Torah Weekly

For the week ending 17 January 2009 / 21 Tevet 5769

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 toEretz 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.


What Money Can’t Buy

“And all the souls that descended from Yaakov…” (1:5)

“Hi Rabbi! We wanted to tell you that very soon Arthur is going to be Bar Mitzvah and we are so looking forward to him getting Maftir and Haftarah in our synagogue.”

“Rob and Beth! I’m happy to share this joyous occasion with you but I think it’s better if we make a post-Shabbat celebration for Arthur. We call it a Melave Malka.”

“But Rabbi, we set our heart on Maftir and Haftarah!”

“Look Rob and Beth, I know that you are very attached to Arthur, but Arthur is, after all, a bull terrier. I cannot give a dog an aliyah – even in this shul.”

“But Rabbi, we didn’t tell you that after the Bar Mitzvah we are going to go on a special Bar Mitzvah cruise to the Bahamas and then on to Mediterranean. We’ll be visiting Paris and Rome and Athens and the Pyramids, and we so wanted you and your family to join us, but it doesn’t seem that’s going to be possible now.”

“But Rob and Beth, why on earth didn’t you tell me before that Arthur was Jewish?”

At the end of last week's Torah portion Yaakov makes Yosef swear not to bury him in Egypt. Why was Yaakov so insistent in this request?

Yaakov knew that Egypt — the most materialistic of cultures — was the matrix of all the exiles of the Jewish People, and that his actions were laying down the spiritual DNA for our survival in exile until this day.

Yaakov was sending a message to the Jewish People: "I may have lived in exile, but I am not going to be buried here. I belong in Eretz Yisrael – dead or alive."

However much a Jew gets caught up in the mentality of exile — that money is everything, that my son the doctor will net a good three million dollars this year (and go on his own Mediterranean cruises) — inside us all there’s a little spark of Yaakov Avinu that longs for spirituality, for the Land of Israel and all it stands for.

Inside every Jew there is the subconscious knowledge that even though there may be places that money talks loud enough to even buy your pet mutt an aliya — there are some things that even money can’t buy.

  • Sources: Story heard from Rabbi Yehoshua Pupko

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