Monday, January 4, 2010


New year, new book of the Torah, new ideas (I hope)!

Beginning with the first verses of the parasha, we have a review of the names of those who came into Egypt.  As teachers we know that before we can go forward we have to be sure our learners remember what came before (although I sincerely doubt that in the early days of Torah study this parasha came after the December vacation.  Of course, it doesn't always fall out that way now either!)
We also learn from the text that the descendants of Yaakov have become quite numerous - so numerous that they are viewed as a threat by the Egyptians.  And, according to verse 12, their numbers apparently "embarass" the Egyptians.

  • Why should the Egyptians be "embarassed"?
  • Do you think the Hebrews are assimilated into the general population or not?  What is your evidence? 

The story of the two midwives (Shifrah and Puah) who rebel against Paro's orders to kill the Hebrew boy babies is familiar to most of us, but I never noticed the reward before (look at 1:21)

  • Do you think the midwives are Hebrews or Egyptians?  What is your evidence?
  • Why do you think they disobeyed Paro's direct order?  Did they really think he would believe the story they told him about why the babies lived?  What might the consequences be for their disloyalty?
  • If the midwives were in fact Egyptian, can you think of a different time in history when people who were not part of the Jewish people saved Jews?  Explain your answer.

Skipping down to the second chapter we learn of the birth of a baby to an as-yet unnamed couple from the tribe of Levi.  We all know that he was put in a "teva" at the age of 3 months and adopted by Paro's daughter.  For a few years he is nursed by his birth mother.
In 2:10 Moshe comes to live with Paro's daughter.
In 2:11 he is described as "grown".
  • Fill in the blanks - what happened between verse 10 and verse 11?
  • What was Moshe's childhood like?  How was he treated by the Egyptians around him?  Did he think he was different from them?  Did he wonder about his birth parents?  Did they wonder about him?  Did everyone know what his background was?  How did he see himself - as an Egyptian noble?  as a Hebrew?
When Moshe saw the Egyptian who was attacking a Hebrew, he looked around - 
  • Why?
  • What was he looking for?
  • What did he find?
The next day (according to the text) he went out again and tried to stop a fight between two Hebrews.
  • What happened?
  • Why did Moshe run away?
  • According to the text, Paro was ready to kill Moshe.  But he had raised him as a grandson.  What does that suggest to you about Paro
Moshe marries the daughter of Yitro, a Midianite priest.  He names their first son Gershom
  • What does Gershom mean?
  • Who is the 'Ger'?  Where is the 'sham'?  Think about the possibilities.
In 2:24 we hear that God heard the groaning of the people, and remembered his covenant with Avraham, with Yitzhak, and with Yaakov.
  • Why now?
  • Where has God been all this time?
In 4:14 we read that God is angry with Moshe.
  • Why is God angry?
  • Do you think God has a right to be impatient with Moshe?
In 4:23 God tells Moshe what to threaten Paro with.
  • Why is this here?
  • What is the relationship between the threat here and what is to come?
6:1   Then the Lord said to Moshe, "Now you will see what I will do to Paro,  for with a strong hand shall he let them go, and with a strong hand shall he drive them out of his land."
  • Does anything strike you about this phrase (look at the Hebrew if you are not sure)?
  • Does the wording surprise you?  Explain.
Here are a few sources you may want to read for help in answering the questions above.  
  • Becoming a Leader by Rabbi Shimon Felix may help you understand how Moshe evolved as a leader.
  • This article from Haaretz by Naftaly Gliksberg focuses on the interchange between Paro's daughter and Moshe's sister - very interesting and not a perspective I have thought about before.
  • The Bumpy Road to Redemption by Rabbi Avraham Fischer deals with the impatience we often feel when things don't go quickly enough for us.
  • Rabbi Avi Weiss, of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, uses the story to ask some important questions about our willingness to take a stand when necessary.

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