Torah Portion: Shemot Exodus 1:1-6:1

HafTorah: Isaiah 27:6-28:13; 29:22-23

Acts 7:17-35; I Cor. 14:18-25

I would like us to begin by looking at Moses’ name. His name appears 740 times in the five books of Torah and yet it is an Egyptian name rather than a Hebrew name. It does have some similarities with Hebrew but here we read that Pharaoh’s daughter gave him this name. So why didn’t his Hebrew name get into the text? Surely he had one – every Hebrew boy was given a name at his Brit Milah.


To come to some answer let us look at his life and the life of his Egyptian mother to see what we can discern from the two of them. First let’s look at Moses. He was given a life of privilege and luxury. No doubt he had a bright future in Egypt but he never got there, at least not as an Egyptian. The first clue is in Exodus 2:11. He went to his brethren and saw their burdens. Here we see a young man who knew who he was, remembered his background, his heritage. He was moved by what he saw, an oppressed people, his people. What could he do? He could go back home to the palace and go on with his life. But he didn’t do that. He cast his lot with his people. He took action to right the situation. Now, the action he took was misguided but he did something. He didn’t let what he had to lose stand in his way.

Next clue, he goes back out the next day and sees two Hebrews fighting. He could have left them. Again he intervened but this time with words. He tried to reason with them. Their response threw him. He was frightened and fled the country going to Midian, a vast desert to the east of Egypt. He was hoping to lose himself and avoid the wrath of Pharaoh.

Here we come to clue three. He sat by a well and the daughters of Jethro came to water their sheep. Local shepherd’s came and drove them away. Now logic might say, why get involved in some local squabble, especially among people he did not know. What did Moses do? He became involved and drove the shepherds away and stood up for those who were being wronged. Even more he helped them by watering their flocks.

So looking at these three events what can we learn about Moses? He identified with the victims, the oppressed. He did so even at the risk of his own comfort and even his life. He never stood idly by but always took the side of the suffering. We see this continue with his encounter with G-d. He, after some hesitation agrees to go back where he is a wanted man and embrace the very people who had turned against him.

Now, back to the princess. In Exodus 2:6 we see she had compassion on him and saved him, even at risk of her own status in life and maybe even her own life. Maybe Moses learned from this woman and proudly carried the name she gave him.

I would think as we have looked at this short sketch of Moses life it would remind us of someone – Yeshua, and how he spent the earthly years of his life. Who do we usually find him with, the oppressed and downtrodden of life. And it is to this same scenario He has called us. Isaiah 58:6-9 summarizes it well.

This brings me to my second question. Who am I? Exodus 3:11. G-d answers partly by telling Moses, “I will be with you.” You will succeed because I will go with you. A strange fact of scripture is that those people who turn out to be the most worthy are those who deny they have any worth at all. They do not see themselves as able to do what G-d is asking them to do. Isaiah in Isaiah 6:5, Jeremiah in Jeremiah 1:6, King David in II Samuel 7:18, even Jonah tried to run away but became G-d’s instrument in saving a city. They became heroes because they believed G-d and did what He told them to do. That’s all G-d asks of any of us. That is all He asked of Moses.

Also in this question of, “Who am I?” lies a deeper meaning. Down deep who are we really How do we describe ourselves? What pops into our mind when that question is asked? Moses down deep knew who he was. He was part of the people of G-d. When he saw his brothers being oppressed he knew he was not an Egyptian but he was part of G-d’s people. We too are part of G-d’s family and it should always be at the front of everything we do and every decision we make.

Thought: Who am I? Why am I here? How then shall I live?