Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Hebrew Insights into Parashat Bo –Sh’mot (Exodus) 10 – 13:16


YHVH charges Moshe to "go to Pharaoh", and it is this "going" which our Parasha is named after (the literal meaning of "bo" is "come"). The approximately three and a half chapters of Parashat Bo encompass a number of central themes. The historical narrative (describing the last plagues, some of the Israelites' preparations to leave Egypt, and a few of their moves), is interspersed with themes of redemption, ransom, the Pesach celebration, injunctions to instruct the future generations, and several teaching tools which are to accompany the nation of Yisrael down the road of time. Thus, at the outset of Yisrael's travels, which ultimately will bring them to the Land of Promise, they are also embarking on a journey to becoming a (special) Nation. And while they had no time to prepare supplies (ref. 12:39), and were carrying almost only that which the Egyptians had given them (ref. 12:33, 35, 36), YHVH was starting to do His own equipping of this nascent nation on the road toward its destiny.   

The educational theme is evident right at the beginning, by the reason given for the "signs" performed in Egypt: "That you may tell in the hearing of your son and your son's son the mighty things I have done…" (10:2). "I have done" here is denoted by the verb "hit'a'lalti," of the root a.l.l (ayin, lamed, lamed). It is a multi-faceted verb the meaning of which depends on context, yet its root also forms one of the words for "infant" or "babe" - "olal", such as used in Psalms 8:2: "Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have ordained strength" (emphasis added). Thus, within the word for YHVH's "doings" – or miraculous performances in Egypt, which the Israelites are to tell their children about - is hidden an allusion to these very children!

By this time in the narrative, the land of Egypt has experienced great devastation, with much more to come. The severity of the next plague is such that locusts "shall cover the face [literally "eye"] of the earth, so that no one will be able to see the earth, and they shall eat the residue of what is left, which remains…  from the hail…" (10: 5, 15). Here we find a sequel of three synonyms. The repetition serves to heighten the proportions of the catastrophe. The Hebrew reads: "yeter [ha]*pleta [ha]nish'eret".  “Yeter” is that which remains, as is also seen in 12:10, where the lamb is to be eaten in such a way that "you shall let none of it remain until morning" (emphasis added). The term "pleta nish'eret" was also mentioned by Yoseph, when he disclosed his identity to his brothers, saying the following: "And Elohim sent me before you to put a remnant ["she'erit", of the same root as "nish'eret" above] in the land for you and to keep alive for you a great survival [pleta]” (Gen. 45:7, literal translation, italics added). Yoseph’s words, regarding the survival of his brethren, had a prophetic fulfillment, as the “remnant” of the Children of Yisrael has not only “survived”, but it had actually turned into multitudes, resulting in Egypt's soil being left (almost) without residue of remaining life (through the plagues inflicted by the Elohim of the “remnant”). Therefore, that which was a means of salvation for one people (as expressed by Yoseph), turned into deadly circumstances for the other! Shaul the apostle expresses a similar principle in the following words: “We are to Elohim the fragrance of Messiah among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life" (2nd Cor. 2:15-16).

Par’oh's now-exasperated servants complain about Moshe, describing him as a "mokesh" – “snare” (10: 7). However, according to Ee’yov (Job) 34:30, it is a Godless king, such as Par’oh, who “should not reign lest the people be ensnared" (emphasis added)! Indeed, no sooner were the locusts removed, when Par’oh's persistence brought about the ninth plague.  Total darkness descended upon his land, and his people were ensnared once more. The darkness was so thick that it could be "ya'mesh", that is, "felt" or "touched" (10: 21. See also Genesis 27:12, describing the concern of Ya'acov, who was impersonating his brother, lest his father should discover his real identity by “touching” his smooth skin). In 10:23 we are struck by the contrast between the total darkness prevailing over Egypt, and the well-lit dwellings of the Israelites, where the source of Light was the Almighty Himself.

It is time now to prepare for the last phase, and for the start of a new one. YHVH declares to Moshe that He is about to strike the final blow on the Egyptians and on their king, “afterward he will let you go from here; when he lets you go he will surely drive you out of here altogether” (ref. 11:1). The last phrase may be also rendered (although without negating the conventional meaning): “he will send you from here. As if sending off a bride will he expel you from here” (“surely” – ‘kala’ here – can mean completely OR a bride). The (Hebrew) terms “driving” and “sending” are terms also used for divorce. What’s more, when in the next verse Moshe is told that Israel is to ask from their neighbors' articles of silver and gold, one wonders if this isn’t symbolic of a bride’s dowry, the dowry that she was now to retrieve, upon her ‘disengagement’ from the relationship with Egypt and its ruler, being set free to follow YHVH to “the wilderness, to a land not sown” (ref. Jer. 2:2). Perhaps YHVH's insistence (in spite of His own unlimited power) that it be Par'oh who would release Yisrael, supports this probability that YHVH's people were bound legally to Mitzrayim's sovereign.

It is taught that the pattern of lives of the fathers is followed by their children or posterity. If that is the case, then Avram's descent into Egypt during a time of famine, giving up his wife to Par'oh who suffered from "great plagues" as a consequence (ref. Gen. 12:10-20, cf. 26:1-11), certainly supports the latter events taking place in our Parasha. 

Moshe goes on to convey to Pharaoh the news regarding the slaying of the Egyptians' firstborn sons, in place of Yisrael’s slain male babies, while the slaying of Egypt’s firstborn was already predicted by YHVH in Shmot 4:22-23. This is followed by instructions for the Pesach lamb, whose smeared blood will single out the homes of the Hebrews when YHVH will be striking the Egyptian homes by killing their firstborn. Each Hebrew household is to partake of one lamb or share it with others if the family happens to be too small. The expression used, "according to the number" (12:4), is denoted by a single word - "[beh]mich'sat," rooted in k.s.s (kaf/chaf, samech, samech), meaning "to allocate". A similar root is k.s.h (kaf, samech, hey) which means "to cover". Thus, even before an explanation is given for the procedure of choosing, slaughtering, eating the lamb, and applying its blood, the text points subtly to the Lamb which has been ‘allocated’ and designated to be slain from the foundations of the world (ref. Rev. 13:8), Whose blood was given for the covering of sin.

The blood over the Hebrews’ doors enabled YHVH to steer clear of their homes by passing over - "pasach" (ref. 12:23) - a verb rooted in (pey, samech, chet) and means to “pass" or "skip". Yishayahu (Isaiah) 31:5 says: "Like flying birds, so YHVH of Hosts will protect Jerusalem… He will pass over ["pasach"] and rescue it”. Hence, a lame or limping person is a “piseh’ach” (e.g. 2nd Sam. 9:13; 1 King 18:21). This verb gives the feast its title of Pesach.

We have already noted that our Parasha is 'didactically inclined', with 12:14-22 being devoted to instructions pertaining to the future life of the Israelites, once planted in their own land. This passage is fraught with distinct words and terms. We already examined the notion of "allocating" in verse 4. In verse 6 we note that the lamb was to be "kept" (from the 10th of the first month, until the 14th). But rather than a verb, a noun is used there - "mishmoret", of the root sh.m.r (shin, mem, resh). In verse 17 the Children of Yisrael are instructed: "to observe the Feast of Matzot". "Observe" is again from the same root, meaning “to keep, or guard”, while in verse 24 the Israelites are told, "to observe", literally "keep", what now becomes an ordinance to be practiced upon entering the Land. In the future, the night commemorating the exodus from Egypt will become a "night of solemn observance (or vigil)" - "shimurim" (verse 42), and again in 13:10, "You shall keep this ordinance in its season from year to year". Thus, upon those who had been “kept” or “protected” (shamar) by their Elohim, it is now incumbent to do their own form of “keeping”.

The lamb was to be slaughtered on the 14th day of the month, "at twilight" (12:6), which is "ben arba'yim”. “Arbayim" is the plural form of “erev” (evening), the all-familiar term we have been discussing over and again. Most interpreters and commentators believe that "between the evenings" (its literal meaning) denotes "twilight". However, there exists a minority view that supports the literal “between the evenings”, making that expression a reference to an entire day, between the 14th and the 15th.  The meat was to be eaten with bitter herbs, “maror”, and unleavened bread called "matza", which are thin wafer-like crackers baked without yeast (12:8).

The root (mem, tzadi, hey) means “to drain out” to the very last drop of water (e.g., Jud. 6:38) since the leavening agents require liquid in order to be activated. The bitter herbs most likely point to the "bitterness" experienced by the Children of Yisrael in Egypt. Sh’mot (Exodus) says: "And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage--in mortar, in brick, and in all manner of service in the field" (italics added).

In 12:14 we encounter for the first time one of the words for "feast" - "chag" (although in verb form it appeared already in Ex. 5:1). Since the annual reoccurrence of the Feasts makes them cyclical, “chag” is related to the verb "choog" which describes a circle (Job 22:14; Pro. 8:27; Is. 40:22). By its very nature this word implies not only a (set) time but also a place - a “circle”.  Another such 'multi-dimensional' word is holy "convocation", also appearing here for the first time (v. 16). This "holy convocation" or "assembly", is "mikra kodesh". The root k.r.a (kof, resh, alef) means “to call”, even though the "convocation" - the assembling - is made up of people. The "mikra kodesh" (i.e., the congregation) is designated, therefore, by its calling, but is also connected to a place. In Yishayahu (Isaiah) 4:5, for example, we read:  "Then YHVH will create over the whole area of Mount Zion and over "mikra'eh'a" ("her assemblies") a cloud by day…." These “holy convocations” are, of course, to be also special times. The “calling”, then, proves to be the common ‘ingredient’ bonding the people, their place of gathering, and the times wherein they are to convene, indicating that Time, Place, and People are joined in YHVH's economy. This concept will surface again in future Parashot. 

In their Egyptian Pesach, the Israelites were promised that "the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses... And when I see the blood, I will pass over you" (12:13). This "seeing" (of the blood) brings to mind another "seeing" on the part of YHVH, as was stated by Avraham, who on the road to Mount Moriah responded to his son's inquiry regarding the offering, saying: “YHVH will see (literally) for himself the lamb for the offering" (Gen. 22:8 italics added). And although (at that time) it was a ram that was provided, the beginning of the fulfillment of those words is taking place now, in Egypt, later to have a further fulfillment, to an even greater degree, by another Lamb. One more connection to the Lamb of Elohim is found in 12:46, where it says that none of the bones of the lamb are to be broken, an injunction which finds its fulfillment in Yochanan (John) 19:33.

The Egyptians finally relent to send off the Israelites. According to 12:33, "they pressed” them to leave. However, "pressed" in this case is from the root "strong" - "chazak" - which makes it a fulfillment of 6:1 “…For with a strong hand [Par’oh] will let them go, and with a strong hand he will drive them out of his land". Another fulfillment, this time of 3:22, is taking place here in 12:35-36 when the Egyptians consent to give their former slaves gold, silver, and garments. This is described as the “spoiling of the Egyptians", which is also a fulfillment of YHVH’s promise to Avraham concerning the Egyptian Diaspora, out of which his seed was to "come out with great wealth" (Gen. 15:14).  "Spoiled" is "(va)yinatz'lu", of the root (noon, tzadi, lamed), which most frequently means to "survive, save, rescue, or deliver".  In fact, it came up in Parashat Sh’mot (5:23) when Moshe complained to YHVH on behalf of his people, saying, “For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has done evil to this people; neither have You delivered Your people at all (italics added)". But now not only are they being "delivered", but they are also "procuring" gifts (the form of as it is used here) from those who had subjugated them. The fact that all of these terms are rooted in the same three letters lends an extra emphasis, or 'twist', to the rescue story and sheds light on the protagonists (YHVH as the "savior", and on those who are being "saved"). The gold and silver will no doubt serve later for the making of the Mishkan’s articles (and likely also for the golden calf). But even beforehand, in Shmot (Exodus) 33:6, where the Israelites remove their jewelry, the verb used is "(va)yitna'tzlu" (again of the root of The unusual usage of this word highlights the origin of these articles.

Upon leaving Egypt, a "mixed multitude" (“erev rav” – literally “a great mixture”) goes out with the Sons of Yisrael.  After “arbayim” (“twilight”) above (with is root e.r.v. - "evening" – being a "mixed" state, 12:38), “mixture” is now being applied to the nature of the "multitude”. More on this group of people in future Parashot.

When the time allotted for their sojourn in Egypt ends, "on this very day" (12:41) YHVH's people, who had been waiting for so long, are suddenly forced to hurry and leave. We recall the case of Yoseph, who was also made to hurry out of prison when the time ordained for his sufferings had fully expired (ref. Gen. 41:1, 14). In both cases, the word used is "miketz" ("at the end of"). When it is time for a change, there is not one moment to spare.

The latter part of the Parasha, 13:1-16, is devoted to further instructions. First and foremost, among them is the "setting apart" of the firstborn: "…every one who opens the womb among the sons of Israel belongs to me" (13:2), declares YHVH. In verse 15 He elaborates on this, saying that since He "killed all the firstborn in the land of Egypt… therefore [the Israelite are to] sanctify to YHVH all males that open the womb, and all the firstborn of [their] sons [are to be] redeemed/ransomed". In last week's Parasha we saw how "ransoming" separated the Israelites from the Egyptians (8:23), even before the smiting of Egypt's firstborn. The notion of "ransom" (“p'dut”) becomes even more evident when blood separates the Egyptian firstborn from those of Yisrael's. The ultimate ransom price for purchasing 'Yisrael the Firstborn' thousands of years later will be, and still is, Messiah's blood.

Among the "firsts" in this Parasha, there is a first reference to a name of a month - the "month of Aviv" (13:4). The literal meaning of "aviv", which became synonymous with "spring", is a stalk of grain whose ears are still green. This word indicates the very beginning of growth, before the fruit or grain has had time to develop (e.g., Job 8:12; Song of Solomon 6:11), and is perhaps (also) a reflection on the condition of the Nation in formation. The fact that the noun “aviv” starts with alef, bet, the first two letters of the Alphabet, letters that also form the word “av” - “father”, highlights its “firstness”.

Twice in this portion of instructions we encounter references to the "signs" that are to be on one's hand and forehead (13:9, 16). These "signs" are to be for the purpose of remembering and commemorating the "strong hand with which YHVH brought you out of Egypt" (v. 16), and, "so that the Torah of YHVH may be in your mouth" (v. 9). In both places the mention of these "signs" is related to the teaching of the generations to come. In addition, in keeping with the pedagogical message included in the Parasha, several possible approaches are offered to a variety of future inquirers about the Pesach practices and its teachings. In 12:26-27 we find: "When your children say to you, ‘what does this service mean to you…?’ you shall say, ‘it is the sacrifice to YHVH’s Passover’…" In 13:14, "When in time to come your son asks, saying, 'what is this?' You shall say to him, 'by strength of hand YHVH brought us out of Egypt’…" And in 13:8, "You shall tell your son on that day, saying, 'it is because of this YHVH did for me when I came out of Egypt’". All three of these are echoed in the traditional Pesach Haggada read on the Passover eve ceremony called the Seder. There they are called the “Four – since another one is added based on Dvarim (Deuteronomy) 6:20 – Questions”, and are posed by the youngest member of the family.

Lastly, in order to partake of the Pesach, a man was required to be circumcised (ref. 12:48), a fact that connects the Paschal lamb to circumcision. It points to the renewal of the Covenant established with Avraham and his descendants. Interestingly, in Parashat Sh'mot (4:22) YHVH declares that Yisrael is His “firstborn”, and in the same breath predicts that because Par’oh will refuse to let His firstborn go, He will kill his firstborn (4:22,23). What immediately follows is the episode where Moshe’s wife is circumcising her son, using the term "a groom of blood" (4:24-26). This act and choice of vocabulary reinforce the connection of the Paschal lamb's blood to the blood of circumcision.[1] Our "Groom of Blood, " Yeshua, is also the epitome of the Pesach offering. His Blood has rendered us - the "circumcision who worships Elohim in the Spirit" (Phil. 3:3).



* Ha denotes the definite article in Hebrew.


[1] The Chumash Shmot With The Commentary Daat Mikrah, Pub. Mossad Harav Kook, Jm. 1991.




Friday, January 20, 2023

Heirs, Please Stand Up

Last week I challenged myself with two questions, which I’ve been pondering for a long time.  They are based on Galatians 3:16 and 29 and surrounding verses.

So let me repeat: “Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, ‘and to seeds,’ as to many, but to one, ‘and to your seed,’ that is, Christ” (Galatians 3:16).

In reference to the seed of Sarah, who was to receive the promises, given in the covenants with Abraham…  Which “one seed” was it, the one born of Sarah’s womb, or the one born of Miriam’s?  The answer will determine who the sons of Elohim are.  And if you be Christ [anointed by the Spirit], therefore you are Abraham's seed, heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:29 emphasis added).  

The first thing we must ask is, what is the particular promise that is mentioned in this chapter of Galatians (as there are a number of promises (given to the forefathers, see Romans 9:4)? Yeshua told his disciples that after his death they (Sarah’s seed) would receive the promise of the Spirit.  But first He had to open the eyes of their understanding in order for them to comprehend the scriptures about Himself being the suffering Messiah (see Luke 24:45).  Afterward, He continued, telling them that He would be sending the promise of  His Father and that they were to stay in Jerusalem until they were “clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24: 49).

Later, while on the Mount of Olives (before His ascension), Yeshua repeated these very instructions.  Obviously, the promise mentioned in Galatians is in reference to the Spirit of the Father. In Acts 2:33, in Peter’s explanation of the phenomena that everyone was witnessing at the Shavuot gathering, he made the following statement about Yeshua:  "Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of Elohim [His Father], and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He [Yeshua] has poured forth this which you both see and hear” (Acts 2:33 emphasis added).

Indeed, Yeshua received the Spirit (at His immersion) because His Father brought Him forth into the family/seed of Abraham through Miriam,  but later, as was mentioned above, was given permission or authority by the Father to make good the promise of His Spirit to Abraham’s heirs.  Both in Romans and Galatians Paul states that upon receiving the Spirit, the recipient cries out: “Abba”. “For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you [seed of Sarah]* have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of Elohim, and if children, heirs also, heirs of Elohim and fellow heirs with Messiah” (Romans 8:15-17 emphasis added).  To Jacob’s descendants was accorded the status of the “children of Elohim/YHVH”. In Isaiah, for example, we hear them cry out:  “But now, O YHVH, You are our Father, we are the clay, and You our potter; and all of us are the work of Your hand”.  “Doubtless You are our Father, though Abraham was ignorant of us, and Israel does not acknowledge us. You, YHVH, are our Father; Our Redeemer from Everlasting is Your name” (Isaiah 64:8, 63:16).  

Again, in Galatians: “Now I say, as long as the heir is a child, he does not differ at all from a slave although he is owner of everything,  but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by the father.  So also we, while we were children, were held in bondage under the elemental things of the world.  But when the fullness of the time came, Elohim sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, in order that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we [the heirs] might receive the adoption as sons.  And because you are sons, Elohim has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through Elohim” [through the indwelling of His Spirit] (Galatians 4:1-7).  This was already predicted in the Torah and the Prophets concerning the whole house of Israel.

Please note: In reference to the above quote, having received the promise of the Spirit does not make the recipient one of the seed, it proves that he or she are already of Abraham’s seed, a heir according to the promise. The Great Shepherd of Israel who knows His sheep, bred His faith species into the Noahic family.  These are the ones that are to be a blessing to the rest of the families of Noah, as promised in the covenant to the father of “the faith” (Abraham. See Romans 4:16+; Galatians 3:7ff).

This may be a long-winded way of answering my original questions regarding which is the “one” seed that received the promise.  Yeshua was already the Son of the Father before He was sent, while the inheritors of the promise had to be redeemed first, by “the way” of the New Covenant, in order to receive the promised Spirit and the adoption into sonship.

In conclusion, the “one seed”, referred to in Galatians 3:16 that inherits the promise is Sarah’s seed as Miriam’s came from the Father’s Spirit into the realm of her humanity and was thus joined to her ancestry (Sarah’s). Therefore Yeshua too had to receive the promise (of the Spirit), which took place at His immersion, so that He could become High Priest (explained in the Book of Hebrews).

 Returning to Acts chapter 2, we read about the first outpouring of the promise and Peter’s response to what they were seeing and hearing.  As a result of his message, they cried out “Brethren! What must we do”?  Peter’s reply: "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized/immersed into the name [meaning authority and character] of Yeshua the Messiah for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our Elohim will call" (Acts 2:38-39). His sheep will hear His call when He will whistle for them; even those that are far off, both in future generations and those who are scattered/sown to the four corners of the earth. 

*In the Torah, “seed” in relation to a pregnant woman is in reference to her carrying a male child (e.g. Lev. 12:2 as it appears in the Hebrew text). Hence, the “seed of woman” in Gen. 3:15, also had to be a male.

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Hebrew Insights into Parashat Va’ey’ra – Sh’mot (Exodus) 6:2- 9:35

One of Moshe's roles, at the time recorded by our Parasha, was to link the Children of Yisrael with their forefathers, history, and destiny, but not before establishing (for them and even more so for himself) the identity of their Elohim.  This was no easy task!  YHVH had already revealed Himself to Moshe in the desert, both in sight and word.  And while Moshe was trying to negotiate with Par'oh on behalf of the Master of the Universe, as well as to 'introduce' Him to His own people, he himself had a hard time grasping the awesome revelation which was unfolding before his eyes.  Our Parasha opens up with yet another monologue of Moshe's heavenly Father, displaying great patience with His child, who at this point had not fully adjusted to the dimensions of his newly found calling and relationship.  The opening "I am YHVH", together with the subsequent words, serve as another reminder to Moshe, designed to anchor, steady, and prepare him for what is ahead and to build up his trust and faith.  In last week's parasha, upon his inquiry as to Elohim's name, YHVH gave him a somewhat elusive answer (3:14): “Ehe'ye asher ehe'ye”, adding, “thus you shall say to the Children of Israel, Ehe'ye has sent me”. These words are (typically) translated: ”I am that I am”. Yet if we glance back at 3:12, we find that “ehe'ye” means “I will” (as it says there: “I will be with you”).  It appears that YHVH was not about to divulge His real (or 'full') name at that point.  His response and the tone by which it was conveyed sounds almost like a (temporary) discharge or dismissal. Thus, paraphrased, it may be read: 'never you mind Moshe… I Am and Will be Who I Am - what is it to you?' (Compare Yeshua's response to Shimon Keifa - Peter - in John 21:22).

The verb “ehe'ye” – I will be – is contained in “YHVH”, the name which Elohim is now, by His own initiative, revealing to Moshe (6:2). Thus the letters h.v.h (hey, vav, hey), which are tantamount to h.y.h (hey, yod, hey) meaning “to be”1 form the root of the venerated tetragrammaton.  "Being" and "present" both originate from this one root. The Tetragrammaton, therefore, speaks of "being" and of the "present presence".

Now that Moshe learns Elohim’s name, he hears Him say something quite surprising and unexpected, namely: “I appeared (literally – I was seen va’ye’ra) to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, as El Shaddai, but My name YHVH, I did not make known to them” (6:3). Before we continue, let us take note of the echoes of B’resheet 18:1, where this very word, “va’yera” – “and He was seen” (or appeared… to Avraham), opens up the Parasha of that name.  As to Ya’acov, he did know Elohim as El Shaddai (ref. 28:3, 35:11) but, the name YHVH is, nevertheless, mentioned in connection with the Patriarchs.  In fact, there is evidence that they used this name when addressing Elohim (e.g. Gen. 15:8).  The Sages discuss this point at length, but we will not delve deeply into the subject other than to say that since He revealed Himself to them as “El Shaddai”, the “Mighty Breasted One”, or by implication the ”Mighty One Who is Sufficient”, it was this aspect of His being with which they must have been most familiar.  In the course of His ongoing and progressive revelation of Himself, the Elohim of Yisrael is about to demonstrate that He is in control of the present, the One Who Is Present, and truly the One who IS the Present: He is the Yah-Hoveh. (Yah, as His name and also connected to the verb “to be”, is used a number of times, e.g. Ex. 17:16, although may be lost in the translation, and in many other instances in the Psalms.) In chapter 9:3, “the hand of YHVH", that was “to be on [Pharaoh’s] cattle…” is rendered as “yad YHVH hoya”. “To be on” in this case is “hoyah” (which contains the same letters as YHVH), meaning that He is fully present and brings to bear this Presence as He chooses.

The passage, which starts in verse 3 of Chapter 6 and continues all the way to verse 8, constitutes a unique and significant unit, in both content and form. The beginning statement is also found at the end (v. 8): "I am YHVH".  In verse 3 reference is made to the Patriarchs, while a similar reference shows up just before the end, in verse 8, in the form of a very emphatic statement (cf. last Parasha, Ex. 3:15,16). The third point in this monologue deals with the Covenanted Land (v. 4) and is echoed at the beginning of verse 8.  Verse 5 talks about the groaning (and therefore sufferings) of the Children of Yisrael, while verse 7 again deals with the same theme of suffering.  Thus, the four elements mentioned appear both in the first and second half of the passage, although the second time round the order of these themes is reversed (in what may be termed as a chiastic structure).

 The central part of this passage stands firmly on its own, as a precious stone framed in fine filigree made up by the four repetitions mentioned above (i.e. YHVH’s Name, Patriarchs, Land, and Sufferings). It reads as follows, “Therefore say to the children of Israel: `I am YHVH, and I will take you out (ve'hotze'ti) from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver (ve’hi’tzalti) you out from their bondage, and I will redeem (ve'ga'alti) you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments.  And I will take (ve'la'ka’ch'ti) you to me for a people’” (6:6-7 emphases added).  Here too there is a ‘foursome’, although this time it is of four verbs, which describe a process.  First comes the "taking out" from one place to another, second is the “deliverance” from the enemy and the rigors of the impending desert journey. The third level, “redemption”, is also deliverance, but connotes “judicial ransoming”. The "redeemer" is a “go'el”, which in the Bible is synonymous with a "blood relative". Hence, this announcement in and of itself renders the Divine Redeemer as a blood relative who has the means and will to purchase the object of his redemption, take it upon himself to recover and restore everything (including that which has been lost) to right order, and be an avenger of wrongs (e.g. Lev. 25:26; Num. 5:8; Ruth 3:12, Ruth 4; Josh. 20:5). Finally, the "taking" here is much like the "taking of a wife" in marriage (see Gen. 25:20, for example).

When this series of actions is completed “…you shall know that I am YHVH your Elohim” (6:7). Immediately following this, YHVH continues to promise to “bring you into the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and I will give it to you as a heritage: I am YHVH” (v. 8, emphases added). The declaration “I am YHVH" pronounced both at the beginning and end of the passage, powerfully denotes His all-encompassing view and position, contrasted with the restricted human perspective and vantage point of the Sons of Yisrael. The progressive process we have been following evidences that there is only One who can act on every level, with nothing ever being required of the recipients. This IS the grace, “which is not of yourselves [but] it is the gift of Elohim!” (Ephesians 2:8).  However, for this grace to be appropriated, faith is required and thus we move on to the anticlimactic end (v. 9): “So Moses spoke thus to the sons of Israel, but they did not listen to Moses on account of their despondency and cruel bondage”.  "Despondency" is literally “shortness of spirit/breath”, sometimes meaning impatience, while "cruel bondage" is actually “hard labor” (v. 9). 

Following this 'introduction' or preamble, the rest of the Parasha is mostly devoted to the implementation of the action plan described above.  In 6:11, YHVH calls out to Moshe to (literally), “come - BO - speak to Pharaoh…” Notice that above He promised to “bring” – ve’heveti – His people to the land. “Come” – bo – stems from the same root as “bring” – la’ha’vee (that is, “cause one to come”). Thus the “coming” that Moshe is commanded to do before the next phase, which will include verbal ‘combat’ with Egypt’s ruler, is a “coming” first to Elohim (putting full trust in Him). Prior to the second plague (of frogs), Moshe will be charged once again by YHVH to “bo” – come - to Par’oh (8:1, and likewise in 9:1 and in next week’s Parasha’s opening verse).   

 Moshe responds to YHVH’s commission twice with “…I am of uncircumcised lips” (6:12, 30), obviously trying (once again) to dodge his responsibility But, whereas last week we read that he used the expression: “I am not eloquent… but am slow of speech and of a slow tongue” (4:10), this time he feels the need to press the point even further, since "uncircumcised lips" could also denote uncleanness (cf. Isaiah 6:5).  YHVH is not 'impressed' and does not take up this matter with His messenger.

It is the condition of Par'oh's heart that YHVH is about to deal with, as He says to Moshe, “And I will harden Pharaoh's heart…” (7:3a). Shaul (Paul) elaborating on this says, “Therefore He has mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will, He hardens” (Rom. 9:18). Romans 1:18-21 may help us to further refine this idea:For the wrath of Elohim is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of Elohim is manifest in them, for Elohim has shown it to them.  For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.  Because, although they knew Elohim, they did not glorify Him as Elohim, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened” (italics added). 

Back to where we left off in Exodus 7:3. The second part of the verse reads, “… and multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt”, with the result being, “And the Egyptians shall know that I am YHVH when I stretch forth My hand upon Egypt and bring out the Children of Israel from among them” (v. 5 italics and emphasis added). It should be pointed out that the “hardness” of Par’oh’s heart is qualified by three different words – ka’sheh – hard (e.g. 7:3); chazak – strong (e.g. 7:13) and kaved – heavy (e.g. 8:11). Interestingly, in the present Parasha where it says that YHVH hardened the monarch’s heart the first two are mostly used, but when the latter is doing it himself, it is “kaved”, which is also related to “honor” and “glory” (“kavod”). Thus, Par’oh’s inner motivation is exposed. (For the same idea see 9:17, although there a different, but synonymous, verb is used.) In next week’s Parashat Bo, on the other hand, YHVH will be taking the responsibility for making Paroh’s heart “kaved”, while in the following Parashat Be’shalach, in chapter 14, k.v.d will have versatile usages.

In His plan to bring His people out of Egypt, YHVH exerts His authority by judging Egypt (see 7:4). Again, “and the Egyptians shall know that I am YHVH, when I stretch out My hand on Egypt…” (v. 5). “Stretching out” in this case is “ne’to’ti” (the verb being “nato” – its root is noon, tet, hey, n.t.h). This verb denotes leading or pointing direction, and thus in verse 9 when A’haron is told to cast his rod, it is designated by “ma’teh”, originating from the same root. A’haron and Moshe were to represent YHVH’s authority over Egypt’s ruling powers, both the natural ones as well as the supernatural. Indeed, when A’haron casts his rod in front of Par’oh it turns into a serpent, which in Hebrew is “tannin”, literally an alligator. Thus, YHVH demonstrated His power over one of Egypt’s most powerful symbols. In fact, in Ezekiel 29:3 Par’oh himself is addressed as the “great tannin” (translated “monster”), that is the great alligator (for the same idea see also Ez. 32:3). The very rule and authority of Egypt is therefore symbolized by this “alligator” (a creature that inhabited the Nile), and is the first to be challenged by Elohim as will, in the course of the coming plagues, several of Egypt’s other ruling powers (‘gods’). 

Just prior to inflicting the first plague, Moshe speaks for YHVH saying to Par’oh: ”…Let My people go, that they may serve Me in the wilderness” (7:16). “Serve” here is from the root “work". We remember vividly from last week's Parasha, the many negative references to work and labor.  Here "work" becomes “worship” of YHVH, as are most other references to worship.  The hard-working slaves (“avadim”, of the root word, a.v.d) of the Egyptians are about to be liberated and become free to carry out “avodat  Elohim” – that is, rendering service unto YHVH.

If at first YHVH made His name known to Yisrael by attaching it to their ancestors’ names (the Elohim of…), thereby demonstrating His all-time faithfulness, now He wants to convey to His people that He is in charge of their present circumstances, in control of all of nature - both animate and inanimate; of mankind, beasts and the elements.  The first to be affected is Egypt's source of water and life, the Nile (Ye’or in the Biblical terminology), which He turns into blood.  Blood, in its turn, is also a symbol of life and atonement but it now becomes a deadly substance in the very body of water, which in the second plague will be swarming with frogs (8:6). The Nile was the grave of many of Yisrael’s infants (ref. Ex. 1:22), and now that blood is crying out, not from the ground, but from the water… In addition, all of Egypt’s other water sources also turned to blood (7:19).

The fourth and fifth plagues (8:21; 9:3) are the first ones not to occur in the vicinity of the Israelites' dwellings, meaning that the land of Goshen was free of them.  The "swarms of insects", as they are called, and the pestilence, are both terms with familiar roots, which we have already encountered.  "Swarms of insects" (and other translated versions) are “a'rov”, and "pestilence" is “dever.  “Arov” (which shares its root, a.r.v., with the root for “erev” – “evening”) means a “mixture”, hence the mixed variety of species.  Last week we looked at “midbar” - “desert”, noting that “dever” (i.e. “pestilence” or “plague”) sometimes "drives" (of the same root, once again) its victim to the “desert”. 

This time it is 'real' pestilence, not the figurative type, which is plaguing the herds and flocks of the Egyptians (9:8, 9). “Boils and hail with fire flashing… in the midst of… it” (9:24) are the next two plagues, both of which have no tangible effect on the Israelites, “in the land of Goshen in which My people dwell” – with “dwell” being a translation of “stand”. “Stand”? Why stand? Could the text be hinting at the temporary nature of their existence in Goshen, as shortly they would be leaving that locale? There YHVH made “a division between My [His] people and your [Par’o’s] people” (8:23).  “Division” here is “p'dut” which literally means “ransom”.  It is the ransom that always separates those who are "My people" from those who are Par'oh's.  The basic meaning of the Hebrew root [p.d.h] is “to achieve the transfer of ownership from one to another through payment of a price or an equivalent substitute”.2 More on this idea in next week's Parasha…


1 In Hebrew, the "v" sound (vav) and the "y" sound (yod) are often interchangeable, such as in the name Chava (Eve), which denotes “life,” although the noun “life” is “chayim,” and “to live” is “ lich’yot”.

2 Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, Vol. 2,

ed. R. Laird Harris, Moody Press, Chicago, P 198


Thursday, January 12, 2023

Hebrew Insights into Parashat Sh’mot – Sh’mot (Exodus) 1– 6:1

The opening verses of this Parasha reiterate what we read recently in Parashat Va’yigash; specifically, the names of the sons of Yisrael who had gone down to Egypt. Compared to the first list (Gen. 46:8-25), this one is briefer brief and 'basic.' It is these "names" (“sh’mot”), which lend the title to the Parasha, as well as to the whole book. The fruitfulness promised to the Patriarchs is already starting to be evident. "And the children of Israel were fruitful (of the root p.r.h for “fruit”), and increased (of the root applied to the animals in Gen. 1:20-21) abundantly, and multiplied - va’yirbu - and became exceeding mighty – va’ya’atzmu; and the land was filled with them” (Ex. 1: 7 italics added). This verse sums up one of the first phases of the Israelites' sojourn in Egypt, while at the same time also echoing B’resheet (Genesis) 47:27: "So Israel dwelt in the land of Egypt in the land of Goshen; and they took a hold of it - va'ye'ach'zu - and grew and multiplied exceedingly" (italics added). The above-mentioned verb for “increase” – va’yishretzu – is not mentioned in the Genesis 47 scripture and as noted. It is generally applied to animals. Is this a hint as to the condition of the Israelites at this point? Last week we noticed how Ya'acov, when bringing up the “land of Yisrael” in the course of blessing Ephraim and Menashe, emphasized "achuzat olam" (48:4), "everlasting possession", or literally, the “everlasting hold". But while the old patriarch stressed "holding" or "grasping tightly" on to the Land of Promise, his descendants seemed to be very quick to "take hold" of foreign soil (as seen in the above quoted Gen.  47:27).  


According to Nehama Leibowitz[1], by their settling and establishing a foothold in Egypt, the Israelites committed a sin. Thus, their new home turned into a place of exile and bondage, as the Parasha clearly points out. The commentary goes on to say, however, that the suffering and exile also produced refining and purification (e.g. Deut. 4:20; Is. 48:10; Jer.11:4), had an educational value (e.g. Ex. 22:21; 23:9; Deut. 16:11-12), and motivated the humanitarian treatment of others (e.g. Lev. 25:38-43; Deut. 5:14-15). Slavery and bondage demand redemption, and according to the commentary such a redemption "serves as a spur for a religious duty, imposing on every Israelite the duty to redeem his fellow being from slavery". With this said, we also cannot ignore the unequivocal and somewhat inauspicious prediction that YHVH made to Avraham in B’resheet (Genesis) 15, at the covenant ‘between the cut up pieces’, namely, "Your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years. But in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete" (vs. 13, 16).


"The iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete”. “Yet” (in the above quote) is "ad heh'na", literally "thus far". In Vayikra (Leviticus) 18:25 we read: "For the land is defiled; therefore I visit the punishment of its iniquity upon it, and the land vomits out its inhabitants". From the time YHVH made His declaration to Avraham it took well over 600 years for the Amorites’ (a generic name for the Canaanite people groups) iniquity to be "sha'lem", “complete”.  The 'quota of their iniquity' was only made full when the Children of Yisrael entered the Land of C’na’an, and thus the former were being "vomited out by the land".  In this way, the four hundred years of the Egyptian exile, and another forty of wandering in the desert, were necessary for the completion of Elohim’s objectives for the Israelites, while this time capsule was also instrumental in fulfilling a larger and more global 'judicial plan'. In the Divine economy, nothing is ever meaningless or lost. The Great Economist is very precise and is sovereign over time, events, and the protagonists’ roles therein.


Let us return now to the present situation in Egypt. The rising of the new king "who does not know Joseph" (1:8) introduces us to a new chapter into which Ya'acov's children are being thrust quite unawares. This king identifies the Israelites as a Nation, or People - "am", thus referring to them in singular person, rather than plural. "The people [am] of the sons of Israel is mightier [‘rav ve'atzum’] than we” (v. 9), while in the above (in verse 7) excerpt, the plural form is employed in describing the sons of Yisrael. This multiplicity, and might appear to constitute a threat to Egypt’s king and to his people, hence the reference to this foreign race (being "more numerous and mightier than us", italics added). It seems that exaggeration and bigotry play no small part in these words, which are used to form and instigate a plan to solve the “Hebrew problem”. Interestingly, at the very end of last week’s Parasha, Yoseph charged his brothers concerning taking his bones back to the land, whenever YHVH would visit (pakod) them (Gen. 50:25). In our Parasha, at the very beginning of the book of Sh’mot (Exodus), we read about the “might” of the People of Yisrael. Both "bone" and "might" share the same root of (ayin, tzadi, mem). This root lends itself to several significant words, which we will examine more thoroughly in Parashat B’ha’a’lot’cha (Numbers 8-12). Suffice it to say here that Yoseph’s bones “multiplied mightily", in accordance with the promise granted to his sons, although at present this blessing appears to pose the threat of adversity.


Thus, to counter this (hypothetical) danger of a population explosion, the king takes a number of measures, all of which are expressed in verbs denoting suffering, suppression, and servitude (ref. 1:11-14). However, these steps are not taken before Par’oh declares his intention to “deal shrewdly” with this people. “Shrewdly” – nitchakma - rooted in (chet, chaf, mem) which is “wise” or “wisdom”. However, the particular conjugation used here implies the misuse of wisdom in order to outsmart or take advantage. Thus, an evil plan is devised. First, they "set over them" “sa'rey mi’sim” - tax collecting princes - to (literally) "afflict them with suffering". But "the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew” (v. 12). The verb "grew" is "yifrotz", of the root which we examined in Parashat Va’yeshev (Gen. 38:29), where we noted that it means "to break forth".  This caused the Egyptians "to loath" or "abhore" (“va’yakutzu”) them, and in turn, they made them do rigorous labor (“va'ya'vidu” - a.v.d. - labor, work; while “eh’ved” is “slave”). "And they made their lives bitter with hard labor in mortar, in brick, and in all manner of work in the field. All their work in which they made them work with rigor" (v. 14 italics added). In verses 13-14 the root a.v.d (ayin, vet, dalet) - work, labor, slave - occurs five times, impressing upon the reader the sense of perpetual toil.


The commentator Benno Jacob observes that the initiators of the acts of ritual enslavement are always mentioned (in their acts of harassment) in the plural, whereas the Israelites are referred to as a singular entity (in 1:10-12 each reference to the Israelites reads "he", although not translated that way in English). The commentator goes on to say, "Israel is pictured here as characterless, faceless, bereft of leadership".1 Interestingly, the Parasha opens with the names of the individuals whose descendants, in just a matter of a few verses, are described as being submerged in a sea of suffering and oblivion (even though, as noted above, the singular person was also used because the Israelites were viewed as an “am” – a single nation, a people).


 The only two characters singled out here are the midwives (who are mentioned by name). They were assigned the heinous task of doing away with every Hebrew male newborn. The Hebrew reads: “me’yaldot ha’eev’riyot”, which may be read as “the Hebrew midwives” or the “midwives of the Hebrew (women)”, thus calling into question the identity of the midwives: were they Israelites or Egyptian? Their defiance of the king's edict (1:17) results in Yisrael becoming even more numerous and mighyrav and atzum (the same term we examined above, stemming from the root, v. 20b). These two YHVH-fearing women testify of the full involvement of Yisrael's Elohim with His People, even at a time when the Nation was under conditions of bondage and forgetfulness. However, whereas "am Yisrael" as a whole was occupied with endless and huge building projects for their taskmasters, it says about the midwives that Elohim established their "batim" – 1:21 literally “homes, houses" and also “families, dynasties” (translated “households”)!


The subjugating process gathers momentum; taxing turns into hard labor (1:11), then to enslavement (vs. 13, 14) and to 'limited' infanticide (v. 16), which finally becomes an imposition on the entire Egyptian nation, compelling it to engage in a full-blown genocide by exterminating every newborn male (v. 22). Thus, the mere 22 verses of Sh’mot’s first chapter recount a long and eventful span of time.


The next chapter reports a sudden development. Nehama Leibowitz comments, "One family, father, mother, and daughter emerge from the gloom of this faceless mass".[2] The anonymity is only gradually broken, though, as the protagonists of this first part of the chapter remain nameless, albeit distinct. The only specific name in this narrative is the name that Par’oh's daughter gives the baby whom she finds: It is to be Moshe, "because I drew him out of the water" (2:10 emphasis added). And as we observed in Parashat Miketz (Gen. 41-44:17), this name is probably an Egyptian one, as "mes" or "mesu" in ancient Egyptian means "child" or "son", [3]  yet the Hebrew language adapts to foreign terms by employing puns or a 'play on words' (such as the in the name "Bavel," Gen. 11:9). There is, however, one other instance in Scripture where the root  (mem, shin, hey) is used: "He drew me out - yimsheni - of many waters", intones King David (2nd Sam. 22:17; Ps. 18:16), being an apt description of Moshe’s current condition, and also of his future role, when he will lead his people out of a large body of water. The basket that baby Moshe was put in is called "tey'va", the identical term used for Noach's ark! The gigantic structure and the little basket, both, were havens of safety and protection ‘upon the waters’ that, spelled ultimate deliverance with large-scale ramifications.


It took the death of the king (2:23) for the Children of Yisrael to "groan" and "cry out" -"va'yiz'aku" - and “their cry" - "shava'atam" - went up to Elohim. Notice that here the verb “to cry out” is different from the noun “cry”. In other words, by the time the cry (“za’a’ka”) reached heaven, it turned into a "sha'v'a" (sh.v.a. shin, vav, ayin), a noun which is "akin to deliverance or salvation" (which is - yod, shin, ayin)[4]. Thus, by the time the cry ‘made its way’ to YHVH, it had already formulated into His response! Thusly, Elohim "heard", "remembered", "looked" (or "saw"), and "acknowledged" (2:24-25) – all of which make up the components of His response.


Chapter 3 elaborates on the implementation of the above verbs through the person of Moshe and his mission. It will be by Moshe that YHVH will reveal Himself to His People. Moshe spends time in the desert, "midbar", "tending the flock of Yitro (Jethro), his father-in-law… and he led the flock to the back of the desert, and came to Horeb, the mountain of Elohim” (3:1). "Midbar" stems from the root d.v.r (dalet, vet/bet, resh), meaning “speech” or “speaking”, but this root also supplies us with “to drive” (as in “push out”) and “defeat”. It shares the same root with "pestilence" or “plague”, and with the Holy of Holies in Solomon's Temple ("dvir"). It seems that when one is stricken with a plague (sin) and is driven to the ‘backside’ of the desert, it is there that he hears YHVH’s still small voice speaking, and before long finds himself in the Holy of Holies, with Moshe being a case in point. Thus, in the 4:10–16 passage in which Moshe is heard attempting to ‘convince’ YHVH that he was not the right choice for the mission, the root d.b/v.r is repeated seven times in various forms, such as “words” and “speaking”.


YHVH reveals Himself to Moshe, talking to Him by the “Mountain of Elohim” in Chorev (Horeb”, 3:1). Chorev stems from the root ch.r.v. (chet, resh, bet/vet), which means “desolation, waste”. The sea, for example, that will face the Israelites in their future escape, will turn into "dry land" which will enable their passage. This “dryness” or “parched land” is called "charava" (Parashat B'shalach, Ex. 14:21). This root also forms the word for "cherev" - “sword” and “churban” – “destruction”. Not surprisingly, in this part of the world where water is scarce, “dryness” and “destruction” are almost synonymous.


Elohim’s plans for His people may be elicited from some of the terms used here. He declares that He Himself "will go down" to rescue His people from Mitzrayim (Egypt - straits, narrowness, adversity), and "will bring them up" to "a good and broad land" (3:8 emphases added). When Moshe is to assemble the elders of Yisrael he is to convey to them that, the Elohim of Avraham, Yitzchak, and Ya'acov literally, "visiting has visited you and that which has been done to you in Egypt" (3:16). We also noticed above, in Yoseph’s request at the end of the B’resheet (50:25), that he used the same term when he expressed his faith about Elohim visiting His people to take them back to the land. In both these cases "visit" is "pakod", the root being p.k.d (pey, kof, dalet), and means “to visit, attend, muster, appoint,[5] count, or miss”. This word is also known as "precept" (e.g., Ps. 119:15, 27). Like several of the other words for "commandments" and "laws", this one also has, as is evident here, a different or broader meaning than what is generally perceived - something that we will be taking a closer look at when several of these terms will surface in future Parashot (Parasha – singular; Parashot – plural). This verb appropriately sums up YHVH’s multi-faceted plan for His people.


 The long discourse that the reluctant Moshe has with YHVH is about to end when YHVH tells him: "Now therefore, go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say" (4:12). Similar words are repeated in verse 15, with the promise to instruct him and his brother A’ha’ron (Aaron) as to what they will have to do. It was likewise a totally submissive Yeshua who expressed a similar idea during His earthly ministry, "The son can do nothing by himself, he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does, the son does also" (John 5:19, see also 8:28; 12:49; 14:10).


Moshe and A’ha’ron comply and go to see Par’oh. In 5:4 we read: “And the king of Egypt said to them, Moses and Aaron, why do you keep the people from their work? Get to your burdens!” “Keep the people” is “tafri’ou”, from the root p.r.a., (pey, resh ayin), which we examined in Parashat Miketz (Ge. 41-44:17), where we also noticed its (coincidental?) similarity with the name Par’oh.  The meaning of this root, being “unruliness” is not incompatible with this king’s conduct toward his Hebrew subjects.


We noted above that, possibly because of their lowly state the Hebrews were referred to in the singular person. In 4:22-23 (and 3:7-8) they are referred to once again in this manner; but this time for an entirely different reason. Here YHVH calls Yisrael, "My firstborn son". Later, when Moshe and A’haron address Par’oh, they say to him: "The Elohim of the Hebrews has met with us. Please, let us go three days' journey into the desert and sacrifice to YHVH our Elohim…” (5:3). However, the non-normative spelling of “has met with us” – nikra – can also be read as “who is named/called”, thus rendering this excerpt as, “The Elohim of the Hebrews Who is named after us (the “us” implying Avraham, Yitchak and Yaacov)…” Indeed in 3:15 Elohim calls Himself the “Elohim of Avraham, the Elohim of Yitzchak, the Elohim of Ya’acov”. (By comparison in 3:18, the same word “has met”, is spelled in a conventional manner, with its meaning, therefore, remaining ‘plain and simple’, unlike the above.)


Even though by the end of the Parasha the lot of the Israelites is made (temporarily) even worse than it had been before Moshe's audience with Par'oh, the People, who at the beginning of Sh'mot are presented as a forgotten and maltreated mass, are now the object of YHVH's direct intervention. It is, therefore, with these words that our Parasha ends: "Then YHVH said to Moses, 'Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh, for with a strong hand he will let them go, and with a strong hand he will expel them out of his land'" (6:1).


In Parashat Sh’mot we see once again the sovereignty of YHVH over the schemes and intentions of the enemy. Just as in the case of Yoseph, whose destiny the enemy attempted to disrupt, YHVH used this very plan to catapult him into the place that He had designed for him, so too in regards to Moshe (and in an even greater measure to Yeshua, see 1 Cor. 2:7, 8). The very man whose command should have brought about this infant’s death ended up being the one in whose palace this infant was protected, raised, and groomed for leading the Israelites out and away from under his (and his followers') despotic and tyrannical control and dominion.



1 New Studies in Shemot, by Nechama Leibowitz, trans. Aryeh Newman,  

 Eliner Library, Jerusalem, 1995

2 Ibid

3 Ibid

4 The New Brown, Driver, Briggs, Gesenius Hebrew and English Lexicon,  

ed. Francis Brown, Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, Mass.

5 Ibid

6 Ibid