Torah Weekly

For the week ending 9 January 2021 / 25 Tevet 5781

Parashat Shemot

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
Become a Supporter Library Library


With the death of Yosef, the Book of Bereishet (Genesis) comes to an end. The Book of Shemot (Exodus) chronicles the creation of the nation of Israel from the descendants of Yaakov. At the beginning of this week's Torah portion, 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 Yocheved to be his nursemaid.

Years 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 (Mount 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 go.


Traitor to Whom?

Pharaoh said, “Come let us deal cleverly with it (the People of Israel), lest it become numerous, and it may be that if a war will occur, it too may join our enemies and wage war against us and go up from the land.” (1:10)

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote that the majority of the scientists who built the American atom bomb were Jewish. Among others: Leo Szilard, Niels Bohr, Aage Bohr, Lise Meitner, Rudolf Peierls, Otto Frisch, Walter Zinn, Edward Teller and J. Robert Oppenheimer. It's interesting that more than one or two of the atom spies for the Soviet Union were also Jewish. Even though Klaus Fuchs was the son of a Lutheran pastor and John Cairncross, one of the "Cambridge Five" wasn't a Jew, Morris and Lona Cohen, Theodore Hall, George Korval, Saville Sax, Oscar Seborer, Morton Sobell, Irving Lerner, Arthur Adams, David Greenglas, Harry Gold and Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were all Jewish.

Sometimes we are faced with a choice that makes us a traitor no matter what we decide. This type of decision will make us either a traitor to our country or a traitor to our principles. Before Stalin murdered his millions, many looked towards Russia as a Utopia. To the mind of a Jew, much was right about Communism. Typically, Jews have been at the front of every social revolution in history. The idea of a social contract, the idea of equality under the law, of society's responsibility to care for the poor and sick, the downtrodden and the dispossessed, are some of the Torah's most outstanding gifts to mankind — and to Socialist thought. In addition, these spies also saw the exclusive American possession of atomic weapons as a threat to world peace in the post-World War II world.

Typically, the Jewish atom spies received no financial reward except for their expenses. (Mind you, several received the Red Star and a lifetime pass to travel on Moscow's public transport — not too much use in Brooklyn…)

Pharaoh said, “Come let us deal cleverly with it (the People of Israel), lest it become numerous, and it may be that if a war will occur, it too may join our enemies and wage war against us and go up from the land.” (1:10) Pharaoh sensed that the Jews march to a different drum — the drum of conscience, even when the drum may lead to treachery.

True, there have been few whose conscience has lead to such tragic mistakes. But, how many incomparably more is the number of those who have used that gift of conscience, a gift from Above, to serve their country, society and humanity with total loyalty and fidelity!

© 1995-2024 Ohr Somayach International - All rights reserved.

Articles may be distributed to another person intact without prior permission. We also encourage you to include this material in other publications, such as synagogue or school newsletters. Hardcopy or electronic. However, we ask that you contact us beforehand for permission in advance at [email protected] and credit for the source as Ohr Somayach Institutions

« Back to Torah Weekly

Ohr Somayach International is a 501c3 not-for-profit corporation (letter on file) EIN 13-3503155 and your donation is tax deductable.