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Drash on Parashat Sh'mot 2023

Drash on Parashat Sh'mot     
Rabbi Gary J Robuck
Interim Rabbi, Temple Beth Israel, St Kilda, VIC

As we turn our attention to this week’s sidra, Shemot, and to the very first chapters of the Book of Exodus, I find myself thinking about the timeless American broadcaster, Paul Harvey.  Harvey’s voice was known to and trusted by his listeners, people adored his plain and folksy manner, and admired him because of his obvious affection for his subjects – everyday people.  Over 3,000 times during his 57-year career, Paul Harvey shared with his millions of listeners, “the rest of the story”. 

Paul Harvey was a Midrashist, sort of.  Not Jewish, of course nor was he especially concerned about Biblical matters. Instead, like our Rabbis and Sages of old, he was a storyteller who looked beyond the literal account of any particular story to find its poetry and deeper meaning. And like the late Rabbi, Abraham Joshua Heschel, he knew that stories need not always be taken literally, but always must be taken seriously. 

Likewise, when we read Torah, we should try to look for the “rest of the story” in the Midrash, in the words of our commentators and our contemporaries; to peer behind the curtain not only to find out when or what, but “how” and “why”?  

The Book of Shemot which we begin reading again this Shabbat, features highly evocative drama.  It is a mischievous text that at times can only be explained by referring to our rabbinic literature, our Oral Torah. For that reason, I encourage everyone to begin with the Torah text but not to end there.  When in synagogue or when reading at home, seek out the commentary and discover “the rest of the story” coming from deep within the minds and imaginations of our Rabbis.

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