As I said last year, Bereshit goes from the macro – the creation, the flood, the scattering of nations after Babel – to the micro, that is the focus on a small family, which takes a book to grow to any appreciable size. From the moment Abram leaves his father’s house to embark on a seemingly endless journey on to the end of Bereshit, when Joseph and his family are reunited in Egypt, the family grows to a mere seventy souls. And now we embark on Sh’mot.
As D’varim is just words, Sh’mot is just names. Ah, but what names! For a start, there are some of the names of God, including the most mysterious, translated in several ways, such as, ‘I Will Be Who I Will Be, and the Tetragrammaton. When Moses goes to Pharaoh for the first time to demand the freedom of the Israelites, the latter asks, “Who is YHVH that I should obey Him and let Israel go? I do not recognise YHVH.” He is deaf to the Name. If he were able to hear it, perhaps he would let the Israelites leave without more ado.
The beginning of Sh’mot is so rich in significance, where can one start or follow? Let’s try Moshe himself. ‘Drawn from the water’, he is adopted by a kindly princess. His childhood is quickly passed over, but imagine him, brought up in the Egyptian court but clearly knowing that he is a Hebrew. What was his relation to his adoptive mother and his adoptive brothers and sisters? Was he discriminated against by anyone? What did he do all day? What education did he receive? What did the court tell him of his own people? That he took pity on them when he saw their hard labour is a telling sign of the great heart that will grow inside him as he guides a fractious group of slaves towards the first stages of nationhood. There is so much to come. And some of it will be revealed this Saturday at 10.30. Patricia Lipert of noble name will be leading us.