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.


Shemot: It is easy to come up with reasons so we need to distinguish between legitimate obstacles and lame excuses.

The book of Shmot begins directly from where the book of Genesis left off: listing the 'names' of the descendants of Jacob who came down to Egypt after Joseph. Seventy members of Jacob's family down to Egypt, but we are told they were very fertile and increased greatly in Egypt. When a new king comes to the throne in Egypt, he oppresses and enslaves the people out of fear that this growing band of Israelites might prove to be a military or political threat. When this does not succeed in curbing their growth, he issues orders to kill all new-born Israelite boys. The infant Moses, however, survives this decree, and when his mother can no longer keep him hidden, she leaves him in a basket floating on the Nile. He is found by the daughter of Pharaoh, who adopts him and hires his mother as a wet-nurse. The text then jumps ahead. Moses, now a man, seeing a taskmaster beating an Israelite slave, Moses kills the Egyptian and then must flee. He runs to Midian, where he is welcomed by a Midianite priest and is given his daughter Zipporah as a wife. She gives birth to a son. While tending his new father-in-law's flocks, Moses is called by God from the burning bush. God instructs Moses to return to Egypt to free the Israelites from slavery. Moses returns and is reunited with his Brother Aaron. Together they go and pay their first visit to Pharaoh. But Pharaoh dismisses Moses and his God, and increases the workload of the slaves.

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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.

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