Parashat Shemot: Various Teachings From Netivyah Staff
In our desire to provide you with the teaching of Messiah Yeshua in a Jewish context, we provide in-depth teachings of the weekly Torah portions throughout the year. Below are various perspectives from various teachers and staff members from Netivyah Bible Instruction ministry.
Joseph Shulam: One of the Greatest Heroes of the Bible is Nameless 
We are starting the reading of the book of Exodus. All the synagogues in the world will be reading the first chapters of the book of Exodus. The reading of Exodus is the greatest story of salvation and redemption and deliverance from slavery to freedom, from idolatry to faith in One God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
It is also one of the great historical dramas that has the elements of “from riches to rags” and “from rags to riches”. Actually, this story has every element of drama that imagination can conjure up.
The point that amazed me is the attitude and actions of Amram and Jochebed, the father and mother of Moses. The first verse of chapter 2 of Exodus caught my attention:
“And a man of the house of Levi went and took as wife a daughter of Levi. So the woman conceived and bore a son. And when she saw that he was a beautiful child, she hid him three months. 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.” – Exodus 2:1-3 [NKJV]
This is an interesting text. What makes it interesting is that it comes right after the declaration of Pharaoh’s decree to kill all of the male babies, and drown them in the Nile River. Here you have some interesting hints…
Amram, the father of Moses, is called here “a man of the house of Levi”, and his wife Jochebed is called here “a daughter of Levi”. This Levite man, the father of Aaron, Miriam, and Moses, “went”. Where was this Levite that suddenly he “went”?
The implication is that this Levite left his wife Jochebed, because he could not imagine that a baby boy would be born that would have to be drowned in the river of Egypt. At a certain point this Levite man understood that Pharaoh’s scheme is to destroy Israel, and take away the promises that the Lord had given to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
At this point, this Levite man decides to go back to his wife and make a baby, a baby boy, a baby that was a fine child (a healthy and beautiful baby). The Levite woman, Moses’ mother, decides to keep this baby boy hidden for three months.
The three months of living and hiding this healthy baby were both wonderful and terrible. They were wonderful because it gave this mother of three children now a period of bonding with this baby, that was born as an act of defiance and demonstration of rejection against Pharaoh and Egypt’s authority. The birth of this baby is a rebellion against the forces and powers of this world, the forces of colonialism and racism, and enslavement of the stranger, the weak, and the outsider.
What this act is saying to us today is that Pharaoh thinks that he can stop the Almighty God from keeping His promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – and Israel. This Levite man and woman, with two older children, Aaron and Miriam, who are now in this hour of great danger to every baby boy that is born to an Israelite woman, take the bull by the horns and make a baby.
This baby is hidden for three months, and is set afloat on the waters of the Nile River in a small basket. The baby is delivered into the hands of history, the hands of the One God who directs history.
To save her household and the life of this baby by putting this child in the hands of God, the mother of Moses makes the decision to float the baby in the water of the river, not knowing where and how and who will save this baby, or how this baby will be raised. The idea that this baby will land in the hands of the princess of Egypt, the daughter of Pharaoh, and be raised and educated as prince of Egypt, was for sure so far from the wildest imagination of Jochebed.
The Lord had prepared the right person for the task. The Lord took the most unlikely person. A person who even the wildest imagination could not imagine to be the person who will find the basket floating on the waters of the river, and find a Hebrew baby in this basket, and save this baby, and raise this baby as the prince of Egypt.
Pharaoh’s own daughter, a nameless person, a woman who becomes one of the most important women in the whole Bible. This gentile woman, an Egyptian, a pagan woman raised in the great palaces of Egypt, with golden spoons and silk sheets, is apparently chosen by God to find this Hebrew baby.
The Rabbis presume that Pharaoh’s daughter was already in the process of converting to the Hebrew faith. They interpret that she went into the waters of the Nile River alone not to take a bath and not to play, but to make a ritual immersion in the water for the monthly purification rite. This is why the maidens that accompanied Pharaoh’s daughter did not enter the water with her.
This woman, nameless, is the woman who saved Moses, and raised this baby as a prince of Egypt, as Pharaoh’s grandson. She saved the holy history of Israel, and the fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel and to the whole world.
The whole story is contingent on this chain of events, that leads to the Savior of the world, a son of David, and a son of Abraham.
This Egyptian woman is the pivoting point of history. She takes the right turn and saves this Hebrew baby, who saves Israel, brings the Torah from God, and carries the Hebrew children to the edge of the Promised Land.
What if this one gentile woman would not have made this one act of kindness and saved this Hebrew child? This events leads to salvation from slavery, and preparation for the salvation of the whole world, by a Hebrew son born in Bethlehem and crucified in Jerusalem, Yeshua.
Muriel Stern: “Pardon Your Servant, Lord. Please Send Someone Else.” 
Writing a little bit about the weekly Torah portion was not something I planned on doing. The portion about Sarah’s death spoke to me and I shared about it on my personal Facebook page. The following week I had some more thoughts and wrote them up. And before I knew it this had become a weekly thing.
I like writing and I like reading. Escaping into a good book is one of my all-time favorite pastimes. While I enjoy reading books that make me think and challenge me, I really love historical fiction. Stories about real people who lived through historic events.
And this is what I share here. I am not a theologian. As a matter of fact, I don’t hold a degree in anything. I don’t research the rabbinical texts. I don’t study what certain words mean in ancient Hebrew and what insights we can gain from those. I read the Torah portion and share what speaks to me on a personal level. The people in the stories were real. And just like us, they faced struggles.
This week we meet Moses, who miraculously survived infancy. His upbringing in the palace gave him the best education possible. He could not have been more prepared to be a leader. A disastrous incident has Moses fled from Egypt into the desert of Midian. He became a shepherd. The man who was born to be a great leader is now in charge of a flock of sheep.
And then the Lord appeared to Moses, in a burning bush. The Lord revealed himself to him. God showed up! The Lord spoke to Moses, told him His name and showed him several miracles.
And what did Moses say?
“Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.” – Exodus 4:13b [NIV]
For us reading the story it is hard to understand how Moses didn’t see how special he was and that the Lord must have a plan for his life. Just the story alone of how he wasn’t killed as a baby and ended up in the palace. And now he has a supernatural encounter with the God of his fathers. Why was he not super-excited about this?
Reluctantly Moses agreed to go back to Egypt. His brother Aaron would meet him on the way. The brothers did as instructed and went to the Pharaoh. But instead of agreeing to let the people of Israel take a three-day journey into the wilderness to offer sacrifices to the Lord God, Pharaoh made the life of the Hebrews even harder. He reasoned that if they had time to complain and make plans, they clearly were lazy.
“Moses returned to the Lord and said, Why, Lord, why have you brought trouble on this people? Is this why you sent me?” – Exodus 5:22 [NIV]
The Lord had a plan for Moses. But Moses was content being a shepherd. He didn’t want to do more. He told the Lord loud and clear – “send someone else”. And when things didn’t go as Moses thought they should go he complained, “Is this why I am here?”
This week’s portion ends with the Lord telling Moses to trust Him. It is all part of the plan. Moses ended up doing what God told him. The Lord was true to His word and delivered the people of Israel out of Egypt.
How about us? How do we respond when the Lord wants us to leave our comfort zone? Do we complain or do we trust Him? It is easy to look back and see the hand of God, but do we also trust Him when we don’t see how it is going to work out?
Yehuda Bachana: Moses’ Excuses, Our Calling 
Read the teaching below, or watch a video of the teaching by Yehuda Bachana.
In some respects, Parashat Shemot, our weekly Torah portion, connects us to some of the major parts of the Torah. This parasha brings us back to the beginning, as well as connects us with the giving of the Torah, the prophets, and even the New Testament.
The portion begins with the following concept:
But the Israelites were exceedingly fruitful; they multiplied greatly, increased in numbers and became so numerous that the land was filled with them. – Exodus 1:7 [NIV]
This verse should remind us of Genesis, but in contrast to the beginning, when God brought order to the chaos, in Exodus Pharaoh rearranged the social structure of his world and brought demographic chaos to Egypt. Then Pharaoh gave this order to all his people:
‘Every Hebrew boy that is born you must throw into the Nile, but let every girl live.’ – Exodus 1:22 [NIV]
Why does Pharaoh command such a terrible and gruesome order? Does he know with royal intuition that a royal successor and redeemer of the people was born? Did Pharaoh want to kill the same redeemer that Herod did, when he followed Yeshua’s star to Bethlehem?
In Genesis it is the woman who violated the commandment and also in Exodus, the woman (five women actually – Jochebed, Miriam, Shiphrah and Puah the midwives, as well as Pharaoh’s daughter) violate an explicit order. Although contrary to what occurred in Genesis, they brought life.
In chapter 3 of our Torah portion, there is a long and detailed description of a special, historical event: when Moses drew near to find out why the bush was not consumed by the fire (Exodus 3:3), he heard God call out to him. God presented Himself as God of his fathers and of the patriarchs, and informed him that He is about to free the children of Israel from slavery in Egypt, and bring them to the Promised Land.
It turns out that God imposed on Moses a major role in the task of liberating the enslaved Israelites:
So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt. – Exodus 3:10 [NIV]
In a very interesting and human way, Moses refused to accept his calling five times, and each time he was asked he made another excuse to explain why he is not the right person for the task. I am sure that Moses had mixed emotions about all of this. On the one hand, we saw that Moses identified with the people of Israel so much that he risked his life and reputation just to rescue one of them. If he could, I’m sure he would have been happy to continue to help.
However, at the same time, he escaped from Egypt under the threat of capital punishment, and now he has a family, a job, and a whole other life. Moses’ excuses are as follows (Exodus 3:11-4:13):
- “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11 [NIV])
- “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” (Exodus 3:13 [NIV])
- “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you’?” (Exodus 4:1 [NIV])
- “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.” (Exodus 4:10 [NIV])
- “Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.” (Exodus 4:13 [NIV])
For every argument, question, and demand, God answers patiently, until the last excuse: “Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.” Then God got angry:
Then the Lord’s anger burned against Moses… – Exodus 4:14a [NIV]
How is his fifth reason different from the other excuses? What can we glean from this today?
God asked Moses to take upon himself a very practical role with very fateful consequences – to save an entire people from slavery to freedom, to bring the people out from the mighty Egyptian empire. In order to succeed in this, he will not only have to convince Pharaoh to release a people who had worked there for hundreds of years, but to convince them that they are able to go out to freedom. From a human perspective, this is an impossible task. Therefore, Moses’ first four responses were justified, if not necessary. To convince the people of Israel, Moses had to know the answers to questions 2 and 3. To convince the house of Pharaoh, Moses had to remove the doubts he had about his abilities and talents, and for this came questions 1 and 4. God responded to this excuse and provided him with answers that were the tools needed for the task. In response to Moses’ last excuse, “Please send someone else”, God got angry. Why?
Because it’s likely that Moses is saying here that if he can not complete the task of bringing the children of Israel into the Promised Land, it’s better not to start at all (the “all or nothing” mentality).
There is a saying from Pirkei Avot that teaches us:
It is not your responsibility to finish the work, but neither are you free to desist from it. – Pirkei Avot 2:16
This sentence teaches us that when there is an opportunity to get up and do something, it is permissible to check whether we have the proper tools to carry out the task, and if so, to get up and do as much as possible. If it is needed, you can rely on others to aid in carrying out the task.
I believe that this is the meaning of our calling as believers. To see how and what I can do for the Kingdom of God, for the sake of the Gospel. We are all the workers of God, and we must build the body of the Messiah and the Kingdom. There is so much work that Yeshua even asked us to pray for more workers because the time is short and the work is great, as it says in Matthew 9:
Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.’ – Matthew 9:37,38 [NIV]
We have to get started. Regardless of whether we will be the ones who finish, or if we’ll have to hand off the work for others to finish. We must plant the seeds, and one day God will send someone else to harvest. Who are the workers of God who contribute to the creation and construction of the body of Messiah? The answer must be, “all of us together”.
Published January 7, 2018 | Updated January 16, 2020
Netivyah is an Israeli non-profit organization that teaches God's Word and helps those in need. We present the teachings of Messiah Yeshua in a Jewish context, both in Israel and worldwide. We also feed the poor in Jerusalem, and invest in the next generation through youth programs and scholarships.