the child in it; and she laid it in the rushes by the River's brink.

The child's older sister, Miriam, stands watch from a distance, "to know what would be done to him."

And the daughter of Pharaoh came down to wash herself at the River. And she saw the box among the rushes, and she sent her maid to fetch it.

She opened it and she saw the child: behold, a weeping boy. And she had compassion on him, and said, "This is one of the children of the Hebrews."

Miriam approaches and offers the services of a Hebrew nursemaid. When Pharaoh's daughter accepts, Miriam brings Jocheved, the child's own mother, whom Pharaoh's daughter hires to nurse and care for the child. When the child grows older, he is returned to Pharaoh's daughter, who raises him as her son. She calls him Moses, "he who was drawn from the water."

As a young man, Moses leaves the palace and discovers the hardship of his brethren. He sees an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, and kills the Egyptian. The next day he sees two Jews fighting; when he admonishes them, they reveal his deed of the previous day, and Moses is forced to flee to Midian. There he rescues Jethros daughters, marries one of them (Zipporah), and becomes a shepherd of his father-in-laws flocks.

At the Burning Bush

Moses was shepherding the sheep of Jethro; and he led the flock far away into the desert, and came to the mountain of G-d, to Horeb.

And the angel of G-d appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a thornbush; and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, but the bush was not consumed.

And Moses said: "I must turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt."

And G-d called to him out of the midst of the bush, and said: "Moses! Moses!" And he said, "Here I am."

And He said: "Do not come near; remove your shoes from your feet, for the place on which you stand is holy ground.

"I am the G-d of your father, the G-d of Abraham, the G-d of Isaac, and the G-d of Jacob."

And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon G-d.

And G-d said: "I have surely seen the affliction of My people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cries at the hand of their oppressors, I know their pain...

"Come now therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh, that you shall bring My people the children of Israel out of Egypt."

"Who am I," objects Moses, "that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?"

"I will be with you," answers G-d, and tells Moses the ultimate goal of the Exodus: "When you bring the people out of Egypt, you shall serve G-d upon this mountain" (upon which the people of Israel will receive theTorah).

Says Moses: "When I come to the Children of Israel, and say to them, 'The G-d of your fathers has sent me to you,' they will say to me: 'What is His name?' What shall I say to them?"

And G-d said to Moses: "I am who I am." And He said: "Thus shall you say to the children of Israel:Eheyeh ('I am') has sent me to you."

G-d then gives Moses detailed directions on how to proceed and how the Exodus will come about:

Go and gather the elders of Israel together, and say to them: "G-d, the G-d of your fathers, has appeared to me, saying: I have surely remembered ("pakod pakadati") you, and have seen that which is done to you in Egypt. And I have said: I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanite, to a land flowing with milk and honey."

And they will hearken to your voice. And you shall come, you and the elders of Israel, to the king of Egypt, and you shall say to him: "G-d, the G-d of the Hebrews has met with us; and now let us go, we entreat you, three days' journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to G-d..."

And I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go, not by a mighty hand. And I will stretch out My hand and smite Egypt with all my wonders which I will do in their midst, and after that he will let you go.

And when you go, you shall not go empty: every woman shall ask of her neighbor, and of her that sojourns in her house, jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and garments and you shall despoil Egypt.

But they won't believe me that You indeed appeared to me, says Moses. G-d responds by giving him a number of supernatural "signs" to perform: Moses' staff turns into a serpent and back to a stick; his hand becomes covered with leprosy, and is miraculously healed. If these two signs do not suffice, says G-d, take water from the Nile, and it will turn to blood.

Moses has a further objection: "O my G-d, I am not a man of words, also not yesterday, also not the day before, also not since You have spoken to Your servant; but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue."

To which G-d responds:

"Who has made man's mouth? Who makes a man dumb, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I G-d? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth, and teach you what you should say."

Still, Moses persists in his refusal to take on the mission of redeeming Israel from exile. "O please, my G-d!" he cries. "Send by the hand of him whom you shall send!"

And the anger of G-d burned against Moses, and He said: "Is not Aaron the Levite your brother? I know that he can speak well. Behold, he comes to meet you, and when he sees you, he will be glad in his heart; he shall be your spokesman to the people

"And you shall take this staff in your hand, with which you shall perform the signs."

"Let My People Go"

Moses places his wife and sons on "the donkey" and sets out for Egypt. On the way, he is nearly killed when they stop for the night; his life is spared only when Zipporah circumcises their son.

G-d appears to Aaron and sends him to the desert to meet Moses. In Egypt, the brothers assemble theelders of Israel. Aaron conveys the message of redemption from G-d, and Moses performs the signs. "And the people believed."

After that, Moses and Aaron came and said to Pharaoh: "Thus says G-d, G-d of Israel: Let My people go, that they may observe a festival for Me in the wilderness."

And Pharaoh said: "Who is G-d, that I should obey his voice and let Israel go? I know not G-d, nor will I let Israel go."

Not only does Pharaoh refuse their demand--he increases the burden of labor on his Hebrew slaves, commanding their taskmasters:

"You shall no longer give the people straw to make brick, as before: let them go and gather straw for themselves. But the quantity of the bricks, which they did make heretofore, you shall lay upon them; you shall not diminish naught of it."

When the Jewish officers complain to Moses that his visit to Pharaoh has only made things worse, he can bear it no longer:

And Moses returned to G-d and said: "My G-d, why have You done evil to this nation?! Why have You sent me?!

"For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has done worse to this nation; and You have not saved Your people'

And G-d said to Moses: "Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh; for with a strong hand shall he let them go, and with a strong hand shall he drive them out of his land."

(By Chabad)

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