Shemot: The Book of Exodus

23 Items


Unifying the Physical and Spiritual

One of Judaism’s basic goals is the unification of the physical and spiritual realms, both on the practical and mystical levels. The relationship between the physical and the spiritual can be compared to that of matter and energy. Science changed our perception of reality forever when it revealed that matter is in essence pure energy. […]

A Lesson in Jewish History

“And there arose a new king in Egypt who did not know Joseph” (Exodus 1:8). The Torah recounts that after the deaths of Jacob and his sons, a new king came to power “who did not know Joseph.” This characterization is somewhat surprising, for how could anyone who knew Egypt’s recent history not be aware […]


Moses Challenges God

According to Rashi the opening verses of this portion quoted in the previous section are a direct response to Moses’ questioning of God at the conclusion of Shemot. Moses went to Pharaoh in order to save Israel, but instead Pharaoh dramatically increased the workload. “Moses returned to God and said: ‘My Lord, why have you […]


An Historical Archetype

After warning Pharaoh that a plague of locusts will engulf Egypt if he does not let the children of Israel go, Moses turns and leaves. As soon as Moses departs, Pharaoh’s servants address him: “How long will this be a trap for us? Send out the men that they may serve God, their God. Do […]

The Darkness of Depression

The ninth of the ten plagues was the plague of darkness: “And God said to Moses: stretch forth your hand towards the heavens and there will be darkness upon the land of Egypt and the darkness will be tangible” (Exodus 10:21). Rashi explains that the darkness was not just the darkness of night; it was […]


The Meaning of Five

This portion begins with a description of Israel leaving Egypt. Part of that account relates the following: “And the children of Israel went up armed from the land of Egypt” (Exodus 13:18). Rashi explains that the root word for “armed” (chamushim) is the same as that of the word “five” (chamesh). Thus, after first explaining […]

Music and Prophecy

Crossing the Reed Sea and observing the Egyptians drowning in the sea marks the end of the Jewish people’s exile in Egypt, the culmination of years of slavery and oppression (Exodus 15:1-19). The Midrash teaches that God’s revelation at the sea was so great that the simplest handmaiden witnessed more than even Ezekiel the prophet […]

The Spiritual Treasure of Shabbat

“And Moses said: Eat it today, for today is a Shabbat for God, today you will not find it in the field” (Exodus 16:25). This verse is part of the extensive instructions Moses gave the children of Israel about the manna, the “bread from heaven,” that sustained them throughout their forty year sojourn in the […]

Beshalach and Tu B’Shvat

Every year, the weekly Torah portion of Beshalach is read in close proximity to the holiday of Tu B’Shvat. There are in fact many beautiful and deep allusions to Tu B’Shvat (literally, the Fifteenth [day of the month] of Shevat; the New Year of the Trees) in the portion. Some of these relate to the healing power of trees […]


The Ten Commandments and Creation

We have already mentioned in the portions of Bereishit (“The Ten Divine Utterances of Creation”) and Va’eira (“The Medium is the Message – Patterns in the Torah and the Number Ten”) the intrinsic connection between the ten utterances through which the world was created and the Ten Commandments revealed in the portion of Yitro. To […]

Time Space and Soul

The giving of the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai was accompanied by several natural and metaphysical phenomena: “And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there was thunder and lightning and a thick cloud upon the mountain, and the sound of a shofar exceedingly loud” (Exodus 19:16); “And all the […]


A Set Table

The portion of Mishpatim begins with the following verse: “And these are the ordinances (mishpatim) that you shall place before them” (Exodus 21:1). The Midrash’s commentary on this verse, cited by Rashi, exemplifies the careful attention the Rabbis paid to every word in the Torah and the illumination they gained from doing so. In my […]

The Torah’s Perspective on Sexuality

One of the many mitzvot in Mishpatim dictates the husband’s obligation to provide his wife with three things: food, clothing, and marital relations (Exodus 21:10). That the Torah actually obligates the husband to provide his wife with marital intimacy was as revolutionary in its time as it is today. Contrary to most, if not all, […]


Giving and Taking

“And God spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the children of Israel and let them take for Me a contribution, from every person whose heart is willing, you shall take My contribution’” (Exodus 25:1-2). The portion of Terumah begins with God asking Moses to solicit voluntary contributions for the building of the Tabernacle. The verse […]


The Light of Shabbat

The term ner tamid (everlasting lamp) used to describe the daily mitzvah to light the menorah’s seven lamps equals 704, the same as the numerical value of the word beShabbat (in or on Shabbat). The numerical value of the word “Shabbat” by itself is 702, which is the exact inverse of the numerical value of […]

The Annointed One

The olive oil used in the menorah in the Tabernacle is described as “pure olive oil, beaten to give light” (Exodus 27:20). Olive oil was not only used in the menorah but also in consecrating the vessels of the Tabernacle. Olive oil was also used to sanctify the cohanim as they were initiated into service […]

The Secret of Enclothment

Following Tetzaveh’s opening commandment regarding the menorah’s lighting, the Torah continues with a detailed description of the unique garments worn by the ordinary cohanim and the additional special garments worn only by the high priest. These sanctified garments, the Torah informs us, were made for “glory and splendor” (Exodus 28:2). The cohanim, who served simultaneously […]

Ki Tisa

Recognizing the Individual’s Infinite Worth

Ki Tisa begins with the commandment to take a census of all the men of Israel twenty years of age and over. There are two unusual things about this census. Firstly, God does not actually use the verb “to count” in ordering the census, instead He uses the expression “when you lift up the heads […]

Shabbat an Eternal Covenant

“The children of Israel shall observe the Shabbat, to make the Shabbat an eternal covenant for their generations” (Exodus 31:16). Noting the declaration that Shabbat observance will transform the Shabbat into “an eternal covenant for their generations,” the Chidushei HaRim, the first rebbe of the Ger Chassidic dynasty, makes two brief but profound observations. Firstly, […]

The Golden Calf and Purim

Ki Tisa recounts one of the most catastrophic sins in Jewish history, the sin of the Golden Calf, which took place forty days after the Giving of the Torah. The enormity of this sin is best understood from its context. According to tradition, the Giving of the Torah was supposed to inaugurate a new era […]


Moses Gathers the People

We will now continue to employ the PaRDeS system to probe the meaning and context of Vayakhel’s first Hebrew word, “and he gathered” (vayakhel). From a straightforward, historical perspective (the peshat), Moses assembled all the people because, according to Rashi, he had descended from Mount Sinai with the second tablets on that day. Moses had […]



The name of this portion, Pekudei, means “accountings” as it provides a detailed account of exactly how much gold, silver, and copper were used in the Tabernacle’s various ritual objects, vessels, sockets, pegs, and hooks, as well as how the wool, linen, stones, and gold were used in the cohanim’s garments. The first lesson we […]

The Eighth Day

“And God spoke to Moses saying: ‘On the day of the first new moon, on the first day of the month you shall raise up the Tabernacle, the tent of Meeting’” (Exodus 40:1-2). The Tabernacle was erected on the first day of the first month of Nisan (Rosh Chodesh Nisan), a very auspicious day, as […]