Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Shmot
To dedicate this lesson



Rabbi Stewart Weiss

Tevet 21 5777
As we begin a new book of the Torah, we might ask: Why the title, "Shmot-Names?" Usually, the title relates to what will be covered in that book; Bereisheit, for example, deals with the beginning of the world and Am Yisrael; Bamidbar tells of our trials and tribulations in the desert, etc. But what do "names" have to do with this Sefer?! So let’s try to answer.

The Jewish People has many outstanding qualities: Chesed, compassion, stubbornness, modesty, etc. We also are eternal optimists; in whatever generation we live, we believe in a better future. And, at all times, we look
forward to Moshiach and the era of ultimate perfection that will be ushered in.

Yet as we open Sefer Shmot, there is a great deal of pessimism, gloom and doom, in the air. Am Yisrael is enslaved, degraded, cast to the very bottom rung of society. How will we regain our former glory - no hope is in sight!
More than a century of slavery has sapped us of our positive thinking. Amram, the people’s leader, epitomizes this despair by deciding not to wed or bring more children into the world, for why subject yet another soul to suffering?!

Along comes Miriam (women always come to the rescue!) and convinces her father that he has it all wrong. Marriage, birth, new life always brings Hope. And thus Moshe is born; the ultimate leader who will rejuvenate and
redeem us.

And here is where the title Shmot-names comes into play. "Amram" is a combination of the words "Am" and "Rahm" – meaning "the uplifted nation." His wife’s name "Yocheved" contains the letters of "Kavod H’ ", the glory
of G-d. "Miriam" does contain the word, "Mar – bitter," but also can be read "May-rim - to lift up." And the name "Moshe" means "to extricate," or "pull out" (the Jews from Egypt).

Thus each and every one of the names of the central protagonists of the Exodus story connect to the idea of raising up, rising up and re-establishing the greatness of Am Yisrael, which may falter, but can never fail.

The lesson for us is eminently topical. We often face adversity; it seems at times as if the entire world is set against us. Just this week the proverbial 70 nations gathered together with the express purpose of pressuring
Israel and criticizing our policies. Did they meet to deal with Syria, where 400,000 people have been killed? Or Iran, whose evil Ayatollahs continues to foment terror worldwide? Or France itself, which cannot control its own anti-Semitic hatred? No, their target was little Israel, the foreboding "giant."

But no matter; we remain strong, stoic and supremely confident. We will face all the crises, and we will rise higher and higher; for THAT is the name we proudly carry.

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