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Parashat Shemot – December 21, 2014

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Candle lighting time for Friday, December 20, 2013, 4:37 p.m.

 Parashat Shemot

18 Tevet 5774 / December 21, 2013
Triennial Cycle Year I: Exodus 1:1-2:25
Humash Etz Hayim, page 317
Haftarah: Isaiah 27:6-28:13 and 29:2-3, page 342

  1. (1:1-7) Prologue and background.
  2. (1:8-14) The beginning of the enslavement.
  3. (1:15-22) The midwives disobey Pharaoh’s orders to kill all male Israelite newborns.  Pharaoh orders that every newborn boy be drowned in the Nile.
  4. (2:1-10) Moses is born and hidden.   His mother puts him into a reed basket on the Nile, where Pharaoh’s daughter finds him.  She names him Moses, and he is raised in the royal palace.
  5. (2:11-22) Moses goes out to his people and sees their suffering.  He kills an Egyptian who was beating an Israelite, and is forced to flee to Midian.  He marries Zipporah and works for her father as a shepherd.
  6. (2:23-25) God hears the suffering of the Israelites, and determines to help.


A Leader’s Vision

Now it was some years later, Moshe grew up; he went out to his brothers and saw their burdens.* (Exodus 2:11)

What is the meaning of and saw? He looked upon their burdens and wept, saying: ‘Woe is me for you; would that I could die for you.’ There is no labor more strenuous than that of handling clay, and he used to shoulder the burdens and help each one. R. Eleazar, son of R. Jose the Galilean, said: He saw great burdens put upon small people and light burdens upon big people, and a man’s burden upon a woman and a woman’s burden upon a man, and the burden which an old man could carry on a youth, and of a youth on an old man. So he left his retinue and rearranged their burdens, pretending all the time to be helping Pharaoh. God then said to him: ‘You have put aside your work and have gone to share the sorrow of Israel, behaving to them like a brother; well, I will also leave those on high and below1 and only speak with you.’ Hence it is written: And when the Lord saw that he turned aside to see (3:4); because God saw that Moses turned aside from his duties to look upon their burdens, He called unto him out of the midst of the bush. (Midrash Sh’mot Rabbah 1:27)

Our sages taught: One of the methods by which the Torah is acquired is by bearing the burden of our fellow…To reach the level of being one who bears the burden of one’s fellow is impossible unless one has accustomed oneself to love one’s neighbor in thought and deed…It is impossible to come to feel the suffering of the other, to bear the other’s burden, except by creating an internal perception so that the trouble, the pain, the suffering of the other (God forbid!) were one’s own pain. Therefore, all that we would expect one to do to bear one’s own pain, we ask for one to do for the other. Only in this way does one come to the level of bearing the burden of the other… And we see that Moses our teacher referred to this high quality of bearing the burden in a general way when it says: ‘And he went out and saw their suffering” (Exodus 2:11). Rashi explains that “he gave his heart and eyes to suffer their pain and therefore went out to see.” That means then that the imaginative projection entered his heart….as it is written, “Why do you strike your fellow?” He was able to do this because his imaginative projections were aligned with God’s ways. Therefore he had tremendous compassion on all God’s creatures and even more so on God’s treasured people, the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. (Ḥokhmah U-Mussar, Rabbi Simchah Zissel Ziv)

Moses seeing is Moses allowing himself to be affected, to suffer with those who are unexpectedly called “his brothers.”…Moses first significant act of maturity is an act of empathy with those who seem, physically, socially, and existentially, so different from him. He looks at those crushed under Egyptian’s’ burdens with what Jorge Semprun calls a “pure fraternal gaze.” (Avivah Zornberg, The Particulars of Rapture: Reflections on Exodus)

* This translation is Everett Fox’s, and reflects the sense of the Hebrew more closely.
[1] The Divine retinue


Mitzvah a Month

Make or Serve Christmas Eve Dinner for the Homeless

Balk Family Memorial Camp Scholarship

Hadashot Religious School

Minyan – Sunday 9:30 am & Monday – Thursday 7:00 p.m.


Saturday, December 21: Mussar Matters: Building Character and Self-Mastery Through Jewish Texts – after lunch, approximately 1:30 p.m.

Sunday, January 5: Threads of Tradition – 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

Saturday, January 11: Book Discussion Group – 1:30 p.m.

Sunday, January 12: Sunday Seminar – 10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Wednesday, January 15: CBD Winter Blood Drive – 3:30 – 7:30 p.m.

Thursdays beginning January 16: Adult B’nai Mitzvah Class – 7:30 – 9:30 p.m.

Saturday, January 18: Sisterhood Shabbat – 9:30 a.m.

Saturday, January 18: Communal Tu B’Shevat Seders – after services

Sunday, January 19: Tikkun Olameinu – CBD Repairs the World – 9:30 a.m

Sunday, January 19: Upsherin (the cutting of hair) for Eli Ohriner – 1:00 – 2:00 p.m.


January 6-10 and January 12: South Bay Teen Idol Auditions

Sunday, January 26: Jewbilee – 1:00 – 8:00 p.m.