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Summary of Parshat  "Shmot"

by the editors    
of Torah from Dixie    

Parshat Shmot (Exodus 1:1-6:1) begins by describing the gradually increasing enslavement of the Jewish people in Egypt. It is Pharaoh's plan that the backbreaking servitude will stunt their rapid physical growth. Pharaoh decrees that every Jewish newborn male child should be killed, but the righteous Jewish midwives risk their own lives and refuse to comply. Moses is born, and when his mother is unable to keep him hidden from the Egyptian authorities any longer, she places him in a basket and sends him down the Nile River. He is found by Pharaoh's daughter and raised in the royal palace. Already a grown man, Moses kills an Egyptian who he witnessed beating a Jew, and when the word gets out, Moses is forced to flee to the land of Midian. There he marries Tziporah, the daughter of Yitro, and they have two sons.

While Moses is shepherding his father-in-law's flock, Hashem appears to him in the miraculous burning bush and instructs him to serve as His agent in redeeming the Jewish people from Egypt. Moses is initially reluctant to take on the responsibility, insisting that he is unworthy of the position and incapable of speaking to Pharaoh. When Moses doubts that the Jewish people will believe that he was sent by G-d, Hashem shows him three miracles to perform before the people which will demonstrate his Divine appointment. The miracles also include a stern message to Moses, reprimanding him for doubting the people's faith and for seemingly contradicting Hashem. Finally, after an extended discussion, Moses acquiesces to Hashem's command and journeys to Egypt. Along the way, he meets up with his brother Aaron whom Hashem had sent to assist him. After first speaking with the Jewish people, Moses and Aaron encounter Pharaoh, who not only refuses to grant their request for a three-day respite to worship Hashem, but even increases the slaves' heavy workload. The portion concludes with the people complaining to Moses and Aaron for worsening their plight, and Hashem's promise to Moses that He would indeed free the slaves from Egypt.

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