Torah Portion: Sh’mot (Names) Exodus 1:1-6:1
HafTorah: Jeremiah 1:1-2:3, Isaiah 27:6-28:13
This week we read the first Torah section of Sh’mot (Exodus). In this section we read of the birth of Moses, his flight from Egypt and then G-d’s call on him to lead the Hebrews out of Egypt and return to the Land of Promise.
Tonight I want to mainly look at the dialogue between Moses and G-d at the burning bush in Exodus chapter three. There are several spiritual lessons we can find here that should speak to us in our lives today. First let us look at the Hebrew people’s condition. They had had years of slavery, being beaten down literally (Ex. 1:14), and seeing their children being killed by throwing all the boys into the river. (Ex. 1:22) They groaned under their bondage. They were in a bad way. Like many people we see today. Maybe their slave master is different. The master could be drugs, love of money, status in the community or other things, but these also are real situations of slavery. An example would be the woman at the well. Her story is found in the New Testament, John 7:53-8:11. Here we see Yeshua’s approach to her. He does not beat her up verbally with her sin. He does not shame her but He speaks gently to her and opens a way for her to change.
So here in Exodus we see G-d telling Moses to deal gently with His people. They don’t need to hear about their assimilation or their failures in their lives or even the fact they might have forgotten His name. Instead He tells Moses to remind them of their heritage, of their ancestors. (Ex. 3:13, 15) They were not always slaves. He knows what they are going through and has seen their oppression in Egypt. (Ex. 3:16) He will bring them out and free them from their slave masters. He has a bright future for them in a land flowing with milk and honey. (Ex. 3:17)
How do we relate to a wayward child or a wayward friend? This is a good example on how to give them a hope and a future, not one that belittles or degrades them because of their sin or situation. They need to hear that we love them and have not given up on them. We can focus on their strengths, not on their weaknesses. We can help them see what they have, not what they lack, what they can do, not what they cannot, who they are not who they might have been, who they can become, not on what or who they think they will always be. If we love them as they are they might just find the will to change.
This is how Yeshua dealt with the woman at the well and it is how G-d tells Moses to deal with the people when he goes to them in Egypt. Also, it is how G-d relates to us and how we should relate to ourselves. Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not come but we have today.
One way these people forgot who they were may have been in how Pharaoh dealt with them in that he heaped the labor on to where they were constantly working. (Ex. 5:6-9) He meant to keep them so busy they had no time to think of anything else. What happens when we stay so busy and stressed? We lose our way. These people had no time to think, to contemplate their spiritual state. They had lost their way. This was Pharaoh’s plan.
In our world today, we are constantly bombarded by things that take our time, things that distract us to the point we too have no time to think of our own life. We have no time to consider our relationship with our family, wife, husband, children or with G-d. We have no time to review our day, to right wrongs, to consider the good we might have done.
Thinking, contemplation is what makes us human. This is how we grow as a person. This is how we right a wrong or build on good. Even Yeshua drew away from the crowds. The result of not taking time is to become a slave to what pushes us relentlessly. The answer lies within us. We need to take time to think, to review and to grow. Then we can explore the depth of G-d’s name (Ex. 3:14) Here apparently the Hebrews had forgotten G-d’s name. What does it mean? First in English we could translate it as, “I will be.” G-d in effect telling the people He is, was and will be. He is telling us this as well. But only by considering and meditating on it can we come to grips with how much that promise means to us today.