Torah Weekly

For the week ending 21 January 2006 / 21 Tevet 5766

Parshat Shmot

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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With the death of Yosef, the Book of Bereishet (Genesis) comes to an end. The Book of Shmot (Exodus) chronicles the creation of the nation of Israel from the descendants of Yaakov. At the beginning of this week's Parsha, Pharaoh, fearing the population explosion of Jews, enslaves them. However, when their birthrate increases, he orders the Jewish midwives to kill all newborn males. Yocheved gives birth to Moshe and hides him in the reeds by the Nile. Pharaoh's daughter finds and adopts him, although she knows he is probably a Hebrew. Miriam, Moshe's sister, offers to find a nursemaid for Moshe and arranges for his mother Yochevedto fulfill that roleYears later, Moshe witnesses an Egyptian beating a Hebrew and Moshe kills the Egyptian. Realizing his life is in danger, Moshe flees to Midian where he rescues Tzipporah, whose father Yitro approves their subsequent marriage. On Chorev (Mt. Sinai) Moshe witnesses the burning bush where G-d commands him to lead the Jewish People from Egypt to Eretz Yisrael, the land promised to their ancestors. Moshe protests that the Jewish People will doubt his being G-d’s agent, so G-d enables Moshe to perform three miraculous transformations to validate himself in the people's eyes: transforming his staff into a snake, his healthy hand into a leprous one, and water into blood. When Moshe declares that he is not a good public speaker G-d tells him that his brother Aharon will be his spokesman. Aharon greets Moshe on his return to Egypt and they petition Pharaoh to release the Jews. Pharaoh responds with even harsher decrees, declaring that the Jews must produce the same quota of bricks as before but without being given supplies. The people become dispirited, but G-d assures Moshe that He will force Pharaoh to let the Jews leave.


Soul Food

“Every son that will be born – into the River shall you throw him!…” (1:22), Fat Loss ‘4’ idiots, The South Beach Diet, The Scarsdale Diet, The Atkins Diet, The Mediterranean Diet, The Blood Type Diet, The Negative Calorie Diet, Weight Watchers, Macrobiotic, Vegans, Vegetarians, Fruitetarians, Breathetarians…

Never before in history have there been so many opinions as to what we should and should not eat.

Apart from their physical benefits, many of today’s diets also focus on the purported spiritual benefits of eating and refraining from certain kinds of foods and food mixtures.

The Jewish People however, have had their own spiritual diet for well over three thousand years. The Torah describes which foods bring us to a clearer contact with G-d and which foods distance us. It also describes foods that are not in themselves deleterious to our spirituality but are damaging when combined, like milk and meat.

In this week’s Torah portion, the Egyptians mercilessly cast Jewish babies into the river. The Midrash describes that the river brought all of those little Jewish children to desert lands and ejected them on the shore. There the Divine Presence nurtured them. G-d commanded the rock on one side of these babies to produce honey, and He commanded the rock on the other side to give forth oil and nurse the infants.

Later at the parting of the sea at Yam Suf it was these same children who recognized G-d and cried out “This is my G-d and I will glorify Him!”

When we take care of what goes into our children’s mouths by giving them the benefit of kosher food we are helping them to ingest a spirituality that will one day surface in their coming to recognize G-d in a world where His existence is doubly concealed.

  • Source: Shmot Rabba 1:29

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