Parashat Hashavua for Shemot
Rabbi Dr Orna Triguboff
This week we begin reading the second of the five books of Moses, the Book of Exodus - in Hebrew, Shemot. We hear about the enslavement of the Children of Israel in Egypt. As a reaction to their success, the authorities rule that each Israelite male must be killed at birth. Ways are found around this edict and when Yocheved gives birth to a boy, she saves his life by placing him in a basket in the river. The daughter of the Pharoah finds and adopts him. She calls him Moses, meaning “the one who is drawn from water”.
About this name, the 18th Century sage, the Magid of Mezeritch, explains that there are two main qualities in this world: Love and Restraint. The quality of Love is connected to the water element and Restraint to fire. Moses, being “drawn from water” embodies the quality of Love, whilst his brother Aharon, embodies restraint (more on this later).
We fast-forward to a grown up Moses, now living in Midian. One day whilst shepherding his flock, he sees an angel inside a burning bush, a bush which is on fire but is not consumed.
Moses hears the voice of the Divine calling him: “Moses, Moses.” And he answers “Here I am, Hineini”.
Mystics comment that the repetition of a person’s name when being called means that they are called to be present both physically and in presence of mind. The response of “Hineini, Here I am”, occurs a few times in Torah, when both Adam, Abraham and now Moses answer God that they are present in body and soul.
Upon drawing closer to the bush, Moses is instructed to take his shoes off as he is about to stand on holy ground.
Rabbi Gershon Winkler points out that this instruction can be understood as a command to go deeper into oneself and let go of the routine trains of thought of our regular daily consciousness, which limit us from connecting with our true potential. This comes from reading the words:
She’al na’aleicha, “remove your shoes” as “remove the ties that bind you” me’al ragleicha, “from your feet” as “from your regual routines”.
Once Moses removes his shoes and also steps into a mode of connection with the fullness of his potential, God instructs him to go to the Children of Israel in Egypt, and help them leave their miserable life of enslavement. To do this, he is going to have to plead their case to the Pharoah. Moses says he can’t do it, he won’t have the ability to speak in front of Pharoah. God reminds him that he has Aharon to help him. Aharon, representing and embodying the element of fire and the quality of Restraint, will be able to complement Moses, representing water and the quality of Love.
We all need help to get through each day. One message from Torah this week is that when we feel we can’t achieve something, whether it be the smallest task or a large project, we need to seek out those who complement us. To do this, we need to be present, as in hineini, and we need to let go of the regular limits we put on ourselves and expand into new possibilities.
If you are interested in Meditation within a Jewish context, we begin a free online 3-part series on 15 January at 9am ; here is the zoom link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/84243683294.
Blessings for a week of discernment, love and compassion, Rabbi Dr. Orna Triguboff