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Parashat Shemot - 5773

My friends,

This Shabbat we begin the second book of the Torah, the Book of Exodus. In Hebrew this book is called Shemot (names) because it begins with the words "Ve-elleh Shemot B'nai Yisrael Ha-baim Mizrayma" - "These are the Names of the children of Israel who came to Egypt."

The great comentator Rashi asks: "Why is it necessary to name the sons of Israel who came down to Egypt? They were already listed in the end of the book of Bereshit. Why name them again?" He answers: "In Bereshit they were named while they were still alive. Because of the love G-d has for His children, He names them again, now that they are gone."

The last few weeks, our community as suffered the passing of many dear and loving individuals. The Jewish customs in helping the bereaved, the Shiva, shloshim and the yahrzeit, are all practices that enable us to remember loved ones, as they remain enshrined in our memories and our lives. If the Torah emphasizes the need to love the departed, how much more so for those who are still among us.

There is a Mitzvah in the Torah, called Ahavat Yisrael, loving another Jew, and Veahavta Lere-acha Kamocha, "Love you fellow being like yourself."

Rabbi Avraham Cook, first chief Rabbi of Israel, of blessed memory, explains that "loving G-d's creatures must be relfected in your heart and soul, especially the love of other human beings and of other nations."

Starting the book that tells us of the coming of the Jewish peoplehood with the "names" emphasizes the need for all of us to make sure our actions are always guided by the respect and love we have for others.

Shabbat Shalom,