Shemot (Exodus) Parsha – Weekly Torah Portion
TORAH : EXODUS 1:1-6:1
PROPHETS : ISAIAH 27:6-28:13, 29:22-23
GOSPEL : MATTHEW 2:1-12
About the Weekly Torah Portion
From ancient times there has been a weekly portion (Parashah) from the first five books of Moses (The Torah) and an ending (Haftarah) from the Prophets read on the Sabbath in synagogues around the world. This portion is given a Hebrew name drawn from the opening words of the Torah passage.
We have found that in perusing these weekly readings, not only are we provided opportunity to identify in the context of God’s Word with millions of Jewish people around the world, but very often the Holy Spirit will highlight specific passages pertinent that week in our intercession for the Land and people of Israel.
The Haftarah, unless otherwise noted, will be that read in Ashkenazy synagogues around the world.
The readings for this week 31 December 2017—6 January 2018 are called Sh’mot—“Names” (–of the children of Israel who came into Egypt):
This week we travel forward 400 years and begin the story of the Exodus of Israel, now a great people, out of bondage in Egypt, into a relationship with the God of their fathers, and onto the road towards the land promised to Abraham more than 500 years before.
*Exodus 2:2. “So the woman conceived and bore a son. And when she saw that he was a beautiful child, she hid him three months.” The Hebrew word for “beautiful” and “hid” are the same as the words for “goodness” and “stored up” in Psalm 31:19 (NIV)—“How great is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you, which You bestow in the sight of men on those who take refuge in you.” Through the agency of a godly mother and the God-fearing midwives who had assisted her, this little “goodness” was hidden away—in fact, would be “stored up” in Egypt and Midian for the next 80 years—until being brought forth as leader on behalf of a mighty people who, under his leadership, would learn to fear and take refuge in their God.
PLEASE PRAY: For protection of those “goodnesses” of God which are presently hidden away for a time of future release to the Body of Messiah in Israel. Pray for grace to trust that God is storing up goodness on our behalf as we love, fear and trust Him. Pray for courage and Heavenly guidance for believing families in Israel in storing away their children as much as possible in godly home environments before they are released into the near-paganism of many secular Israeli schools.
*Exodus 2:3. “But when she could no longer hide him, she took an ark of bulrushes for him, daubed it with asphalt and pitch, put the child in it, and laid it in the reeds by the river’s bank.” “Ark” is the Hebrew word teva, a box (A different word aron—“closet”, would be used for the Ark of the Covenant). The same word teva had been used for the ark which God commissioned Noah to build, in which he and all his household were saved. This second ark protected the future leader of a remnant-nation from which would come a deliverer for all people, Yeshua the Messiah.
*Exodus 2:25, 3:7-8a… “And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God acknowledged them (Hebrew: “and God knew.”); “And the LORD said: ‘I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows. So I have come down to deliver them…’” (Emphasis ours).
God still knows His people Israel, He sees oppression against them and hears the cry of their hearts. His knowledge of them includes a fellowship in their pain and sorrows. The Hebrew word here translated “sorrows” (3:7) is the same as that found twice in Isaiah 53:3-4: “He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief…Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.” He, who came down to deliver Israel from Egypt and to lead them “up from that land to a good and large land, to a land flowing with milk and honey” (vs 8), would one day come down to provide deliverance for them—and all of Humankind—from their sin. And He who still knows and watches over Israel shall come down yet again on their behalf (Zechariah 8:3, 12:8, 14:4). By that day all of Israel shall know Him! “No more shall every man teach his neighbor and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more” (Jeremiah 31:34).
PLEASE PRAY: that both religious and secular Jews will come to realize that the same One who “knew” the sorrows of the people of Israel in the days of Moses and Pharaoh, has known their griefs and sorrows throughout the ages since—in fact, has again “come down to deliver” by bearing those very griefs and sorrows—along with “the sin of many” (Isaiah 53:12)—on the tree.
*Exodus 3:1. “Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian. And he led the flock to the back side of the desert, and came to Horev, the mountain of God.” Midian was an area which saddled the top of what is today called the Gulf of Aqaba, coming down on both sides. It may be that “back side” refers to the far side, which would place the mountain in what is today Saudi Arabia, instead of the traditional site of the Sinai Peninsula.
*Exodus 3:5. “Then He said, ‘Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.’”
“Holy Ground” is ad’mat kodesh. Adama is the “earth” or “soil” from which “Adam” was formed. It is the presence of God which makes the land holy (even as it is His presence which makes us, the children of Adam, holy!). The other place in Scripture where we find this expression “holy ground/earth/land” is Zechariah 2:12-13: “And the LORD will take possession of Judah as His inheritance in the Holy Land, and will again choose Jerusalem. Hush! all flesh, before the LORD, for He is aroused from His holy habitation.”
PLEASE PRAY: for an awakened sense of the “holy” in Israel. That we will long for holiness by drawing near and dwelling in His presence, yet abstain from doing so carelessly and in the flesh. That we will be sensitive to the sanctity of the very earth where holy activity has taken place in the past, and which the Lord is repossessing for His glory today!
*Exodus 3:6. “He said also, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”
It has during the past century been common amongst many “educated” religious writers to assure their readers that prior to the Book of Daniel the Biblical authors had no concept of a “life after death.” We are told that no assurance or even expectation of a “hereafter,” or “heaven” (let alone, a resurrection) are alluded to in the earlier writings. That if such a state exists, God had not in former times revealed it to his servants; they were to serve Him for the here-and-now.
But Yeshua (Jesus), in Luke 20:37-38 shows this assumption to be false, “But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the burning bush, where he calls the Lord ‘The God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’ Now He is not the God of the dead but of the living; for all live to Him.” In other words, the fact that with Moses God used the “present tense” to show His relationship to the Patriarchs (over 400 years after their deaths) was not a mere figure of speech or literary device. He didn’t say, “I was…”: He said, “I AM…” If He is still, in the present, their God, they, or at least their spirits, must themselves be still in existence! “He is not the God of the dead, but of the living—for all live to Him!”
*Exodus 3:16b; 4:31. “…I have surely visited you and seen what is done to you in Egypt.”…“So the people believed; and when they heard that the LORD had visited the children of Israel and that He had looked on their affliction, then they bowed their heads and worshiped” (NKJV).
Today the Hebrew verb liphkod usually means “to command”. In Biblical times, however, it could mean “to attend to/to care for” and often “to visit.” Thus, in Genesis 50:24, 25 (NKJV), Joseph promises that God “will surely visit” his brothers’ descendants in Egypt and bring them out of that land. Here, in Egypt 400 years later, we are told that the time of that “sure visitation” has come. In Psalm 8:4 (NKJV) David expresses awe at the amazing privilege of God’s visiting us, “What is mortal man that You are mindful of him, and the son of Adam that You visit him?” This visitation is life, salvation and blessing for those who love Him and are waiting for it. Job, even from the midst of painful affliction, echoes this: “You have granted me life and favor, and Your visitation has guarded my spirit” (Job 10:12).
Yet God’s visitation does not come as a joy to those who are in rebellion against Him. In fact, in Isaiah 10:3 (NKJV, NAS) and many places in Jeremiah (8:12, 10:15, 11:23, etc.) this same word, instead of a day of “visitation,” is rendered one of “punishment.” Luke 19:44 shows Yeshua weeping over Jerusalem. God had sent “all the things which were needed for her peace”—but they are “hidden from her eyes.” Consequently, warfare and destruction are looming, “because she did not know the time of her visitation.”
PLEASE PRAY: For a powerful visitation of God in Jerusalem and throughout Israel. Pray for the Body of Messiah here to prepare and long for that visitation. The Apostle Peter left us important instructions regarding this day: “Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation” (I Peter 2:12).
*Exodus 3:14, 15. “And God said to Moses, ‘I AM THAT I AM…Thus you shall say to the children of Israel: “YHVH, God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is My name forever, and this is My memorial to all generations.”’”
English translations which read “The LORD God…” can be misleading. “Lord” is a title of respect, meaning “master”, not a name. The point was that this God had a NAME, one by which He had been known to Israel’s fathers 400 years before, but not in a personal intimate way. That name was YHVH (The letters Yod-Heh-Vav-Heh in the Hebrew). It was a personal name given to His people. It would become one of their most precious possessions, and countless psalms spoke of its beauty. But because of Israel’s sin, sometime after the Glory of God’s presence departed from the Temple in Jerusalem (Ezekiel 10:1-11:23), the correct pronunciation of the beloved Name was also lost. Today it is normally not attempted to be spoken in Israel; Adonai (a Hebrew name related to the word for “lord” or “master”) is used in its place, or the words Ha Shem—“the Name”. Words such as Yeho’vah (there is no English “J” sound in Hebrew), or Yahweh, sometimes utilized in the West, are at best educated guesses. In most English Bibles “LORD” (all caps) designates YHVH. “Lord” (only the beginning letter capitalized) designates Adonai/Master. In Matthew 23:39, Yeshua applied Psalm 118:26 to Himself, telling Jerusalem that she would not see Him again until she said, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of YHVH.” Yet the One who will again come “in that Name” actually already bears it within His own! The name Yeshua (Jesus) is a contracted form of the name YHVH and yoshiah—“saves”. “And she shall bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Yeshua—for He (i.e. YHVH) will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).
PLEASE PRAY: For a spirit of grace and supplication to be poured out on the House of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem—grace to look on the One who was pierced (Zech 12:10—14), and to realize that His holy name YESHUA bears within it the Name and Salvation of the God of their Fathers—that “All who call on the Name of the LORD shall be saved!”
*Exodus 3:18. “…you with the elders of Israel will come to the king of Egypt and you will say to him, ‘YHVH, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us…”
Since His covenant of redemption on behalf of all humankind must come through a particular people, God has always been pleased to identify His deity with that people. Israel (Jacob) called Him El Elohei-Yisrael—“God, the God of Israel” (Genesis 33:20), a name God Himself would often make use of with His servants the prophets. Israel has now become a mighty nation, and here another descriptive name is released before the nations, YHVH Elohei-ha-Ivri’im—“YHVH, God of the Hebrews” (or, “The Hebrews’ God.” ). God still identifies Himself with this people, and it is through His Son, born a Hebrew, of the seed of Israel (Jacob) that every tribe and nation must come.
*Exodus 4:2; 19b. “So the LORD said to him (Moses), ‘What is that in your hand?’ He said, ‘A rod.”…“And Moses took the rod of God in his hand.” God begins with us where we are and with what we have. When Moses in obedience yielded to God what he had, the simple rod became transformed into “The Rod of God”!
*Exodus 4:22-26. “And you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus said the LORD: My son, my firstborn, is Israel. And I said to you, Send off my son that he may worship Me, and you refused to send him off, and, look, I am about to kill your son, your firstborn.’ And it happened on the way at the night camp that the LORD encountered him and sought to put him to death. And Zipporah took a flint and cut off her son’s foreskin and touched it to his feet, and she said, ‘Yes, a bridegroom of blood you are to me.’ And He let him go. Then did she say, ‘A bridegroom of blood by the circumcising.’” (Robert Alter: translation).
This dark and disturbing passage has perplexed readers over the centuries probably more than any other passage in Exodus. Scholars and theologians have wrestled with its meaning, its implications—What exactly happened? Why? Why is it inserted here? (The meeting of Aaron with Moses in the following verses seems to have taken place before the events of this passage). Are Zipporah’s words spoken in anger or submission; and what do they signify? Although we do not presume to be able to plumb these depths, we would submit for your consideration the following thoughts:
*In verse 22 a warning is made to Pharaoh in advance about the consequences of a refusal to release Israel; the last plague would not come unannounced. God considers Israel His “son”, his “firstborn.” Not releasing him to his Call will result in the death of Pharaoh’s own eldest son.
- Is it possible that within this warning to Pharaoh lay also a sober warning to Moses? Circumcision had been solemnly commanded Abraham (Genesis 17:9-14) as a sign of God’s covenant with him and his seed regarding their eternal connection to the Land where it was given. All males in his household and all of their descendants were to be circumcised (17:9). The Hebrew for circumcision means “cut off”; if the foreskin of a son were not cut away, God’s covenant had been broken, and the very soul (Hebrew: nefesh) of that son would be cut off from the holy purposes destined for this people in the promised land (17:14). Moses had himself evidently been circumcised (Exodus 2:6); but he had grown up in an Egyptian court and then married a Midianite maiden. Whether at the hesitation of Zipporah or of himself, Gershom, his own firstborn had not been circumcised. Perhaps it went against his Egyptian or her Midianite cultures which they had grown up with. Perhaps it seemed cruel, not the humanitarian thing to do. Certainly neither parent at this time realized the spiritual warfare which was going on behind the scenes. Here was the man chosen by the God of Heaven to fulfill His promise to Abraham—to bring His people of Covenant back to Canaan (Gen 15:13-16). Now Moses, the leader and model, the figurehead, was about to be responsible for causing the covenant to be broken in his own family before even getting started on his mission! It was a terrible but essential lesson to be learned. Even as Pharaoh’s refusal to release God’s Firstborn (Israel) into its Covenant purposes would necessitate the sacrifice of Pharaoh’s own eldest, so Moses’ refusal to release Gershom into his Covenant purposes through circumcision would necessitate that firstborn also being “cut off”.
Perhaps Zipporah had been resistant to doing that which would bring her son into the covenant “bloodline” of this Hebrew. By repenting of this, circumcising Gershom, touching his blood and foreskin to the feet of Moses and calling him “a bridegroom of blood”, might she have been acknowledging a leaving of the old behind, and allying both herself and her son with that bloodline?
*It is a difficult thing for any father to submit his son to the pain and bloodshed of being cut—although in reality, this was a relatively minor wounding symbolic of something far greater. Ultimately, the Heavenly-Father would send His one and only—His “Firstborn” Son—to be “cut off” (Isaiah 3:8; Daniel 9:26). In his wounding would come redemptive healing for all humankind, the putting to death of sinful flesh, and a New Covenant initiated in His blood. In this would also be cleansing for the Land, and eventual restoration of God’s covenant between the children of Adam and all the earth He created (Romans 8:19-22).
PLEASE PRAY: For realization among Jews that they are still a Covenant People whom God loves and is drawing in lovingkindness. For revelation that a New Covenant of Life has been made for them in the Blood of the Messiah Yeshua.
*ISAIAH 28:7. “But they also have erred through wine, and through intoxicating drink are out of the way; The priest and the prophet have erred through intoxicating drink, They are swallowed up by wine, They are out of the way through intoxicating drink; They err in vision, they stumble in judgment.”
Wine was given as that which might be a joy and a blessing for man in the presence of God (Deuteronomy 14:26, Psalm 104:15). Outside of the light of that Presence, it becomes a mocker and “whoever is led astray by it is not wise” (Proverbs 20:1). I Peter 4:7 and 5:8 speaks of being “serious and watchful in your prayers” —of being “sober and vigilant” because of our adversary, “as the end of all things is at hand.” Prophesying regarding the dark days in Israel during the “time of the end”, Daniel stresses the key positioning of those who at that time must have clarity and control of their mental faculties (Hebrew: sekhel) so as to instruct and lead many to righteousness (Daniel 11:33, 35; 12: 3). And, as mentioned above, Zechariah 2:13 warns to command “Hush!” to the flesh in that day when the LORD “is aroused from His holy habitation.”
PLEASE PRAY: For clear and accurate vision and judgment among Israel’s spiritual leaders. That they will walk in the power and self-control of the Holy Spirit. That they will not fall into self-deception regarding their appetites—that whatever (and however much) they eat and drink, it will be done to the Glory of God—that they will be not drunk with wine but filled with the Spirit of God! (Galatians 5:16; Ephesians 5:18).
“But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all children of light—children of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation (I Thessalonians 5:4-8).
*ISAIAH 28:5-6. “In that day the LORD of Armies will be for a crown of glory and a diadem of beauty to the remnant of His people, for a spirit of justice to him who sits in judgment, and for strength to those who turn back the battle at the gate.”
PLEASE PRAY: For the “remnant of His people” who have returned to the Land of Israel, that there awaken within them a longing for the One who rules in glorious majesty and the beauty of holiness. Pray for Justice fueled by the Holy Spirit to characterize Israel’s civil government…and courage and strength her military. Pray for the “remnant-within-a-remnant” of the Body of Messiah in Israel—the Messianic Jewish and Christian Arab community, that it become recognized for its fairness and righteous judgment—and that it become tempered and prepared in the weapons of its warfare in the Holy Spirit, so as to recognize its enemy and turn back the battle at the gates!
[The readings for next week (7-13 January 2018) are called Va’Era—“And I appeared” (–to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob as El Shaddai.”). TORAH: Exodus 6:2—9:35; HAFTARAH: Ezekiel 28:25—29:21.]
In A Nutshell
The portion, Shemot (Exodus), begins with the demise of Joseph and all of his contemporaries, “And a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph” (Exodus, 1:8). Subsequently, Moses is born in Egypt and his sister hides him in an ark. She places the ark in the Nile and follows it. Pharaoh’s daughter goes down to bathe in the river, finds the ark, and takes the baby. Moses’ sister offers to help her find a Hebrew nursing women and brings Moses’ mother as a nursing woman.
Moses grows in Pharaoh’s home forty years. One day he sees an Egyptian beating a Hebrew. He strikes and kills the Egyptian and buries him in the sand. When he realizes that one of his Hebrew brothers saw him in the act, he fears being told on and escapes to the desert.
In the desert he meets Jethro, priest of Midian. He marries his daughter and sees the burning bush, where he is told he must return to Pharaoh and to the people of Israel, and tell them it is time to go out of Egypt.
The portion ends with the children of Israel complaining to Moses about their poor situation. Moses turns to the Creator who says to him, “Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh, for by a strong hand shall he let them go, and by a strong hand shall he drive them out of his land” (Exodus, 6:1).
The stories deal with man’s soul. The Torah tells us how to correct ourselves in order to develop the soul within us, how to open it up to the upper light, to the revelation of the Creator, and how to feel within it the upper, spiritual world.
The process begins with a special desire called Abraham, which awakens and asks about the meaning of our lives, leading us to open up our souls. The developing desire must escape Babylon, the sum of our great ego.
Subsequently, that desire procreates another desire, Isaac, which begets yet another desire, Jacob. These three desires form the foundation of the soul.
Jacob, which is a special desire, has twelve sons. This is a development of the third desire, which achieves equivalence with the upper force—the Creator—who is pure bestowal. The exodus from Babylon symbolizes our desire to achieve that same level of bestowal. Jacob is the first to actualize that desire through his sons, particularly through Joseph, who assembles all the qualities of bestowal of the corrections that Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the rest of the sons have made. Joseph is the only one who can descend to his ego with all the corrections and begin to work with the ego that is called Egypt.
The whole of the house of Jacob goes down to Egypt, complete their corrections, and die there. After a while, a child is born in the tribe of Levi. Unlike the rest of the Hebrew children that Pharaoh put to death, this one survived. In spiritual terms, Pharaoh “swallowed” all the desires that were corrected into having the aim to bestow. He put them to death by the ego’s taking over all the desires. Thus, even if a person wanted to advance toward spirituality, the ego, life, and the environment killed that person.
In the period preceding the birth of the desire called Moses, it is impossible to advance toward spirituality. One must wait until the Moses desire appears and grows in a person thanks to his mother, who nurses him, and thanks to Batia, Pharaoh’s daughter, who receives him afterward.
Batia is Bat Yah (Daughter of the Creator); she is a part of the quality of Pharaoh within us, a special part of our ego, the will to receive. This part can connect with the desire to bestow and grow.
Moses grew in Pharaoh’s house as a grandson, the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, Batia. He was raised as a prince who was educated in all of Egypt’s wisdom until he was forty.
Age forty is the age of Bina (understanding). It is not an indication of a number of years, but a stage in which the desire not only grows and draws from the side of Pharaoh, the ego, but begins to correct itself, as well. The desire that reaches the age-state of forty discovers it is opposite from Pharaoh and must use him to get out of him.
The exodus from Egypt begins when one feels that one can no longer tolerate the struggle. It happens when there is resistance, when we feel both Pharaoh and Moses within us, and the Jews in us crave unity but are unable to achieve it because they are Pharaoh’s slaves. Here is where one discovers Pharaoh’s rulers. There is an inner struggle between the Jews and Pharaoh’s rulers, and a person feels it as unbearable. This is when we begin to resist and must interfere in order to correct ourselves.
The Moses force within kills Pharaoh’s men, the Egyptians within us, and must therefore flee from Pharaoh. In fact, when Moses kills the Egyptian within him, the struggle between him and his ego only intensified and he has to draw very far from his ego. This is the meaning of the escape from Egypt.
However, one cannot escape all at once because the rest of the desires, the children of Israel, are still enslaved in Egypt, under the ego, working in order to receive. Only Moses grew and escaped to Midian, to Jethro, married the priest’s daughter, Zipporah, and stayed there for forty years.
While in the desert, Moses understood that there is one special point, the burning bush, that can lift him up. With Jethro he connects to it for forty years. He continues to grow there and acquires all of Jethro’s wisdom, which gives him a springboard back to Egypt, to the beginning of the confrontation with Pharaoh.
The Creator says to Moses, “Let’s go to Pharaoh together because ‘I have hardened his heart.’” In other words, a person feels two forces once again, which provide the understanding and ability to cope with what is required, with the ego. Such a person understands that “there is none else besides Him” (Deuteronomy, 4:35), that there is nothing but the singular force that on the one hand plays with the ego and hardens Pharaoh’s heart, and on the other hand goes with the person and helps one advance above it. Thus, the Creator gradually brings a person toward exiting one’s ego entirely, exiting Egypt.
At the same time, “the children of Israel sighed from the work” (Exodus, 2:23), building Pithom and Rameses, which are beautiful cities, corresponding to the first and second Temples, yet are for Pharaoh. The ego continues to grow, as do the children of Israel, and all those qualities of bestowal within our forces of reception chase away the Egypt in us, our ego.
We can see the great force that exists in these qualities only as we advance. As long as they are enslaved by Pharaoh they are cities of poverty—a state in which one desires to exit the ego and advance toward spirituality, but has no outlet by which to escape. “Cities of poverty” also means that a person is in danger because if he remains in his ego he will never attain the spiritual world.
During his time with Jethro, Moses acquired the powers to cope with Pharaoh. He made a covenant and arrived at Egypt with his son, Gershon. Upon his return to Egypt he begins to struggle with Pharaoh. He reunites with his brother Aaron, and together they collect the rest of the elders of Israel. Put differently, a person summons all the inner forces with which one believes one can rise above one’s ego and correct oneself. The forces, thoughts, and intentions with which we can rise above our ego, above Egypt, are the ones that are in equivalence with the Creator. It is in those desires that the upper force is revealed, and where the spiritual world is felt.
In that struggle, a person connects with the inner Aaron, the right side, and with Moses, the left side. Together they are Cohen (priest) and Levi. One summons all those inner forces and discovers a little bit of the Creator through “miracles,” meaning forces that act on one’s desires. Once a little bit of the spiritual force appears in a person, one sorts the desires with which one can build the Kli (vessel) for the revelation of the Creator, the “soul.” These desires intend to demand of Pharaoh, “Let My people go” (Exodus, 5:1).
At that point, a person feels that one is at a crossroads, that one has the endurance and demand to detach oneself from the ego and rise to the level of Bina, outside of Egypt. That person’s strength does not manifest at once. The Pharaoh within says, “No way,” “Who is the Lord that I should obey His voice?” (Exodus, 5:2).
Within us is a mighty struggle, preventing us from detaching from our nature. It keeps pulling us toward it. We try, but we are constantly pulled back. This is why we suffer the blows called the “ten plagues of Egypt.” They push us forward.
It is a tough process. The struggle resembles labor pains. Indeed, the exodus from Egypt is called “birth,” the birth of the spiritual man. In these states, the quality of Israel suffers, meaning the people of Israel—all the desires and intentions in us. Such a person is very frustrated and needs a lot of support. It is quite difficult to go through these states without the support of the proper environment, which serves as a “midwife” in Egypt. In that state a person needs those midwives in order to muster the needed strength. It happens in order to bring us to the necessity for the upper force, to feel that without the help of the Creator we will never rise above our Egypt.
We therefore see that there is a meaningful “game” here between the strengthening Pharaoh and the strengthening Israel. But only when one comes to a state of bewilderment and helplessness does the Creator say, “Come on to Pharaoh” (Exodus 7:26) “for I have hardened his heart” (Exodus 10:1). That is, the Creator wishes to save us precisely through the hardening. By that, He shows us His greatness.
The dramatic process and difficult conditions we face are for our own sake. During the study of the wisdom of Kabbalah, as we rise above our egos and discover spirituality—the upper force—we undergo a complicated process of self scrutiny and inner struggles between desires, forces, and intentions. We experience it so we may feel what is the upper force, what is the spiritual world, and where it is because we can neither see nor feel it in our senses.
We must collect these supporting forces—Pharaoh, Jethro, Moses, Aaron, Israel in Egypt, and all the patriarchs—as forces that desire to rise above the ego and discover the spiritual world. These forces face up to Pharaoh, the ego, and demand to rise above it, as it is written, “Let My people go that they may serve Me” (Exodus, 7:16). It happens so we may discover the greatness, the so-badly-needed help that one receives from above, from the Creator.
This is the only way by which we acquire the power that the Creator sends us, the upper force, the force of bestowal, the love of others, through which we rise above the ego and come out of Egypt. This is the spiritual birth, and only then do we begin to feel the spiritual world. Henceforth, we will have revival.
The portion opens before us a new stage in man’s development. This is why the book Shemot (Exodus) is the second book in the Torah. There are five books in the Pentateuch, corresponding to the five egoistic desires in us that we need to correct on five degrees: the worlds Assiya, Yetzira, Beria, Atzilut, and Adam Kadmon, until we reach the end of correction, complete redemption. Each world contains five internal degrees, which in turn contain another five degrees in each. Thus, altogether there are 125 degrees by which we ascend to the final and complete correction, the complete redemption.
Redemption begins after the first, preparatory stage. This is when one discovers the real Pharaoh within, the real ego. Because we face two conflicting forces—Pharaoh and Moses—we need a third force to determine between them. That force is the Creator, the upper force, which then appears and helps us.
Questions and Answers
The portion describes the preparations for the spiritual birth. Is it similar to what is happening in the world today?
Of course. We are all in a state of scrutinizing our egos, its control over us, and the narrow boundaries that it allows is. We have yet to achieve the recognition that the evil is the ego, but many people are already beginning to see that we are helpless because we don’t know how to correct the comprehensive crisis.
Is this the sensation of Egypt or is it not yet it?
This is already the sensation of Egypt. We are under great stress because we have not determined whether Pharaoh is our “good grandpa,” sitting Moses in his lap and giving us the joys of life, including the Jews that are in Egypt, enjoying the abundance, or is there a new stage arising here.
For thousands of years we have been progressing through our growing egos, and we enjoyed it. We thought we would thrive and prosper indefinitely. But suddenly, we have discovered that precisely the good force by which we thought we’d achieve abundance has become a harmful force. This is Pharaoh changing his way toward the Jews in Egypt, becoming the bad ruler, as it is written, “Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph” (Exodus, 1:8).
Over the last one hundred years, but particularly since the turn of the century, we have begun that self-scrutiny, and we must finish it quickly. However, everything depends on the dissemination of the knowledge of the situation we are in because people (Israel in Egypt) do not know what to do.
It is similar to what happens on Purim, when the city of Shushan is bewildered and people do not know who is right, Mordechai or Haman. Likewise, the story in Egypt repeats itself with the Jews who wanted to tell on Moses killing the Egyptian.
Therefore, we must explain to everyone what is really happening, the reason for all the bad things, the crisis, and how we can rise above them. It is only our ego that has brought us into this predicament. Through the right process, as the Torah tells us, we must come to see the ego as an evil force and bring over it the light that reforms. In other words, the Creator that is now appearing to Moses tells him, “Come to Pharaoh because I have hardened his heart,” meaning “I caused the crisis so you would find Me, because only I can help you out of it.”
We must pass this message to everyone as quickly as possible and show how we can discover the upper force through which we are rewarded with abundance. If we relate to our crisis in the right way we will obtain—while in this life—the spiritual world, eternity, and perfection.
What is Moses in spirituality, and what are all the stages he went through on the spiritual level?
Moses is the force that pulls us out of Egypt, our ego, raising us above this world and into the spiritual one. It is contrary to what Batia says, “I drew him out of the water” (Exodus, 2:10). Moses is the force that must now lead us from here until we enter the land of Israel.
Why is Pharaoh’s daughter called Batia (the Creator’s daughter), aren’t they opposites?
Pharaoh is the posterior side of the Creator. The upper force is playing with us. It is written, “I have created the evil inclination,” which is Pharaoh, “I have created for it the Torah as a spice” (Masechet Kidushin, 30b), because “The light in it reforms it” (Eicha, “Introduction,” Paragraph 2). In other words, He reforms the evil inclination, Pharaoh.
At the end of the process we must take from Egypt all the Kelim (vessels), all the desires, and empty the Egyptians from everything, as it is written about the children of Israel that they went out with “great substance” (Genesis, 15:14). This is how we sanctify these Kelim, these great desires—which so far worked for our own good—and invert them into working for the sake of others. It is precisely in these desires that we discover our eternal life.
Why did Pharaoh refuse to let Israel leave Egypt?
When Israel are in Egypt, they give great substance to Pharaoh. The forces of bestowal inside the will to receive are very helpful to it. The will to receive knows how to trade, how to develop industry, science, and so forth. The will to receive is a special force.
It seems as though the Creator is waiting for Pharaoh’s approval because in the end He brings them out in haste. Initially, Pharaoh refuses, then the Creator brings them out in haste.
It is a person’s own choice. A person stands between the ego, the force of reception, and the force of bestowal. The person is the one who recognizes the evil in Pharaoh. In that person’s eyes this evil gradually loses its strength, and through the actions one takes, one can exit it.
 The Hebrew word, Miskenot, means both Misken (poor) and Mesukan (dangerous).
 Midrash Rabah, Eicha, “Introduction,” Paragraph 2.