Wednesday, January 18, 2006

PARSHAH IN A NUTSHELL: Week of Week of January 15-21, 2006 (Shemot)


Tevet 18, 5766 * January 18, 2006


TORAH PORTION: Shemot (Exodus 1:1-6:1)

Torah Reading for Week of January 15-21, 2006

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The Children of Israel multiply in Egypt. Threatened by their growing numbers, Pharaoh enslaves them and orders the Hebrew midwives, Shifrah and Puah, to kill all male babies at birth. When they do not comply, he commands his people to cast the Hebrew babies into the Nile.

A child is born to Jocheved, the daughter of Levi, and her husband, Amram, and placed in a basket on the river, while the baby's sister, Miriam, stands watch from afar. Pharaoh's daughter discovers the boy, raises him as her son, and names him Moses.

As a young man, Moses leaves the palace and discovers the hardship of his brethren. He sees an Egyptian beating a Hebrew and kills the Egyptian. The next day he sees two Jews fighting; when he admonishes them, they reveal his deed of the previous day, and Moses is forced to flee to Midian. There he rescues Jethro's daughters, marries one of them - Zipporah - and becomes a shepherd of his father-in-law's flocks.

G-d appears to Moses in a burning bush at the foot of Mount Sinai and instructs him to go to Pharaoh and demand: "Let My people go, so that they may serve Me." Moses' brother, Aaron, is appointed to serve as his spokesman. In Egypt, Moses and Aaron assemble the elders of Israel to tell them that the time of their redemption has come. The people believe; but Pharaoh refuses to let them go, and even intensifies the suffering of Israel.

Moses returns to G-d to protest: "Why have You done evil to this people?" G-d promises that the redemption is close at hand.

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- Pharaoh's daughter... saw the box among the rushes; and she sent her maid ("ammatah") and fetched it (Exodus 2:5)

Another interpretation of this verse renders the Hebrew word ammatah as "her arm" rather than "her maid." Ammatah also means "arm lengths." This is to teach us that "her arm was extended for many arm-lengths" (to enable her to reach the basket). (Talmud; Rashi)

If Moses' basket lay beyond her reach, why did Pharaoh's daughter extend her arm? Could she possibly have anticipated the miracle that her hand would be "extended for many arm-lengths"? There is a profound lesson here. Often, we are confronted with a situation that is beyond our capacity to rectify. Someone or something is crying out for our help, but the matter is simply beyond our reach. So we resign ourselves to inactivity, reasoning that the little we can do won't change anything anyway.

But Pharaoh's daughter heard a child's cry and extended her arm. An unbridgeable distance lay between her and the basket containing the weeping infant, making her action seem utterly pointless. But because she did the maximum of which she was capable, she achieved the impossible. Because she extended her arm, G-d extended its reach, enabling her to save a life and raise the greatest human being ever to walk the face of the earth. (The Lubavitcher Rebbe)


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