Blog Shemot Tevet 21 5779 בלוג שְׁמוֹת, כ”א טבת תשע”ט
Now we are beginning the second book of the Torah: Shemot – Exodus, in which we see the birthing of the nation, Israel and how they begin to form their identity. It begins with “v’ehle shemot – וְאֵלֶּה, שְׁמוֹת”, “And these are the names…”. Our name is important since it carries the idea of who we are as a person. It identifies us? Don’t allow others to define you but define yourself. Israel would go through the process of self-identification as they would learn to identify with the Creator. People tend to align themselves with groups or sects in order to have a sense of belonging, but our true identity lies with the Boreh Olam rather than a religion. Humans differ from any of God’s creation including the angels because we have been given “bechirah chofshit –בחירה חופשית” – free will. This allows us to choose to be in relationship with the Creator or not.
As a marriage counselor, I have counselled many couples that a good relationship is not self-serving. We all need guidance from the moment we are born. Mishlei – Proverbs teaches that children will grow in strength and assuredness when the parent gives them good guidance. However, if they do not have a good upbringing, they could have a lot of problems later in life, even mentally. That is why psychotherapy, which is so popular now, brings people back to their early childhood. Many countries today allow surrogate mothers for those who cannot have their own babies. Let’s do a bit of psychotherapy for Israel. Israel was implanted into the womb of the surrogate mother, Egypt. This baby was carried in its womb until birth. However, when the time came for the surrogate to give the child to the parents, it changed its mind and decided to keep it. This caused confusion of identity in the child. Did it belong to the surrogate mother or to the true mother? Was the child in the womb affected at all by the mother who was carrying it? When a mother is a drug-addict, the baby is usually born with drugs in their system and needs to be weaned immediately after birth. What if the child is born to a mother poisoned with idolatry? It needs to be detoxed and weaned away from this poison. This is what the Creator would have to do with Israel when it has left the womb of Egypt. This book of Shemot will show us this process of detoxification. A heroin addict is given methadone, a lesser drug in order to slowly wean the addict away. This is what the Creator would do with Israel until Israel was completely weaned away from idolatry. The Hebrew prophets would continuously remind the people of Israel about their problem of wanting to return to idolatry. By removing Israel from Egypt, the Creator was taking them away, more from spiritual slavery than physical slavery. Religion tends to be the most divisive element of mankind rather than being an instrument of unity. We have been created by One God, yet each group insists that “my god is better than your god!” even to the point of killing others for their beliefs.
Moshe Rabeinu was a reluctant leader because he recognized that his task has humongous! When Socrates, the wisest man of his day, was asked how much he knew, he responded “all I know is that I know nothing!” Only the ignorant person thinks he knows everything. Moshe needed to deal with a people intoxicated with idolatry. Yes, the people of Israel were crying out for help, but never to the Creator. They wanted a liberator and He would send them a liberator, under Him. The first thing He had Moshe do was let them know Who sent him. They would need to be reminded of the God of their forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
What are the areas in our lives that hold us back from growing spiritually…our pride, our religion, our status, our wealth, our lack of wealth, relationships? How can we be redeemed? How many of us have been intoxicated by religion and need to be detoxed? Why did the Creator ask the people to build such an elaborate Mishkan (Tent of Meeting) in the desert? The answer is “FOCUS! The Creator had to slowly bring the people to the place where they could focus upon Him. We need to constantly search within and learn to apply the principles of Torah in our lives otherwise all we will do is fill our heads with knowledge and fill ourselves with religious pride.
Israel accepted the Torah, but the question is, did they always observe it? Yet, in spite of our failures throughout history, the Creator remains with us. Each generation needs to wake up and be reminded of Who He is, especially this one, known as the generation of Entitlement. It is as if we go to the Creator and tell Him, “You created me so now I am Your problem; You need to take care of me!” The Torah teaches us to know, accept and loves ourselves so that we can be good and loyal to our neighbors; in this way we are worshiping God. The worst relationship is between two damaged people who are codependent; the best is between two healthy individuals who are interdependent.
This book of Shemot will lead us on our own exodus, our personal journey in getting closer to the Creator through His principles and by getting away from religious pride. He wants us to be the best person we can be. It is my prayer that we continue to grow and that we accept our failures as part of this growth. Once we acknowledge our mistakes, we can learn from them and improve even when we repeat them. When Torah states that those who disobey Torah will be cursed to the third and fourth generation and blessed to the thousandth generation, it means that each generation has the opportunity to break the curses of past generations and begin a new life and be under His blessings forever and ever!
Edited by Peggy Pardo