Torah Portion: Sh’mot (Names) Sh’mot (Exodus) 1-6
Haftorah Reading: Jeremiah 1:1-2:3
This week we start a new book of Torah named Sh’mot, after the first word of the book. This name Sh’mot in Hebrew, translates as Names in English. Let’s talk about this a bit and see if there is a lesson for us here. The book begins with the names of Jacob and his sons. Names we have heard before, names that we can remember from the person being a follower of G-d, persons having a relationship with G-d. We read of no other name until we come to the midwives who were known by their refusal of Pharaoh’s order to kill the newborn baby boys of the Hebrew women. Interestingly, one name we do not know is that of Pharaoh. Why is that do you think? Maybe it is because he mocked G-d and burdened the people in their bondage.
In mentioning specific names of people, I believe scripture is making a point here that what we do, how we live, is important to G-d and to the ones who come after us. In Judaism there is the custom, when the name of a Jewish person who has died is spoken out loud, it is followed by the words, “May he be blessed and remembered.” I think that is important in all of our lives, to remember the names of people who have blessed us and helped us along our walk of faith. In fact, my question this week had to do with some of the people named in our portion as well as one not mentioned.
However, first a short overview of where we are and how we got here. In this portion we read where all the people of the generation of Joseph had died and there came an unknown Pharaoh who did not know Joseph or what he had done for Egypt. We also read where this Pharaoh became afraid of this strange group of people living within the borders of Egypt. He then devised a plan to enslave them and make their life one of hardship. He also sought to control the number of boys being born. This would eventually lead to the people of Israel losing their identity, and being assimilated into Egypt. Here we read of the two midwives who did not follow those orders but instead allowed the boy babies to live. Their names were Shifrah and Puah. I want us to consider this action for a bit. They chose not to obey the law of the land and go against the decree handed down by Pharaoh. They, out of all the midwives, said no. How would we judge these women? More importantly, what would we have done in their place? They exhibited the courage to stand up for what was right rather than going along. This is one of the first cases we see where someone took a stand and said no. This chapter is filled with similar cases. Jochaved, Moses’ mother protected her baby boy. Pharaoh’s daughter went against her own father to do what was right, courage again. Moshe showed courage through out this portion by standing for right, by having the courage to even stand up for the daughter of Jethro at the well even though he was a stranger. My point in all this is that we as G-d’s people have the responsibility of standing on the side of right even when that conflicts with the rules of society or even in extreme cases, with the law of the land. Think of all the people who hid Jews in Europe during the Holocaust, again courage. Here in our country during the sixties think of the people who stood against the immoral laws that kept African Americans as second-class citizens even at the risk of their own life.
History is filled with people who had the courage to stand up for right. As G-d’s people I think each of us bears that same responsibility. However, it is not easy. It can cost us. It is far easier to say and do nothing, to just go along with the status quo.
Jean and I were discussing this week something that we were reading in the Torah portion. Jean brought up the verses where Pharaoh gave the order to take away straw from the people and increase their workload so they would have no time or energy to think about following Moshe and Aaron. (Exodus 5:6-19) Oddly, the people did not complain about being slaves but about the increased workload. They just wanted to go back to what was, where they were before Moses arrived and made things worse. They did not consider going through the temporary but necessary pain to get to true freedom. Sometimes we too are complacent in where we are spiritually. We don’t want to go through the growth pains to let go of things that are enslaving us or holding us back to get to true spiritual freedom. We resist change but do little to move on in our lives. G-d’s will, I believe, is that everyday we stretch to become more than the day before, to know Him more, to stand for Him more, to reach outside ourselves more than the day before, to let go of things that hold us back.
In the Messianic scriptures we see the same pattern as here in our portion. Yeshua called on people to be more spiritual, to move ahead with the Father, to care more about those around them. I think He calls us to that same pattern of life. May we all be filled with the courage to move mountains.