Parshat Shemot

This Shabbat’s weekly Torah portion Shemot, Exodus 1:1 – 6:1, begins the Book of Exodus. Pharaoh issues harsh decrees against the Israelites, beginning decades of Jewish suffering and slavery. Moses is born and raised in the Egyptian royal palace. After killing an Egyptian, Moses escapes to Midian and marries. G‑d appears to him in a burning bush and demands that he return to Egypt to redeem the Israelites. Moses returns to Egypt with the intention of freeing the Jewish people.

This week’s Haftara Prophets reading, Isaiah 27:6 – 28:13; 29:22 – 29:23, parallels the week’s Torah reading on many levels. One of the parallels is the message of redemption conveyed by Isaiah—“and you shall be gathered one by one, O children of Israel”—that is reminiscent of the message of redemption that G‑d spoke to Moses at the burning bush, a message that Moses then communicated to Pharaoh.

The haftorah vacillates between Isaiah’s prophecies concerning the future redemption, and his admonitions concerning the Jews’ drunken and G‑dless behavior. Isaiah starts on a positive note: “In the coming days, Jacob will take root, Israel will bud and blossom, filling the face of the earth . . .” He mentions G‑d’s mercy for His nation, and the measure-for-measure punishment He meted out upon the Egyptians who persecuted them. And regarding the future redemption: “You shall be gathered one by one, O children of Israel. And it will come to pass on that day that a great shofar will be sounded, and those lost in the land of Assyria and those exiled in the land of Egypt will come, and they will prostrate themselves before the L‑rd on the holy mount in Jerusalem.”

The prophet then proceeds to berate the drunkenness of the Ten Tribes, warning them of the punishment that awaits them. “With the feet they shall be trampled, the crown of the pride of the drunkards of Ephraim . . .”

The haftorah ends on a positive note: “Now Jacob will no longer be ashamed, and now his face will not pale. For when he sees his children, the work of My hands, in his midst, who shall sanctify My name . . . and the G‑d of Israel they will revere.”

Happy studying!