Parashat Shemot (Exodus 1:1–6:1).
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To set the stage for this story: Jacob had twelve sons, however just 2 by his the majority of beloved wife, Rachel. He favored them, particularly the elder, Joseph, and also his other brothers were jealous — and also so they ambushed him, kidnapped him, and also marketed him into slaextremely in Egypt. But Joseph provided his wisdom to better himself, and not only became free, however eventually came to be a governor; and also once a significant drought concerned the whole region, his mindful planning was what escaped a catastrophic famine across the nation. For this, the Pharaoh made him viceroy, and treated him favor a son; Joseph reconciled via his brothers, and also they and also their father Jacob and also their families all moved dvery own to Egypt.
But as Shemot begins,¹ time has actually passed. Joseph’s entire generation has passed away, as has the Pharaoh, and also tright here is a new king that did not know Joseph. “The Israelites have actually end up being much also numerous,” he says; their loyalty cannot be trusted. That is, the factor why these immigrants were welcomed has lengthy been forgotten; currently we simply watch them as many and also starray. So the Pharaoh enslaved them, put them to work in the areas and also structure cities, made their lives bitter.
The Pharaoh also commanded the Jewish midwives to kill all male kids, yet they refused. Why the boys? Due to the fact that the boys symbolize the stamina to withstand, and also the girls, the strength to continue. The Pharaoh wanted the Jews to endure, however never stand up to, to reprimary his servants forever; yet the midwives elevated a generation who would certainly stand up to, instead.²
And who is one of the boys born in that generation? Moses, who is surprise by his mommy, then sent adrift in a basket just upstream of wbelow the Pharaoh’s daughter is bathing. The daughter adopts him, and is the one who gives him his name: Moses because “I drew him out of the water” (“min ha-mayim moshitiyu”) yet the name literally suggests the one who pulls, the one that saves.
What is the initially point we see of Moses’ young adulthood? He sees his world laboring, and also sees an overseer beating a servant — so he beats the overseer to death and also hides his body. The next day, he sees two of his very own human being fighting — so he intervenes and also talks to them, to calm them. But they don’t favor him, and make it clear that they understand who he killed, so he flees town.
And he flees for some time; he goes to Midian, wright here he meets a priest called Jethro, marries among his daughters, becomes a shepherd, has a kid. But after years of living in this wilderness, he hears the call of God, from a burning bush: Go down, Moses, to Egypt, and also tell the Pharaoh: Let my civilization go.
When Moses hears God’s speak to, does he leap up and also say, sure! I’ll give up my life right here and also go challenge the all-powerful leader of one of the best empires on Earth and tell him to release all his slaves! What might go wrong?
No, because Moses is not an idiot. He is not a supermale. He is, in reality, a very ordinary man, and also he says via God. I am no-one, he states, why would certainly anyone listen to me? I’m not well-spoken, he adds, if anypoint I’m “sluggish of speech and tongue.” But God asks him: “Who provided human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who provides them sight or makes them blind?” Go, God says, and also I will aid you speak and also will certainly teach you what to say.
And what does Moses do? He musters his courage and also goes dvery own to Egypt, and he talks to his people, and also they agree to follow him; and he ararrays a basic strike.
I’m not kidding; the central event of Exodus 5 is that Moses calls a basic strike lasting 3 days, and Pharaoh responds by saying that these immigrants are lazy, cuts off their straw supply, and tells them that their brick quotas are nonetheless unreadjusted — they’ll need to uncover the straw themselves. The servants are now angry via Moses, because after the strike, their problems worsened, and also God didn’t just display up and rescue them. Moses asks God, Why did you lug this trouble upon me? And God says: “Now you will certainly watch what I will do to Pharaoh.”
And via that ends the parasha.
The story does not end through the leave from Egypt; it will certainly be another three weeks prior to the Red Sea splits, and much much longer till they reach the land of milk and also honey. This is not the story of a quick and straightforward victory.
This is the story of a generation which was elevated by their mothers to resist; the story of a man who, discovering that he was nopoint distinct, likewise kbrand-new that he was dubbed upon to stand up and also be counted; the story of world that, despite their fear, despite the loss of their security, of the things they knew in their stays, stood up together against the Pharaoh and were victorious in the finish.
For that still counts themselves a descendant of the Pharaoh? Wbelow are his alabaster palaces, his gold cups? The treasure of Moses is still via us, because his treasure was not gold, it was the liberty he won for us and the law he offered us.
And if you think that Moses someexactly how became less revolutionary over time, or that this law was some primitive point — read Leviticus 19 at some time. If you want to reduced best to the heart of the Mosaic Law, that’s wbelow you’ll uncover it: “When you reap the harvest of your land, perform not enjoy to the very edges of your area or gather the gleanings of your harvest… Leave them for the negative and also the foreigner.” “Do not hold ago the wages of a hired worker overnight.” “Do not pervert justice; execute not present partiality to the poor or favoritism to the excellent, yet judge your neighbor sensibly.” These are not tangents: these sentences, and also many kind of others, are the basis of the legislation collection down by the kind of man that would beat an overseer to fatality for striking a servant, but negotiate peace among his countrymen; who would certainly action in front of the Pharaoh and also say, Let my human being go; that would organize a general strike, all the while being unsure of himself.
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These are, in short, the regulations collection down by the type of person we would certainly today recognize as a no-good troublemaker, a thug, a criminal.