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Shemot – A thought for the week by Mike Lewis

Nachmanides comments that the book of Bereishit is the story of families whilst Shemot is the story of a nation. After 400 years and in the land of Goshen; we were without the Torah, but we still remained an identifiable people.


Did the Jews living in Goshen still remember the Covenant? The women remembered. Miriam and the midwives Shifrah and Puah knew who they were.


Moses had been brought up in the family of the Pharaoh He thinks that he is unobserved when he kills the Egyptian beating someone he recognised as a fellow Jew. He then flees when he realises that he had been seen. What is remarkable is that, even after meeting with God at the burning bush, it needs his wife Zipporah, daughter of a Midianite priest, to circumcise him; she understands the covenant.


Judaism is unique in that it is a family-based religion. You are born Jewish. If you join by conversion you are expected to become family and become implicated in the life of us all. We are bound together by this even in the face of differences in practice and belief.


At the burning bush, Moses asks:

What shall I tell the people when they ask who you are?

And God responds with the enigmatic response:

אֶֽהְיֶ֖ה אֲשֶׁ֣ר אֶֽהְיֶ֑ה
Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh
I will be what I will be

Names are important. There is a tradition that each of us has three names.  We are born with one name, we are called by different names and eventually we discover who we really have become. It is the process of Tikkun Olam; to repair the world in partnership with God.

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