This week things can get intense, and tend to the extreme and we will need to stay strengthened and focused. This week we would have to become the leaders we are supposed to be. Our entire nation’s survival depends on us
Parashat Shemot opens the Book of Shemot, the second book - which is also called - the Book of Redemption. This portion begins with the origins of the Jewish People as a nation.
It opens with a list of the names of the Children of Israel as they came down to Egypt, while counting each individual within those families. However, the weird thing is that this portion which is called "Shemot" - the portion of ‘The Names’ does not mentioning any name in what we can see, as an intentional manner.
In the beginning of this portion, we have no names - it is like no one really have an identity. We have the names of the 12 children of Jacob for each tribe represents a different approach to Divine service but that about it. We have a man of the house of Levi, which refers to Amram, Moshe father. He went and married a daughter of Levi that refers to Yocheved, Moshe’s mother. His sister stood from afar – this is Miriam. Pharaoh's daughter - Batya, and she saw him the child – refers to Moshe. The weeping lad – sages say that this is Aharon, we have the midwives, the Egyptian man, the two Hebrew man, the king of Egypt, the chief of Midian, His daughters. What is the hidden matter in this - Why no one of the caricatures in this portion is referred to by its name?
Well first, the word Shemot (in Hebrew names) is like the word Neshamot, which means “the souls”. The names are souls, and all souls now are in exile. Furthermore, this story refers to each of us at the soul level. We are all in this story, we are the names - we are the souls.
In this portion, we start our journey as a nation, and we are to find ourselves in each one of the characters. The first name however, we encounter is a name that has been given. It says about Pharaoh's daughter that ‘She named him Moshe "For I drew him from the water". The Zohar tells us that every Jewish soul has at its core a spark of Moshe's soul. But before we start to discuss about this wander child, this very important spark we possess, Moshe, the redeemer of the Israeli nation, this great force inside us that have the power to redeem our souls. Let us take a look first at the scenery that was constructed as a background to the birth of this child.
Feeling threatened by the presence of the Children of Israel flourishing in his land, the king of Egypt begins a multi-staged plan of isolation and oppression in order to estrange the Hebrew nation from Egyptian society. As if anticipating Pharaoh’s next move, the Torah sets the stage by describing Israel as if it were a colony of insects: “The Children of Israel were fruitful and swarmed and increased and became very strong, and the land became filled with them.“
The king of Egypt then order the Hebrew midwives to kill any male child of a Hebrew woman and let the girls live, but under Egyptian society rules. Now we need to remember that in Kabbalistic terms, a man by its mythical definition is "the will to contribute" or "the power to Influence" signified by the Mida of Chesed. While a woman is the mythical definition of the "desire to receive" – signified by the Mida of Gevura.
We are talking here about the holy forces that stands as contrast to each other, but also – when unite, stand in contrast to the unholy forces. Because we know, that we have the purified forces of holiness and against them stand the forces of impurity. Now taking under the fact that Pharaoh wished to kill the boys and take the girls, and that a boy that is due to become a man and a girl that is due to become a woman, we can see that this small fraction of the story contains a much deeper meaning to us.
In the boy lays the human potential to influence and therefore Pharaoh wished to kill any form of graceful-influence at its beginning, or at its core. But it wasn’t enough for him. He also wished to take the forces of Gevura – the desire to receive, under his possession.
He wanted to take all holly forces that have the ability or the natural demand to receive as hostages of the Egyptian culture, making them all absorb the Egyptian costumes to the fullest.
by doing this, Pharaoh is basically planning here a war. A spiritual war. He wants to destroy the powers of holiness in every way possible, and thereby strengthening the powers of impurity. The Jewish midwives however were clever, woman in Kabalistic terms always represent the soul, and this war pharaoh was aiming towards, was not in their best interest. And that is because the soul has a natural attraction towards the good, the Divine, the upper realms, the qualities of purity. As it is G-dly.
When confronted by Pharaoh for disregarding his order, they claimed that “the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women: they are more vigorous. Before the midwife can come to them, they have given birth”. Pharaoh represent the will to receive as a powerful force in its most unholy form. This power wants to create a new order. But Israel’s power that is responsible for the living, and for the connection to what is pure and divine, worked towards preventing this new order from becoming.
still, convinced of the righteousness of his path, Pharaoh then would try to create his new order using his own tools – the will to receive unholy forces – his small little but still very powerful army of Egyptian people. And it would seems as if they were to succeed. So we have here an entire army of forces trying to win over - The powers of the Tuma forces against the purity forces. And the numbers of the purified and holly forces inside us start to shrink.
However, at the same time the redeemer is born. And again, note, that according to this story the redeemer, as we have said before, is born to what we can call a JD family. A man of the house of Levi that went and married a daughter of from the house of Levi. Take a man’s name and you would take his identity, but take the names of all and you than create a form of unity that each of us can relate to. This story speaks about us, about our soul and the forces it encounter through its journey. Even and especially when in exile. And there is no specific identity because the identity can reflect each one of us.
Even though we are at war - a silent harsh war with the forces of impurity - the redeeming force inside of us is born, is awakened. And in accordance to its task of living – he must be rooted in the forces of purity. But at the same time, also as we know, Moshe grew up as an Egyptian prince. Meaning this redeemer must be familiar with the forces of impurity as well.
– to win our enemies we need to know them, not just in a superficial way, but rather in the most deepest sense of the meaning. This force, Moshe, was infused by both worlds and therefore was aware of each one, and because of that, he cannot stay where he is for long.
He would to be consumed either by his enemies, or by his own people. And this is exactly what happened to Moshe in his encounter with the two Egyptian man and with two of his fellow man the Hebrews. He was forced then to leave his natural environment and to become isolated for a while. In a way, Moshe had being experiencing an exile within an exile. Let us try and understand why?
Well, this force inside us - Moshe, must be isolated for a while so that others cannot influence him. As the future leader of the Israeli nation, Moshe needs to develop a steady, strong and powerful mindset, that would not be submerged into the minds of others. His identity needs to be infused by a greater power then the powers he already know. This power - the greater power - we would usually encounter when we are isolated from external influences.
Many people who effect dramatic change in the world speak of having had a “calling” a powerful pull toward a particular life’s task or path of action. In the Torah, God appears frequently as the emissary of Divine calling, inspiring people to rise to their destined paths of duty. Abraham and Sarah’s had their guests, Jacob’s wrestled the angel in the night, and Elijah’s heard the silence calling him are just a few examples. Today, in a world where we cannot rely on theophany to inspire us to make a difference, how will we recognize a calling?
In this portion, the Divine appears to Moshe as a burning bush that does not burn up - a sight that is not random. The burning bush has two meaning:
It represent the nation of Israel that is in exile. This dry bush is isolated in the desert, without any source of water, full of thorns. It is on fire, yet it is not burn. Just like the souls of Israel, that even when in exile they stay alive with warn flames of belief.
The second, this burning bush in the wilderness that goes up in flames but does not burn, represents the heart of Moses. Meaning in a way, our heart. a burning heart is usually the reason for us to make a stand or to raise towards our calling. we can say it is the calling of our heart.
The heart sometimes burn inside us like a fire, this is happening when we do what we find as our calling. Something now burns within Moshe that will not go away – his intuitive opposition to the slavery that has been taking on in Egypt.
This is the message that emanates from the eternal flames, the awareness that arises in his heart. The fire. Moshe cannot extinguish the fire within him, nor can he escape its heat. This burning bush revelation ultimately empowers him to return to Egypt and take a stand.
This is our paradigmatic tale of a “calling” yet it challenges the conventional definition of this term as something that one was born to accomplish. Moshe’s epiphany is not that he is destined to be the redeemer or to complete a mission – God does not promise him success. And so he is fearful. But still he chooses to try, he listen to the Divine calling.
This week, we must ask ourselves:
What is the burning bush in my life?
Which injustice in the world makes me cringe, cry or scream?
What is my true cause for which I am most equipped to act for or in regards?
Moshe certainly lacked confidence. In the presence of the burning bush, he expresses his heaviest anxieties. He feels inadequate and meek. he feels week. He fears the unknown and the what-ifs of the future and even God’s words and wonders cannot dissolve his doubts. However, just as Moshe we are too must overcome our doubts. We should always remember the words of Hashem as they have been given to Moshe: "Who gave man a mouth, or who makes [one] dumb or deaf or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord”
The inevitable waves of nervousness and self-doubt cannot deter us from action when it comes to our calling. We cannot wait until we feel completely ready, for that time will never come, rather, we must draw strength from the everlasting flames in our own hearts, and to act upon its burning whenever it comes. We must believe in Divine providence – the personal Divine providence to lead us on our right path. And sometimes even if we lack confidence that we will succeed, we need to have confident not in our own powers or abilities but rather in the endless power of Hashem, that in a way request us to do this - and therefore we must try.
Moshe’s stresses the complexity of his own fate: He was a stranger in a foreign land, and even though he was raised as the powerful prince of Egypt, he was always divided, conflicted, he always felt alienated in whatever environment he was. Not really living as a Jewish person with the Hebrew fellow man in the land of Goshen, and not really feeling at home in pharaoh’s household, while wearing his Egyptian garments. And us too...
As spiritual beings in this material world we too, usually if not always, wear garments. Whether it is garments of behavior, manners, attitudes or even surroundings. External or internal - our garments sometimes comes along with our state of living, status, false wishes and social conducts. We, just like Moshe, must learn how not to be consumed by those garments, we need to differentiate ourselves from them. We must know how to look beyond them, in ourselves and in others.
Only after we were managed to get read of these garments, only then, we would be able to confront our true essence, and willingly follow our true calling. The way Moshe was doing it – differentiate himself from his garments, was by fleeing to the farthest reaches of the desert and beginning a new life in a remote community. From a prince in Pharaoh’s court, Moshe plummeted to the lowly rank of a shepherd in the household of a Midian priest - reason enough to be disoriented.
Now if we will take this story and try to find ourselves in it, we would find it correlates perfectly with our lives. We usually go through many stages of exile and redemption during our lives, as we said last week, the situation we are in now, or where we are located at this point in time - in Egypt, is not the natural place for us to be in. It is not our natural environment.
We experience many situations in life, in which we feel in exile. Where we feel that the place we are in does not completely characterize us or makes us justice. We may feel sometimes that the place we are in does not allow us to move forward, to progress, and demand our calling. In this point in time, when in Egypt, as we are sucked into the daily tasks and toils of the material world, where our will to receive - the pharaoh is inside is trying to control us, when we start feeling this spiritual war coming to claim us, we must pause for a moment. Get out of the environment we are in (and I am not talking about the physical) and try to recalculate and rethink about who are we? and why are we?
Why have we been placed exactly where we are?
What benefits do we have, what differentiate us from others?
What is our divine calling?
Where does our heart takes us - what is it that we are drawn to? Really drawn to.
We must take a break and reconsider - How can we be in unity with who we really are, under all those garments we are wearing. Ask yourselves: What is your real name? Who is the one that is calling? Who gives us powers to act? What does He say?
Listen to the divine because this week you are going to be summed. and you will need to start and take a first step towards whatever this is. The cycle of Jewish exile and redemption, as we witness in this portion, is significant for the world at large. But it is also a very internal cycle we can feel within ourselves coming and going…
The purpose of creation is to establish a dwelling for G‑d in this world and in our lives. In this point we are in, this dwelling is fashioned by the involvement in different aspects of worldly experiences and worldly tasks. remember the Hebrews were slaves for the Jewish nation, and worked hard to build their cities. During exile, the Jews (meaning us) are scattered into different lands and brought into contact with diverse cultures. and as as a G-dly soul we are in exile just by being in this earthly world
However, this challenge of exile brings us to a deeper connection with G‑d, and it also elevates our surroundings. The saga of exile and redemption is not merely a story of the past. On the contrary, the constant transition from exile and redemption are affecting all dimensions of our lives and of our existence today.
This week things can get intense, and tend to the extreme and we need to stay strengthened and focused. To isolate ourselves – our mindset, from foreign influences, which will try to control us and to overtake us, to kill or kidnap the little boy or girl inside us – our dreams. This week we are to build a strong mindset. Because this Moshe spark that just now has entered the story, is an important figure inside of us that will accompany us for the rest of this year, for the rest of our journey through the portions.
As we would walk through the desert he would be the force inside ourselves, we will need to relay on. This week we would have to become the leaders we are supposed to be. Our entire nation’s survival depends on us.