Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Parashah #13: Sh’mot (Names) (Ex.) 1:1-6:1
Haftarah: Yirmeyahu (Jer.) 1:1-2:3 (S)
B’rit Chadashah: Mattityahu (Matt.) 22:23-33; 41-46
Mark 12:18-27; 35-37; Luke 20:27-44; Acts 3:12-15;
5:27-32; 7:17-36; 22:12-16; 24:14-16
Although this week’s parashah focuses on Moshe and his emergence as the man who would be the anti-type of Messiah Yahshua, there is an underlying theme we must address because it is often neglected and not recognized as critical to Moshe’s existence. I am speaking of the women mentioned in this parashah; heroines, humble and used of G-d in mighty ways.
Let us start with Pharaoh’s daughter. In retrospect, we can see how G-d worked through people other than the Israelites for the good of His people Israel. It was Pharaoh’s daughter who had pity on an obviously Hebrew child and brought him up in the hotbed of Egypt where her father was actively planning the destruction of the Israelites. How ironic! How like our G-d! This narrative shows us that G-d has no limits. He works when, where, and how he chooses to accomplish His purpose and we need not fear when we are in a situation that seems to us as if we are far and away from His power and sight.
The Torah does not name this woman but in Chronicles 4:18, there is mention of Bitya, who was Pharaoh’s daughter, who is identified by the sages as the one who saved Moshe. The name Bitya is sometimes rendered as Batya which means “daughter of G-d.” We know little else of Bitya, but she had a compassionate heart which made all the difference for Moshe and his mother.
Two Hebrew midwives mentioned by name in this parashah are Shifrah and Pu’ah. These women were told to kill any male baby born to a Hebrew woman. These women loved G-d and they did not follow the king’s order. This alone could have cost them their lives. But G-d protected them. They were given wisdom to answer the king when he asked why the baby boys were not being killed saying “ It’s because the Hebrew women aren’t like the Egyptian women- they go into labor and give birth before the midwife arrives” (Sh’mot 1:19). G-d prospered the midwives for their loyalty.
The next woman is Yocheved, wife of Amram. Her name is not mentioned initially but is found in Sh’mot 6:20. She would be the mother of three prominent Israelites: Miriam, Aharon, and Moshe. During this difficult time in Israel’s history, she chose to have a child anyway. She courageously trusted G-d to take care of little Moshe at three months when she placed him in a reed basket and placed him among the reeds on the riverbank. How excruciatingly painful it must have been for her to take this action. Yet, she trusted G-d and left the child. It was Miriam our next special woman of G-d; Moshe’s older sister who stood at a distance to see what would become of him (Sh’mot 2:3). Indeed, G-d’s hand was on this family for Pharaoh’s daughter was moved with compassion when she found the baby in the basket. Miriam was given wisdom to ask Pharaoh’s daughter if she could find a Hebrew woman to nurse the baby and G-d provided for Yocheved by orchestrating circumstances such that she wound up being the one to nurse the baby; her own baby; Moshe!
One of the main teachings or concepts in this parashah is that there are limits to man’s power when G-d intervenes. There are some ordered and instructions that must be disobeyed if we are to remain true to our G-d. G-d’s Torah is replete with examples of His people being hung, beheaded, stoned, and martyred in other ways because they would not succumb to moral authority. In today’s secular society that is drifting ever further away from G-d’s Torah, true believers/Israelites must continue as a holy people and remain zealous for G-d’s Torah, no matter what the human consequences.” It is no longer difficult to imagine such scenarios as lawlessness and abominations against G-d are becoming not only commonplace. But advocated and promoted. Those who oppose such behaviors and practices are increasingly becoming ostracized and labeled as “intolerant troublemakers” and “homophobic bullies” promoting civil disobedience; a concept usually attributed to the nineteenth century American writer Henry David Thoreau and entered international consciousness after the Holocaust and the Nuremberg trials. However, this parashah provides an illustration of this type of action thousands of years earlier in the actions of Shifrah and Puah. Through their trust and faith in G-d, they provided a quintessential example of the importance and ramifications of loving G-d with all our hearts, souls, and might by placing their knowledge and obedience of G-d’s commands and laws over conformity; G-d’s Torah over man’s laws.
The next woman mentioned is Zipporah, who was Moshe’s wife. The daughter of a Midianite priest, yet she chose to leave the faith of her people and join herself to the G-d of Israel and marry Moshe. Her claim to fame was saving Moshe’s life by performing a circumcision on their son (Sh’mot 4:24-26). A convert, she discerned the need to perform this act commanded by G-d when Moshe planned to delay the circumcision (Sh’mot 4:24-26). Her act of obedience saved Moshe! The impression we have of her is of a figure of monumental determination who, at a crucial moment, has a better sense than Moses himself of what God requires.
There are many other biblical accounts of women who were strong and often were ordained to special roles that had tremendous outcomes for G-d’s people such as Devorah, Hannah, Ruth, and Esther, Mary Magdalene, Priscilla, and Mary, the human vessel/mother of Yahshua.
According to an article by the late Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, the question arises “if women emerge so powerfully as leaders, were they excluded in Jewish law from certain leadership roles? If we look carefully, we will see that women were historically excluded from two areas. One was the “crown of priesthood,” which went to Aaron and his sons. The other was the “crown of kingship,” which went to David and his sons. These were two roles built on the principle of dynastic succession. From the third crown – the “crown of Torah” – however, women were not excluded. There were prophetesses, not just prophets. The sages enumerated seven of them. There were great women Torah scholars from the Mishnaic period (Beruriah, Ima Shalom) to today.
At stake is a more general distinction. Rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron in his Responsa, Binyan Av, differentiates between formal or official authority (samchut) and actual leadership (hanhagah).5 There are figures who hold positions of authority – prime ministers, presidents, CEOs – who may not be leaders at all. They may have the power to force people to do what they say, but they have no followers. They excite no admiration. They inspire no emulation. And there may be leaders who hold no official position at all but who are turned to for advice and are held up as role models. They have no power but great influence. Israel’s prophets belonged to this category. So, often, did the gedolei Yisrael, the great sages of each generation. Neither Rashi nor Maimonides held any official position (some scholars say that Maimonides was chief rabbi of Egypt but most hold that he was not, though his descendants were). Wherever leadership depends on personal qualities – what Max Weber called charismatic authority – and not on office or title, there is no distinction between women and men.
Yocheved, Miriam, Shifrah, Puah, Zipporah and Batya were leaders not because of any official position they held (in the case of Batya she was a leader despite her official title as a princess of Egypt). They were leaders because they had courage and conscience. They refused to be intimidated by power or defeated by circumstance.”
It is interesting with the opinion of Rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron, that women were and, in some cases, still are denied training and ordination as rabbis. Indeed, our Orthodox Jewish brethren still refuse to train and ordain women to be rabbis. However, Devorah was a judge of Israel, ordained by G-d. Women rabbis do not violate the throne of the priesthood or the crown of kingship. The term “rabbi” is translated as “teacher.” As women were given the role to nurture and teach children in the ways of G-d, is it not simply an extension of that role to teach G-d’s Torah to adults as well? Afterall, a rabbi should consider his/her flock as children. Let us be consistent in all things according to G-d’s Torah.
Haftarah: Yirmeyahu: 1:1-2:3
This haftarah speaks to similarities between Moshe and Jeremiah as they were called by G-d for their specific missions. They were both humble men who initially attempted to recuse themselves from their G-d-given tasks. G-d reassured both men that they were prepared for their missions and that they would not be killed at the hands of their enemies. Jeremiah saw a staff from an almond tree, a symbol described in Numbers 17:23 to designate Aaron as the man G-d chose as the High Priest before all Israel, and to represent that the legitimate priesthood would remain with Israel. Only the Kingship would be lost through their disobedience. Similarly, we need to accomplish our purpose in life which is to glorify G-d as did these great prophets. Our specific mission is made known to us at G-d’s chosen time, whether in our youth or in old age. We need to prepare our hearts and minds to take advantage of the opportunities as they are presented. Like Jeremiah, G-d is with us to rescue us (Jer.1:19).
B’rit Chadasha Hebrews 11: 23-26 (11: 1)
Trusting is being confident of what we hope for, convinced about things we do not see. 2. It was for this that Scripture attested the merit of the people of old.) Trusting or “faith,” Greek pistis.
Being confident, Greek upostasis (literally, “that which stands under”), what gives present reality to what we hope for. In contrast to the rest of the chapter, which analyzes various “heroes of faith” chronicled in the Tanakh, this verse sets forth a basic function of trusting, namely, that by trusting we understand—or, as the 11th-century Christian theologian Anselm put it, Credo ut intelligam (“I believe in order to understand”). Those who refuse to take the tiny step necessary to trust in G-d cannot understand the most basic truths: the benevolent consequences of faith are not only emotional but affect the realm of the mind.
23 By trusting, the parents of Moshe hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw that he was a beautiful child, and they weren’t afraid of the king’s decree.
24 By trusting, Moshe, after he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. 25 He chose being mistreated along with G-d’s people rather than enjoying the passing pleasures of sin. 26 He had come to regard abuse suffered on behalf of the Messiah as greater riches than the treasures of Egypt, for he kept his eyes fixed on the reward.
The author devotes more space to Moshe than to any of the other heroes of faith except Avraham.
Verse 23 The parents of Moshe, Amram and Yoch‘eved (Exodus 6:20), hid him by placing him in a basket to float in the Nile, so that he wouldn’t be killed according to Pharaoh’s decree. In answer to their faith, Pharaoh’s daughter found him there and raised him as her own son, even employing the child’s own mother to nurse him (Exodus 2:1–10).
24–26 Moshe had every possible advantage Egypt could offer. Jewish tradition maintains that as the adopted child of Pharaoh’s daughter he may even have been in line for the throne. But he also had knowledge of G-d’s revelation and of his own identity as an Israelite, and chose being mistreated along with G-d’s people rather than enjoying the perquisites of his position, until finally (Exodus 2:11–15) he was forced to flee for his life.
26 He had come to regard abuse suffered on behalf of the Messiah …. Moshe did not know of Yahshua, nor is there evidence that he had specific knowledge of a coming Messiah, Savior or Son of G-d, although he did refer to a Star that would come out of Jacob (Numbers 24:17–19) and to a future prophet like himself (Deuteronomy 18:15, 18–19). But Yn 5:46 says that Moshe nevertheless wrote about Yahshua. One may fairly say that Moshe suffered on behalf of all G-d’s promises, both those known to him at the time and that G-d would make in the future; and, after the fact, it is clear that this implies his suffering abuse on behalf of the Messiah. Sha’ul, in many ways the Moshe of his day, suffered similarly
He kept his eyes fixed on the reward, which was “not seen” (v. 1).
Rabbi Tamah Davis-Hart