The Book of Exodus

Location and geography are central to the Book of Exodus. Ancient Egypt and the barren wilderness form the essential backdrop to the drama which unfolds in the second book of the Bible. It is very clear that all of the events of Exodus take place outside the borders of the Land of Israel, but this is not to say that Eretz Yisrael is not a central theme to Exodus.

 

The Hebrew name for the Book of Exodus is Sefer Shemot, the “Book of Names” (taken from the opening words of verse one). Continuing from where Genesis left off, we move from the story of a family to the birth of a nation. The opening chapters of Exodus describe the trials of Israel in the fiery furnace of slavery. The brutal oppression in a foreign land has been explained by Jewish commentators as a necessary process of national purification in order to prepare the Israelites for entry into the “land flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 3:8).

 

Sefer Shemot goes on to describe the exodus from Egypt and offers eternal insight into God’s loving relationship with humanity as the ultimate Redeemer. From there, we delve into many of the commandments and the intimate details of the construction of the Tabernacle which represents the physical manifestation of God’s presence in this world and in our lives.  With each step, the Israelites are marching towards and getting closer to the Land of Israel, which becomes the ultimate ideal to be strived for.

 

It is no wonder then, that the Book of Exodus has always served as an inspiration for those who have longed for the Land throughout the ages. Wandering through the bitter exile, Jews have always seen themselves as following in the footsteps of the ancient Israelites.  In the darkest moments of Jewish history, we have endured persecution in faith – knowing that we are always getting closer to deliverance and redemption, and to Israel. The Book of Exodus causes us to realize that the destiny of the People of Israel is always leading towards the Land of Israel.

 

Rabbi Naphtali Weisz
Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel

 

 

The Portion of Shemot

This week’s Torah portion tells us of the Israelites’ slavery in Egypt, and sets the stage for their redemption over the three following portions. It recounts how Jacob’s small family grew into a mighty nation and how the Egyptians came to oppress them. It also relates Moses’s development from birth to leadership. Read More >>

 

 

The Portion of Va'era

In this week's portion, God reassures Moses that, despite the seemingly bleak outlook, all is going according to His plan. He then sends Moses back to Pharaoh to repeat His demands. The portion also outlines Moses's genealogy and relates the account of the the first seven plagues. Read More >>

 

 

The Portion of Bo

The portion of Bo is packed with both action and laws. We learn of the last three plagues suffered by the Egyptians, as well as the eponymous Exodus itself. In addition, we are given the laws of Passover, both as they were observed that first time and as they are meant to be kept for… Read More >>

 

 

The Portion of Beshalach

This week’s portion, pronounced b’-sha-LAKH, meaning 'when he let go', tells of The Children of Israel’s early adventures in the desert, before receiving God’s law at Mount Sinai. Pharaoh once more changes his mind about the Hebrews leaving, and sends his army out after them. God splits the sea, allowing the Israelites safe passage and… Read More >>

 

 

The Portion of Yitro

This portion tells of a visit from Moses’s father-in-law, the eponymous Jethro, and of the Revelation at Sinai. It marks a turning point in the narrative, as from this point forward, more of the text is spent on expounding the law than telling the story. Read More >>

 

 

The Portion of Mishpatim

This week’s portion leaves the narrative behind and focuses instead on Torah law. It deals extensively with case law between man and man, but also includes a number of laws between man and God. It is concerned with justice and righteous behavior. As the Israel Bible points out, the juxtaposition of the case law in… Read More >>

 

 

The Portion of Terumah

The portion of Terumah deals with the plans for the construction of the Tabernacle, God’s portable Temple in the desert. The Tabernacle will become the focus of most of the rest of the book of Exodus. It was constructed in the second year after the Exodus and remained in use even after the people entered… Read More >>

 

 

The Portion of Tetzaveh

This portion continues the themes of last week’s portion, describing the clothing the priests must wear to serve in the Tabernacle, the process by which they are to be consecrated, and the offerings they must bring, both when they are appointed and on a daily basis thereafter. It ends with a description of the Altar… Read More >>

 

 

The Portion of Ki Tisa

This action-packed portion contains the final instructions for building the Tabernacle. It also relates the events of the Sin of the Golden Calf. Following the sin, Moses pleads with God to maintain His relationship with the Children of Israel as it had been until that point. God commands Moses to carve a new set of… Read More >>

 

 

The Portion of Vayakhel

Our portion deals with the fulfillment of the instructions from the last three portions. In it, Moses collects donations from the Children of Israel and with those contributions, the Tabernacle parts are constructed and the structure is ultimately assembled. The reading ends with God descending in all His glory upon the completed Tabernacle. On years… Read More >>

 

 

The Portion of Pekudei

Pekudei describes the preparation of the Priests’ clothing, the assembly of the Tabernacle and the manifestation of God’s glory. Read More >>
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