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[Dvar Torah] Shemot

In this week's Parsha we start to read a new book - the Book of Shemot in Exodus. We see how Moses grows up to become the prince of Egypt, since being rescued as a baby by Pharaoh’s daughter. We see him realize who he really is and where he comes from. He is, and knows he is, a member of an enslaved and suffering people: “Growing up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people.”

Throughout the book of Shemot Moses only ever intervenes three times - twice in Egypt, and once in Midian - to rescue victims of violence. We then see how Moses first communicates with G-d through a burning bush to lead his people to freedom. At first Moses is hesitant to take on this role but he knows what he must do.

A message of hope emerges when the Torah records the first exchange between G-d and Moses. The Jewish people have been enslaved in Egypt for too long, and G-d commands Moses to tell his people that he will be freeing them from their slavery. Moses responds to G-d with a question: "When I come to the people of Israel, and I say to them, 'The G-d of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is His name?' what shall I say to them?" Moses wanted to bring back that which once shone through the Jewish people but was dimmed over time, and so promises his people that the message was indeed from G-d.

Yet G-d responds elusively. Moses should convey to the Jewish slaves that G-d’s name is “I will be what I will be.” Eheye Asher Eheye - “אהיה אשר אהיה” - in Hebrew. Moses tells the Jewish people his plan, yet their enslavement becomes worse. Even though Moses tells them that this was G-d’s plan, from their perspective nothing changes for them. And yet we can see in retrospect that the situation was dramatically evolving.

G-d’s message to us in moments of misery: we can connect to the Divine with “I will be what I will be”—the power to be. When we realize that being is inseparable from becoming, we can free ourselves from our anxieties and self-defeating habits.

When we feel that there is no hope in our situation we must look forward and remember not to give up so fast: we need to be able to find hope within ourselves. We can take comfort in the realization that nothing in our world remains static. Not our present challenges. Nor who we are.

Each of us, our life, and our circumstances are an integral part of who we end up becoming. The present is only what we have brought from our past, and what we will use to forge into our immediate futures. There is no static “is.” There is only what we are—and most importantly, what we choose to become.

Shabbat Shalom! 

Neta, Grade 9