Parashat Shemot // “The Names”

- ע מ ם -

Why can transcendence be found even in a thorny, distant bush?

The Egyptians forget Joseph and enslave the Israelites

“Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph. And he said unto his people, Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we: Come on, let us deal wisely with them; lest they multiply, and it come to pass, that, when there falleth out any war, they join also unto our enemies, and fight against us, and so get them up out of the land” Exodus 1:8 – 12

  • Though his predecessors beseeched God, the new Pharaoh forgets the heavenly blessings bestowed upon them, incurs the sin of ingratitude, and consequently enslaves the Israelites. The Israelites, who have lived in Egypt for centuries, succeed in preserving their distinct characteristics and don’t lose their identity. The bondage and suffering preceding the giving of the Torah teach us that prosperity can only bloom from sorrow.

Moses kills an Egyptian he sees striking an Israelite

“And it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown, that he went out unto his brethren, and looked on their burdens: and he spied an Egyptian smiting an Hebrew, one of his brethren. And he looked this way and that way, and when he saw that there was no man, he slew the Egyptian” Exodus 2:11 – 12

  • Moses kills an Egyptian man he sees hitting a Hebrew slave. As this is an act of vigilante justice, Moses quickly buries the dead body. However, once he discovers that his deeds have not gone unnoticed, Moses flees Egypt. Moses does this out of devotion to his brethren, whom he never forgets. Moses’ act of self-denial is a sign of his sense of mutual responsibility – a true trademark of the Jewish people.

God calls to Moses from the burning bush

  • The apparition of the burning bush is transcendental. From this moment, Moses is no longer an anonymous shepherd but Israel’s savior. Though he has simply noticed a small, thorny shrub, he understands that there is something much greater behind it and he covers his face out of deference. Transcendence can be found even in an ordinary bush. The burning bush symbolizes God – the everlasting, incessant entity. The bush symbolizes the future calamities that the Israelites are bound to suffer-but from which they will not perish.

Pearls of Divine Wisdom: “The Names” 

  • Each of us has our own, inner burning bush fueling our good deeds and passion for life. Our mission is to learn to ignite it.  
  • Sunlight is the basis of life-but overexposure can be lethal. Thus, when Moses sees the burning bush, he covers his eyes out of awe and humility. 
  • There are two kinds of desire: a desire to receive for one’s self alone and a desire to receive for the sake of sharing. The first brings nothing more than temporary excitement and pleasure, whereas the second leads to true fulfillment. Complete and total fulfillment is our ultimate goal-and so it is also the focus of our consciousness. 
  • We must be uncompromising and insist on receiving the total light of the universe. When we do this collectively, we transform the world – just as will occur during the collective revelation at the base of Mount Sinai.
  • Greatness can be found even in a lowly bush. Even a thorny, isolated bush can reveal everlasting, divine sparks of great light.
  • The Creator enjoys debate and encourages the pursuit of truth. Each of us is measured against our own actions – our own spiritual progress. 

Nobility is adopting and practicing good traits, enabling us to rise to the highest levels of humanity.