Shemot (Exodus 1:1-6:1)

In this week’s portion, we briskly cover a couple of hundred years from the relocation of Jacob and his family in Egypt to just before the first plague.  In rapid succession: the Hebrews are enslaved, midwives foil a plot to murder Hebrew baby boys, Pharaoh orders the baby boys drowned, baby Moses is saved, and he is brought up by Pharaoh’s daughter as a prince.  He flees to Midian after killing an abusive Egyptian taskmaster, waters the flocks for Jethro’s seven daughters at a well, marries one (Zipporah), and becomes a shepherd for many years.  Moses then sees a bush that burns without being consumed and hears a message from the Lord, that he has been chosen to lead the Hebrews out of Egypt and slavery.  Unlike ambitious would-be managers in corporate America, Moses is reluctant leader and tries to get out of it (who am I to do this, who can I say sent me, they won’t believe me, I can’t speak well, please don’t make me).  But the Lord schools him in Signs & Wonders (biblical equivalent of corporate PowerPoint presentations) and sends Aaron out to him.  The elders believe the brothers, but Pharaoh refuses to let the Hebrews go and instead increases their workload (bricks without being given straw).  5 chapters in 212 words.  For a really condensed version of the rest of the Exodus story, only 9 verses, see 3:18-23 and 4:21-23; for someone learning the story for the first time, those verses are worthy of a “spoiler alert!”
Two things that particularly struck me this year:
1.   “When they [the elders] heard that the Lord had taken note of the Israelites and that He had seen their plight, they bowed low in homage.” (4:31)  The word for “had taken note of,” pakad, is the same that is used to describe how the Lord took note of Sarah before announcing she’s bear a child, not merely remembered but was mindful of.  I could almost feel the relief of the elders when they accepted the message of Moses and Aaron.

2.  The role of women, especially in light of the ongoing ruckus in Israel.  I wrote last year  ( ) ,
             “First, note the large number of active women in this portion. The subterfuge of several partially blocks the will of Pharaoh:  The midwives Shifrah and Puah, the mother and sister of Moses (Yocheved and Miriam, not named here – also, some equate Shifrah and Puah with Yocheved and Miriam), and the daughter of Pharaoh (also unnamed).  Indeed, in the Midrash, Miriam is partly responsible for the birth of Moses (her parents separated because of Pharaoh’s decree and Miriam scolded them into remarrying).  Much later, in the desert, Zipporah saves Moses’s life by circumcising their son (strange textual interlude, 4:24-26).  The upcoming exodus is even described in terms of how the women will take clothing and gold and silver from the Egyptians (3:22). ”  ( I have heard from more than one rabbi over the years how these stories prove how non-antifeminist the Torah is.)  

             But events in Israel this year have me especially concerned regarding the status of women there.  Things have gone far beyond the occasional tense altercations between the haredim (Jewish zealots with extreme views concerning religious observance and behavior) and other Jews.  You have probably heard about sex segregation on some public bus lines. You may have heard of the haredi man who was defended for spitting on an 8-year-old girl because she didn’t meet his definition of modest dress (she had sleeves and a below-the-knee skirt, but her collarbone showed and she wore sandals)  and the riots that followed .  Or of the  fashion among  a few extreme haredi women to wear a burka.   I was reassured to read that, not only non-haredim are (finally) speaking out publicly against such mishigas, but haredim are too, both haredi rabbis  and haredi women themselves – wrote one such, an attorney, “Zealous fanatics need to be aware that their practices violate Halacha, secular law and the Constitution.”   Then I learned of a large (~1000-1500) annual conference by the Puah Institute , a  government-supported organization that helps couples having fertility problems.  The conference, called “Advances in Gynecology and Halacha” was to include presentations by 25 experts, all male, on religion and medicine and on woman’s fertility and sexual health. Women can attend, seated separately, and ask questions afterwards  but no women can be speakers, in order that rabbis who  do not attend conferences where women speak can attend.  The Israel Medical Association reacted by banning participation by its members.  I hope you see the irony:  The conference and its sponsoring institute are named after a midwife who played a significant role in thwarting the dangerous plot of those in power.

Shabbat shalom,

‘Google Exodus’ tells the Passover tale via tweets, Facebook

By Sue Fishkoff · April 12, 2011  [abridged]

SAN FRANCISCO (JTA) — What would the Exodus have looked like online?

That’s the premise behind “Google Exodus,” a two-minute video that tells the Passover story using social media.

In the video, which has gone viral with more than 1 million page views since being uploaded March 31 onto YouTube, God Skypes Moses, Moses finds Pharoah’s palace using Google maps, and he and Pharaoh engage in a heated e-mail exchange about letting the Jewish people go. Moses orders live frogs and other plagues on, and he tweets his success to the Israelites via Twitter.

“We view this film as a natural extension of what we do, which is to reach out to Jews of every background using modern tools,” said Nechemia Coopersmith, the Jerusalem-based chief editor of, part of the three-man team that produced the video. is the website of Aish HaTorah, a Jerusalem-based Jewish educational and outreach organization with branches around the world.

The video opens with a CNN news alert: “Pharoah Enslaves Jews.” As Pharaoh and Moses trade messages via gmail and iPhones — Moses’ “Let my people go!” is met with Pharaoh’s “No way!” — the lead-up to the plagues begins.

“My staff just turned into a snake! Cool,” writes Moses, updating his status on Facebook. Later, a YouTube video shows a plague of locusts descending on a field.

When the Jews leave Egypt and reach the Red Sea, viewers get up close and personal as the waves part when Google maps zooms in for a “street view.” The scene is of Charlton Heston in “The Ten Commandments.”

Spoilers   by IGP

See if you can identify the book and/or movie for which the statements below are spoilers.  I have one in mind for each, but there are likely others.

1.  He loves her and the house burns down

2.  Five young people die.

3.  She lives.   He drowns.

4.  They hang her in the end.

5.  He swoops in like his cinematic alter ego, saving the day and himself.

6.  She and her husband survive her menopause and she brings her new friend home.

7.  She is unfairly fired, but this actually frees her to live her own life.

8.  He wins the tournament (well, actually ties) but at a terrible cost.

9.  He not such a jerk after all, and they live happily ever after.

10. He nobly gives up the girl but could be at the start of a beautiful friendship.

Q: How many midwives does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Two. One to sit there and wait for the old bulb to fall out of the socket naturally with no intervention, and one to give emotional support.


You’ve Been in Corporate America Too Long When… [selected]

1.        You ask the waiter what the restaurant’s core competencies are.

2.        You decide to re-organize your family into a “team-based organization.”

3.        You can spell “paradigm.”

4.        You actually know what a paradigm is.

5.        You understand your airline’s fare structure.

6.        You write executive summaries on your love letters.

7.        You celebrate your wedding anniversary by conducting a performance review.

8.        You believe you never have any problems in your life, just “issues” and “improvement opportunities.”

9.        You can explain to somebody the difference between “re-engineering”, “down-sizing”, “right-sizing”, and “firing people’s a**es.”

10.        You actually believe your explanation in number 9.

11.        You refer to your significant other as “my Co-CEO.”

12.        You start to feel sorry for Dilbert’s boss.

13.        At your last family reunion, you wanted to have an emergency meeting about their brand equity.

14.        Your “deliverable” for Sunday evening is clean laundry and paid bills.

15.        You use the term “value-added” without falling down laughing.

16.        You give constructive feedback to your dog.


Dilbert on PowerPoint Presentations








Parshas Shemos  – On One Foot

Moshe: Ssso this burning bush ssstarts talking to me and asssks me to take off my shoess….and then it shows me these sssigns and then –
Aaron: Bottom line it for me
Moshe: I’m the new leader of the Jewissh People.
Aaron: With that lisp? Yeh, and I’m a priest

Moshe does some nifty tricks with staff.


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