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.


Yitro: Is God not speaking, or are we not listening?

After leaving Egypt, Moses and the Israelites meet up with Jethro, Moses's father-in-law, who also reunites him with his wife and son. Jethro observes Moses's daily schedule as chief administrator, judge, and teacher of Israel, and worries that he is taking on too much responsibility. He advises him to delegate the responsibilities of justice and administration to different levels of leadership, so that disputes can be resolved quickly and fairly. In the third month out of Egypt, God calls to Moses and tells him to prepare the people for a great revelation at Mount Sinai. After three days of preparation, the Presence of God is revealed on the mountain with smoke and lightning and shofar blasts. Moses leads the people to assemble at the foot of Mt. Sinai. God summons Moses to ascend the mountain and instructs him to emphasize the prohibition against anyone being on the mountain during Revelation. Moses then descends and, standing among the people at the foot of the mountain, God speaks the Ten Commandments to the entire people.

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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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