Weekly Reading Insights:

Overview of the Weekly Reading

Torah: Exodus 1:1-6:1 
Haftorah: Isaiah 27:6-28:13, 29:22-23 (because its opening verse parallels Ex.1:1)



"These are the names of the Children of Israel coming into Egypt." (Ex.1:1)
The verse says "coming," in the present tense, rather than "who came," in the past tense. For the duration of the 210-year exile in Egypt, the Jews felt as if they had just arrived in that land. They never adopted Egyptian ways and always considered their sojourn temporary.
(Ohel Yehoshua)

"Now these are the names of the sons of Israel." (Ex. 1:1)
To tell us that they are compared to the stars. (Rashi)
We Jews must know that G-d loves us, and that even as He made the stars to shine in the dark night, so He created the Jewish people to spread His light to the darkest and lowliest places on earth.
(Sefat Emet)

"All the soul(s) of Yaakov's descendants were seventy." (1:3)
The Children of Israel are referred to in the collective singular, "soul," whereas Esau's descendents are described in the plural, "souls." The sphere of holiness is characterized by awe of G-d, self-nullification and unity. (Think of two royal ministers, who, despite their disagreements, become totally nullified and of one mind in the presence of the king.) The opposite of holiness, however, is characterized by disunity and plurality.
(Chabad Siddur, with commentary)

"These are the names of the sons of Israel ... seventy souls." (1:1-5)
The Torah details their names and number to show their importance to Him, according to the principle in Jewish Law, "whatever is numbered (or named) cannot be nullified." On the threshold of their descent to Egypt,
G-d names and numbers the Jewish people again (as in Vayigash two weeks ago) to express their importance and to strenghen them, that they should be able to withstand the difficulties of exile and not become assimilated.
(from Lekutei Sichos -translated from Sichat HaShavuah )

"As they afflicted them, so they increased and so they spread." (1:12)
Specifically because the Egyptians afflicted them, the Jewish people were fruitful, multiplied, and became a great nation. If Pharaoh had not oppressed them, who knows if they would not have assimilated and been absorbed into the Egyptian people?
(from Rabbi Shlomo Kluger -translated from Sichat HaShavuah #210)

"They made their lives bitter with hard labor." (1:14)
The Egyptians embittered the Jews' spiritual existence (the literal meaning of the word translated as "lives") by making it difficult for them to observe mitzvot, which was why it was later manifested in physical subjugation. Had the Jewish people resisted the Egyptians' spiritual pressure, they would never have become enslaved in the literal sense.
(Likutei Sichot)

Pharoah commanded all his people saying, "Every son that is born cast him into the river, and every daughter you shall sustain." (1:22)
The Hebrew word for "you shall sustain" is "techayun," which means, "you shall be the source of life." Pharoah told the Egyptians to take in the Jewish daughters and totally assimilate them into the Egyptian way of life. Pharoah ordered a physical extermination of the boys, and a spiritual extermination of the girls. Both decrees are written in the same verse to show that they are equivalent in their harshness.
(Likutei Sichot)

"She stretched out her hand and took it." (2:5)
This verse refers to Pharoah's daughter, who rescued Moses from the Nile. The word the Torah uses for "hand" is amata, because G-d made a miracle and caused her hand to stretch out many amot [cubits] to reach Moses. This teaches us an important lesson. Whenever we see a child in danger, whether physical or spiritual, we shouldn't stop to calculate whether or not we can rescue the child, but we must do our utmost to accomplish that goal, even if the situation appears helpless. If we since rely do all that is in our power, G-d will surely help us.
(Reb Bunim M'Pshischa - from L'Chaim #502)

"He saw an Egyptian man smiting a Hebrew man." (Ex. 2:11)
Every word in the Bible has an eternal, spiritual meaning as well as a literal significance. The word "Egypt" (Mitzrayim) is linguistically related to the word for limitations and boundaries; the "Egyptian man" therefore, symbolizes the physical body, which does all in its power to gain control over the soul, the "Hebrew man." Moses' actions teach us that when one sees a Jew in danger of losing the battle between body and soul to his lower, physical nature, one must not remain silent. The Moses in every generation gives us the strength to overcome all obstacles and save the Jewish soul.
(Rabbi Yaakov Yosef of Polnoye)

"An angel of G-d appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of the thorn bush; and he looked, and behold, the thorn bush was burning with fire, but the thorn bush was not consumed." (3:2)
Man is likened to a tree of the field: the Torah Sage is a fruit- bearing tree, whereas the simple Jew is likened to a tree that does not give fruit. Nonetheless, the "flame of fire" burns precisely in the humble "thorn bush" -- in the simple and unlearned Jew.
A Jew who prays and recites Psalms with simple faith in G-d possesses a fire of holiness derived from purity of heart, even if he does not understand the words. Furthermore, the "thorn bush is not consumed." The burning flame of the simple Jew can never be extinguished, as he is perpetually thirsty for Torah and mitzvot -- unlike his more learned counterpart, who is able to quench his thirst with the waters of Torah.
(The Baal Shem Tov)

"When G-d saw that Moshe had turned to see, He called to him, '...Take your shoes off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.'" (3:4-5)
These words are directed at every Jew: take the 'locks' (in Hebrew similar to the word 'shoes') off your 'habits' ( in Hebrew similar to the word 'feet')-break out of and depart from your instinctive, physical grooves-and come a little closer to G-d; you will immediately see that "the place where you stand is holy ground" - because holiness is directly under you, right where you are.
(from Rabbi Moshe of Kobrin - translated from Sichat HaShavua no. 56)

"I will send you to Pharaoh, and you will bring forth My people, the Children of Israel, out of Egypt." (3:10)
The physical presence of the redeemer does not necessarily signal the redemption itself, as Moses, the first redeemer of the Jews, was physically present in Egypt prior to the actual exodus.
Likewise, Moshiach, the final redeemer of the Jewish people, will also arrive some time prior to the actual redemption and the ushering in of the Messianic Era.
(Sefat Emet)

"For I am heavy of speech, and heavy of tongue." (4:10)
The fact that Moses had difficulty speaking shows that his leadership was accepted solely because he carried G-d's message, and not because he was a skillful orator and master of rhetoric.
(Drashot Rabbenu Nissim - from L'Chaim #953)

"Pharaoh said...I do not know G-d [the Tetragrammaton], nor will I let Israel go." (Ex. 5:2)
The Tetragrammaton, or four-letter, ineffable Name of G-d, refers to the level of G-dliness that transcends nature, whereas "Elokim" refers to G-dliness as it is enclothed in nature. (The numerical equivalent of the word "Elokim" is the same as "hateva" - nature.) When Pharaoh said he did not know G-d, he meant that G-d's transcendental aspect has no connection to the physical world. In truth, however, G-d's ineffable Name illuminates equally in all worlds, which Pharaoh only came to realize after a series of miracles: "And the Egyptians shall know that I am G-d."
(Torah Ohr - from L'Chaim #653)

"Let the work be made to lie heavily upon the men, that they labor in it, and that they may not pay attention to false words." (5:9)
A true Chasid knows that his service of G-d requires great personal effort and exertion. Thus he will never ask his Rebbe for a blessing to attain that which he is obligated to accomplish on his own...
(Tzemach Tzedek)

"Why did You do harm to this nation? Why is it that You sent me?" (5:24)
Moshe's complaint was: "Why did you do harm to this nation" by "sending me"! What sin did all of these innocent people do that out of all of them you chose specifically me to be your agent to save them?
(from Rebbe Shmuel of Slonim -translated from Sichat HaShavuah #471)


It says in the writings of the Arizal, "the generation of the Heels of Mashiach are reincarnations of the generation of those who went out from Egypt." Just as those who went from Egypt merited the first redemption of the Jewish People through Moshe, similarly, the generation of the "Heels of Mashiach" will merit the Final Redemption of the Jewish People through King Mashiach.
[The Lubavitcher Rebbe, translated by Michoel Lieb Dobry of Tsfat]

When Moses announced to the Jewish people the impending redemption, they said: "Moses, how can we be redeemed? Didn't G-d tell Abraham that we will be enslaved for 400 years? We are now only at 210 years!" Moses responded: "If G-d wants to redeem you, He will overlook your calculations."

A similar conversation will take place with Mashiach. When Mashiach tells the Jewish people, "In this month you will be redeemed," they say to him: "Mashiach, how can we be redeemed? Didn't G-d say that we will be enslaved by all 70 nations?" Mashiach will respond: "If only one of you will wander to Barbaria, and one of you to Britannia, it is considered as if all of you have wandered there."
(Psikta Rabsi Parshat Hachodesh Hazeh - from L'Chaim #853)

"She named him Moses, saying, 'from the water I drew him'." (Ex. 2:10)
Mashiach has a certain superiority even over Moses. On the phrase at the beginning of the Torah, "and the spirit of G-d hovered...," the Sages teach, "This alludes to the spirit of the King Mashiach." That verse continues, "...over the surface of the waters," this intimates a level higher than that of Moses, who was so called "because from the water I drew him." And that is why this exile is so prolonged - in order that this lofty state be finally attained.
(Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Chabad - from L'Chaim #904)

"G-d heard their groaning, and G-d remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob." (Ex. 2:24)
When the Israelites were unable to endure the harsh exile in Egypt, they cried out to G-d. Indeed, G-d heard their cry and sent Moses to redeem them. So it is with us in our present exile. When we cry out, "Take us out of galut and bring Moshiach!" G-d will certainly hear our cry and send the Redeemer. Moreover, our mere being in a state of readiness to call upon G-d is already enough for Him to respond, as it states in Isaiah, "Before they call, I will answer, and while yet they speak I will hear."
(The Rebbe, Parshat Tavo, 5751- Reprinted with permission from L'Chaim Magazine)

"G-d called him from the midst of the bush and said: "Moses, Moses."" (Ex. 3:4)
Why when G-d called out to Moses from the burning bush did He repeat Moses' name twice? G-d was hinting to Moses concerning the two different eras in which he will teach Torah to the Jewish people: once in his lifetime and once in the days of Moshiach. In the future, the Jewish people will go to Abraham and ask him to teach them Torah, and Abraham will say, "Go to Isaac, he studied more than me." Isaac will tell them, "Go to Jacob, he studied more than me." When they will come to Jacob, he will say, "Go to Moses, he learned it directly from G-d." And Moses will teach the Jewish people. But there will come a time when all the scholars and righteous, including Moses and our patriarchs, will all come to Moshiach to hear him teach Torah.
(Shemot Rabba and Midrash Chachamim -from L'Chaim #904)

"I will send you to Pharaoh, and you will bring forth My people, the Children of Israel, out of Egypt." (3:10)
The physical presence of the redeemer does not necessarily signal the redemption itself, as Moses, the first redeemer of the Jews, was physically present in Egypt prior to the actual exodus. Likewise, Moshiach, the final redeemer of the Jewish people, will also arrive some time prior to the actual redemption and the ushering in of the Messianic Era.
(Sefat Emet)

"Behold his hand was as leprous and white as snow...and behold it was turned again as his other flesh" (Ex. 4:6,7)
G-d afflicted Moses' hand with leprosy and then made it healthy again. Leprosy is symbolic of Exile and healthy flesh symbolizes the Redemption. Through this sign, G-d hinted to Moses that the leprosy-exile would be transformed into healthy flesh-the redemption, and could occur in the blink of an eye.
(Ohr HaTorah - from L'Chaim #851)

"He [Moses] said, "Oh L-rd, please send by the hand of whom You will send." (Ex. 4:13)
Moses asked G-d to send Moshiach. He wanted G-d to spare the Jews the Egyptian bondage and allow them to immediately experience the Redemption through Moshiach. G-d refused because the exile of Egypt was a preparatory stage to receiving the Torah, and through these two events the Jews would merit the coming of Moshiach.
(Likutei Sichot) from L'Chaim #953

Moses returned to G-d and said, "L-rd! Why have You mistreated this people? Since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your Name, he made things worse... You have not saved this people at all." (Ex. 5:22-23)
The harshness of the galut is a sign that the Redemption is near, yet it is still bitter and painful. Therefore, even while reaffirming our absolute faith in the principle that "The ways of G-d are just," we are also to express our anguish with the prayerful outcry "Ad Masai?" -- "How much longer?" and ask for the immediate coming of Moshiach. We are not allowed to resign ourselves to our present situation of exile with the excuse that "such is the will of G-d."
(Lubavitcher Rebbe)

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