Parashat Sh’mot

Friday, December 24, 2021/20 Tevet, 5782
Parashat Sh’mot Exodus 1:1−6:1

Dear Friends,

And just like that, more than 400 years have passed from the end of the Genesis, Joseph stories, and a new Pharaoh is ruling over Egypt, who did not know the name of Joseph. We find ourselves beginning the book of Shemot and the narrative of Moses, which will take the next four books of Torah to tell. In fact, this one Parashah (weekly reading) spans more time than the rest of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy combined. Roughly 80 years of Moses’ life are narrated during these first chapters, while his best work is yet to come.

Indeed, during this week’s Parashah, Moses is born, sent up the river, to protect him from Pharaoh’s edict to throw all newborn, male, Hebrew babies into the Nile, he grows up in Pharaoh’s household, becomes infuriated at the treatment of the Hebrew slaves, kills a taskmaster, runs away to Midian, where he marries the daughter of the Priest of Midian, Tzipporah, becomes a successful shepherd, and speaks to a burning bush in middle of the desert. Yes, that’s right, a bush that is burning, but not consumed, from which God’s voice is heard by Moses.

My favorite custom, at this time of the year, is to watch the epic animated film, Prince of Egypt. This iconic midrashic film, along with its amazing music, depicts the story of Moses, through the lenses of Midrash, Torah, and even Koran, as the filmmakers felt it was crucial to depict all of the interpretations of this story for all faiths. In fact, one of my favorite animated moments is not even from Jewish writings, it comes from the Koran’s retelling of the Burning Bush story. In the Koran, it not only says that the bush was burning and not consumed, but its beautiful imagery says that the bush was blooming. If you watch the film closely, you will notice the flowers blooming on the burning bush, adding another layer of beauty to this already entrancing story.

This always reminds me of how important it is to see the world through others’ eyes. Throughout my life, I was always missing this impressive interpretation, which brings to light such majesty and aesthetics to this story. What a different world this would be, if we all could just look through our neighbor’s eyes. I feel that this time of year is always a reminder to see the best in each other. Experiencing the beauty of each other’s faiths and celebrations is such an important part of this season, in my humble opinion. When we look at and listen to the burning bushes in our lives, may we see and hear how others experience it, and learn the lessons that are meant for all of us. Then, we will all be prepared to walk to freedom, together.

Shabbat Shalom,
Cantor Ilan Davidson