Shmot (Exodus)The Hebrew title 'Shmot' meaning names, comes from the first verse: 'These are the names of the sons of Israel.' The English name Exodus derived from the Greek meaning departure (like the word Exit) refers to the main event described in the book: the departure of the Israelites from Egypt. In the book of Exodus, we move from stories of individuals and families to the story of the Israelite nation. In Exodus, the Hebrews become a nation. The book of Exodus tells of the Israelites' enslavement, and subsequent deliverance with the 10 plagues. Moses leads the people out of Egypt, crossing the Red Sea. They arrrive at Sinai, where they receive the 10 Commandments, and other rules. While Moses is on the mountain, the people build a Golden Calf. The remainder of the book describes the architectural details and the construction of a portable sanctuary, the Mishkan. The themes of slavery and subsequent redemption form the foundation for performance for numerous biblical laws. There are fifty chapters, divided into eleven parashiyot. The parashiyot of Shmot are: Shmot, Va'Era, Bo, Beshalach, Yitro, Mishpatim, Terumah, Tetzaveh, Ki Tisa, VaYakhel, and Pekudei.


Bo: Only if we are prepared to filter the truths of the Bible through the lens of rational thought can we protect ourselves from the dangers of fundamentalism.

With the final three plagues, the battle between God and Pharaoh comes to a dramatic conclusion. Locust swarm down upon Egypt devouring all the crops and plants that remain. But Pharaoh still refuses to let the Israelites go. When darkness descends upon Egypt for three full days, Pharaoh seems to relent, but not completely. Moses refuses his offer, and Pharaoh declares that Moses can not come before him again, or he will be put to death. Moses then forewarns the Egyptians about the final plague: Death of the First Born. Before the final plague, God presents the first Mitzvah to be given to the People of Israel collectively: the observance of the festival of Pesach (Passover). Moses and Aaron are instructed by God to offer a lamb as a sacrifice, and to mark the doorposts of the homes of the Israelites with its blood. Instructions are then given to eat Matzah (unleavened bread) and Maror (bitter herbs) and to annually observe a seven day festival of commemoration of the Exodus (which is yet to take place).

Copyright: Kolel, The Adult Centre for Liberal Jewish Learning.

These summaries and introductions are used with permission of Kolel: The Adult Centre for Liberal Jewish Learning in Toronto, Canada. Kolel is a dynamic, pluralistic, egalitarian institution where men and women engage in Jewish learning which values both traditional and liberal interpretations. Kolel is a gateway into a richer expression of Judaism for each individual, wherever their journey of Jewish discovery may take them.