Wednesday, December 26, 2007



This week's portion is Sh'mot, the first portion in the book of the same name (AKA Exodus).

The portion starts as the Egyptians begin to enslave the Jews. The Jews are forced to build cities for the Egyptian Pharaoh.

Bucking the Pharaoh's order to kill all of the baby boys, a Levite man and woman, Amram and Yocheved produce a baby boy. They place him in a small boat in the Nile when it becomes impossible for them to hide him. The baby's older sister Miriam watches over him in the water. He is found by Pharaoh's daughter, Batyah, and she gives him the name "Moshe" and adopts him as her own.

Moshe ventures out among the Jews when he gets older. He recognizes the Jews as his own family, and ultimately he kills an Egyptian who is assaulting a Jew. Moshe is forced to flee when word of the killing gets out.

Moshe arrives at a well, where he saves a family of sisters from assailants. The sisters are the daughters of Yitro, and they bring Moshe home. Moshe marries one of them, Tzipporah.

Moshe herds Yitro's sheep. Gd calls to Moshe, though, attracting his attention with a bush which burns but is not consumed - symbolizing the state of the Jewish people in Egypt. Gd tells Moshe to go to the Pharaoh and instruct him to free the Jews. Moshe refuses to go, first out of humility and due to his inability to speak well, and then out of concern that the Jews won't believe that Gd has sent him. Gd punishes him for this slander against the Jews, turning his staff into a snake and turning his hand white. He gives Moshe miraculous signs, such as the ability to turn water into blood. Gd assigns to Moshe his well-spoken brother, Aharon, to act as his representative.

When Moshe comes to Egypt, the Jews do believe him - but the Pharaoh does not. The Pharaoh increases the Jews' workload in response to Moshe's attempts, and so the people turn on Moshe and Aharon. The Jews accuse them of being charlatans, and this skepticism was well-founded; historically, Gd had answered their ancestors immediately.

Moshe turns back to Gd, who tells him to watch and see what will happen next.

Have a great day,

Wednesday, December 19, 2007



Today we merge the daily Torah Thought email with the weekly Torah Portion Thought email. This week's Torah portion is Vayyichi, the last portion in the book of Bereishit/Genesis.

The portion begins with Yaakov's family now settled in Egypt. Yaakov calls in Yosef’s two sons Menasheh and Efrayim, and promises to make them heirs and tribes of Israel, like Yosef's brothers. Yaakov’s purpose seems to be to say that even though they were born in Egypt, they are 'Jewish.'

Yaakov blesses Menashah and Efrayim, but he gives a blessing first to Efrayim, the younger and then to Menasheh, despite the fact that Menasheh was older. Yosef questions this, and Yaakov explains that this switch is part of the destiny of the two tribes.

Yaakov demands that Yosef swear that on Yaakov's death, Yosef will have his body brought back to Israel for burial in the Cave of Machpelah in Hebron.

Before Yaakov dies, he calls his children to him and blesses each of them according to both their personal past and their tribal future. Each lesson carries a prophetic message unique to that tribe.

Yaakov dies and is buried in Israel.

Yosef dies at the end of the portion, after telling his family that Gd will come to take them out of Egypt. According to tradition, Yosef is the first of Yaakov's children to die; this is considered an occupational hazard of leadership.

Yosef is buried in Egypt; he is exhumed and brought to Israel for burial when the Jews leave Egypt later.

Have a great day,