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ואלה שמות בני ישראל הבאים מצרימה..

And these are the names of the Children of Israel, who were coming to Egypt..

This past week we read Parshas Sh'mos, the beginning of Sefer Sh'mos - the Book of Names, that the Ramban calls "Sefer Galus V'geula" - the book of exile and redemption, or "Exodus".

Names certainly play a big role in Judaism, and especially in the Torah, which so often describes the reason behind a given name.

Interestingly, even somewhat ironically, after listing the names of Ya'akov and his twelve sons (and not all the 70 souls who came down to Egypt as are listed in P' Va-yigash), the Torah seems to almost go out of its way not to name names.

  • שפרה and פועה, the midwives who "feared God", are pseudonyms; Rashi identifies them as Yocheved and Miriam, the mother and sister of Moshe, respectively.

  • וילך איש מבית לוי ויקח את בת לוי Va-yeilech ish mi-beis Levi ve-lakach es bas Levi - "And a man went from the house of Levi and he took a daughter of Levi"; this refers to Amram and Yocheved, Moshe's father and mother, who are not identified until much later. Why the non-introduction?

The Torah seems to want us to focus on the tribes. Many commentators note that the letter Vav in ve-eilu Sh'mos is a connector, connecting this Parsha and this Sefer to the previous one and the forefathers that are the focus of Sefer B'reishis.

The Midrash says, the Children of Israel merited to be redeemed because of four things: they didn't change their (Jewish) names; they didn't change their language; they didn't speak lashon hara; and they guarded themselves from Arayos (illicit relationships).

The Meshech Chochma has a beautiful explanation of this Midrash, which can perhaps help us better understand the Torah's apparent highlighting of the names of the tribes and the connection to the forefathers.

The Talmud Yerushalmi says that the four cups of wine we drink at the Seder correspond with the four "languages of redemption" that appear at the beginning of this coming week's Parsha:
אני ה׳ והוצאתי אתכם מתחת סבלות מצרים והצלתי אתכם מעבדתם וגאלתי אתכם בזרוע נטויה ובשפטים גדולים. ולקחתי אתכם לי לעם ..

I am Hashem; and I will take you out from under the burdens of Egypt, and I will save you from their slavery, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. And I will take you to Me for a people ..

והוצאתי ve-hotzeisi - refers to the verse (Devarim 4:34) that says la-kachas goy mi-kerev goy; what the Yalkut describes as "like a person who extracts a newborn from the womb of its mother". Although the Bnei Yisrael were, in many ways, immersed in the culture of Egypt, the level of Kedusha (holiness, or separateness) that comes from guarding from Arayos was necessary for this extraction to happen. The cup of Kiddush corresponds to this idea.

והצלתי ve-hitzalti - is only possible when the Jews didn't have internal strife. God would save them from an external enemy, but only when there was no internal enmity , which would be epitomized by Jews turning on each other and turning each other in. R' Meir Simcha says that this is the cup that we drink over Birchat Ha-mazon, which represents satisfaction with what one has. [Based on the Gemara in that says that although Birchas ha-mazon is based on the verse ve-achalta ve-savata, we say it even after eating only an egg of olive's volume.] When one is satisfied with what he has, he won't be jealous of his freind, and it is jealosy that leads to strife.

וגאלתי - ve-ga'alti - and I redeemed. One who has a slave mentality is not capable of being fully redeemed. The fact that the Jews "did not change their names" enabled them to keep in mind that they were not really slaves. They kept alive their connection to the earlier generations - specifically, their fathers (the tribes) who came down to Egypt, whose names themselves promised redemption. This idea is represented by the second cup, which is said over the first half of Hallel, which describes past events.

ולקחתי - ve-lakachti - because they did not change their language. Meshech Chochma explains that this refers to their constant hope and expectation of redemption. By keeping the language alive - and specifically, the language of "Pakod Yipakeid" (I will surely redeem) that Yoseif had used in his final words of promise to the people (and that Hashem told Moshe to say to the Elders) - they never lost hope. This is symbolized by the fourth cup, that comes with the end of the Hallel, which describes events that will happen in the future redemption.

There are various hints in Chazal that the coming final redemption will mirror the Exodus from Egypt in many ways. I think we can take a lesson from the meritous behavior of that generation to help us pave the way for our own redemption. We have previously mentioned the need to focus on some of these very things: holiness, by staying away from immorality, strengthening our Emuna and our Achdus. And we would do well to remember where we come from: our forefathers, in whose merit we will soon see the fulfillment of the fifth "language of ge'ula":

והבאתי אתכם אל הארץ אשר נשאתי את ידי לתת אתה לאברהם ליצחק וליעקב

ve-he'veisi eschem el ha-Aretz asher nasasi es yadi laseis osah l'Avraham l'Yizchak u-l'Ya'akov

And I will bring you to the land about which I raised My hand to give it to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Posted by joem on Jan 16, 2007 10:00 pm

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