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Parashat Shemot - 5778

Dear friends,

This is the first Shabbat in 2018 and the first portion in the Second Book of the Torah - the Book of Exodus. It begins by listing again the names of the Children of Israel who came to Egypt with their father Jacob. Within a very short time they multiplied and increased in number so "that the land was filled with them." This growth and success in Egypt was not well accepted by the new king in Egypt who, thru treachery, convinced his people to enslave the Children of Israel.

From here on this story becomes a story of redemption, the story of the twelve tribes becoming one nation in search of freedom. Their new leader and savior will be none other than a child by the name of Moses. A child of the Hebrews, left by the river by his mother so that Pharaoh's daughter might find him, have pity on him, and let him live. Pharaoh's daughter does find him. She adopts him and he is raised by her in Pharaoh's palace. He could have had the good life of a prince. But the Torah tells us about three events in his life that turn him against the norms of Egyptian society - so much so that the king wants him dead, causing him to flee Egypt:

  1. He saves a Hebrew slave who was being beaten by an Egyptian taskmaster.
  2. He gets involved in a dispute between two Hebrew slaves.
  3. He flees to Midian and helps Jethro's daughters who were being harassed by local shepherds.

From these three stories in Moses' early life, we see that he is a person who stands for justice and for helping the weak. This quality of caring for other human beings - whether Jewish or not - is what earns him G-d's call to become the messenger who will save the Children of Israel from slavery, give them the Torah, and lead them to the Promised Land.

Moses could have had a good life by Egyptian standards as a prince and member of the elite - the 'master race'. Instead, he gave all that up to stand for justice. This Parasha challenges us to get involved in social justice. What happens to others is our business. Moses, the most humble person in the Torah, got involved - and look at what he achieved.

Shabbat Shalom,