Shemot (Exodus 1:1-6:1)

I’ve been feeling somewhat out of sorts – sad and restless.  Maybe it’s the incessantly grey skies and wet chill.  I worry what will happen to the plants that have started to bud and bloom, believing it to be March.  Maybe it’s because today is the last day of 2015.  It’s been a pretty good year for me, but I don’t always handle endings very well.  If what’s ending is good, I’m often sad that it’s ending; if it’s a source of pain, I’m relieved but still remember the pain.  Maybe a desire to avoid endings is why I can stay with something long after I should.    And I always feel wistful when we finish reading the book of Genesis because I enjoy the number and variety of stories and characters, and there never seems to be enough time for them.  But now I see some sunlight and a bit of blue breaking through the clouds.  And while one book has ended, this week, we start a new one, Exodus. How’s that for a segue?

The Torah portion is called Shemot (names), which is also the name of the book of Exodus in Hebrew.  It starts with a recap of the names of Jacob and his sons who went down to Egypt.  There’s a new Pharaoh, who is alarmed at how much the family has expanded.  Even when enslaved, they still multiply appallingly.  Pharaoh orders the midwives Shifrah and Puah to kill all the Hebrew baby boys as they deliver them.  The midwives demur, claiming the Hebrew women give birth so quickly they can’t get there in time, and they get away with this.  Rabbinic tradition says Shifrah and Puah are really Jocheved and Miriam, who will be the mother and sister of Moses; but I prefer to think of them as different people, so as to add to all the women who act defiantly in this portion.

Pharaoh stops trying to be clever and simply orders that all newborn Hebrew males are to be drowned in the Nile.  Jocheved and Amram have their third child (the rabbis also say Miriam goaded them into having another child), boy.  At 3 months, the boy’s life is saved by a remarkable female collusion.  Jocheved leaves him at the edge of the Nile in a waterproof basket, Miriam watches from afar, and who should discover the baby but Pharaoh’s daughter!  Even though, or maybe because, she knows he’s a Hebrew, she adopts the child as her own and, thanks to Miriam, allows Jocheved to be his wet nurse.

Moses grows up as a royal prince.  He has a temper and a clear sense of justice, both of which get him into trouble.  Enraged when he sees an Egyptian taskmaster beating a Hebrew slave, he kills the Egyptian and has to flee.  At a well in Midian (there’s always a well), he rescues 7 sisters from bullies and waters their sheep.  Their father Reuel (aka Jethro) invites Moses in and randomly gives him one of the 7, Zipporah, as wife.  And Moses settles down for several decades as a shepherd in Midian.

Moses is 80 when he sees the bush that burns without burning up and hears the voice of the Lord, appointing him to lead the Hebrews out of Egypt.  Moses, now a modest and humble man, wants no part of this and comes up with several reasons he is unfit for the job.  [As a literary parallel, the Sephardim read Jeremiah 1:1-2:3 as the haftarah, about Jeremiah’s similar reluctance to be a prophet.  Ashkenazim read Isaiah 27:6-28:13, 29:22-23.] The Lord answers his objections patiently at first, even teaching him how to give effective presentations (signs and wonders) to wow the Hebrews and the Egyptians, but then gets angry, says his brother Aaron can do the talking and Aaron’s on his way, and that’s that.  [In fact, Moses leaves so quickly he apparently neglects to circumcise his younger son, so Zipporah must.  See 4:24-26.]

In Egypt, all seems to go well.  The Hebrews are impressed and hopeful.  Moses and Aaron have an audience with Pharaoh, asking that the Hebrews be allowed to go into the wilderness for 3 days to sacrifice to their God.  Pharaoh snidely says that he doesn’t know this god, they are not getting a 3-day holiday, and the people must have too light a workload if they are dreaming about such nonsense.  And the slaves will now have to gather their own straw for making bricks.

Naturally, the people are angry at Moses and Aaron.  Moses protests to the Lord, “Didn’t You tell me that would work?  Now what?”  And the Lord replies, “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”

Shabbat shalom and Happy New Year,


Hilarious ‘Men in Labor’ Video Is a Must-See (WATCH!)

By: Kylie McConville

…For Mother’s Day, two men set out to confirm what all women know is true: men don’t understand what a contraction feels like. So, thanks to the help of a very friendly doctor and some high-tech contraction-simulating devices, these guys were able to feel what women in labor experience — from start to finish. [Only for an hour, though.  And the video shows only a few minutes.  I think all ob-gyns should require this experience for fathers-to-be! IGP] 


Orca Calf Shows Signs Of Whale Midwifery

Updated January 3, 201511:59 AM ET


There’s a new face – well, fin – in the waters around Seattle. The little black swoosh cutting through the waves is the unmistakable sign of an orca. And the birth of a baby orca whale excited researchers who’ve documented the mammal’s declining population in that corner of the Pacific. But scratch marks on its dorsal fin puzzled longtime whale watcher Ken Balcomb. And when he noticed the youngest whale was swimming with a female who was too old to be the calf’s mother, he came to a striking hypothesis – a midwife might have assisted the birth.

Balcomb thinks the baby’s companion is actually its grandmother. And after using her teeth help pull the calf out, she’s doing something even those of us without fins can understand – giving a new mom some well-deserved rest.

Copyright © 2015 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.


tph teenage moses









by Roger Ebert  May 26, 1968   |

During an interview with Charlton Heston, the reporter promised to draw the line at Moses. A look of pain crossed Heston’s face:

“Not Moses,” he said. “Please, not Moses. Since I played Moses, I’ve heard every Moses joke ever conceived by the mind of man.”

“I’ve got a new one,” said Fritz Plous, a free lance writer and rabbit skin salesman. “It’s a joke David Steinberg did at Second City.”

“Let’s have it,” said Heston.

“Well,” said Plous, “God told Moses, take off your shoes, Moses, and approach the burning bush. And Moses did, and burnt his feet. And God said Ha! Third one today!”

Heston laughed heartily. “A new one,” he said. “I wouldn’t have believed it.”


tph puppets












And here are some excerpts from an oldie-but-goodie, which I sent out 16 years ago and probably more than once since.

Exodus of the 3 Stooges

Chapter 1.  Israel Multiplies. Moses born; he befriends two Hebrews
11 Now these are the names of the Hebrews whom Moses did befriend
12 Curly, son of Asher and Prancer, brother of Punch and Judah, first cousin to E. Gad, and distant descendant of Ramses of Los Angeles.
13 Larry, son of Hirah and Hooray, Pokus, and cousin of Esau, Ecame, and Econquered.
14 And both had come from the districts of Midian, Midian-rare, and Midian-well.

Chapter 2  The Boining Bush

1 Now Moses, Larry, and Curly set up a business wherein they sold their services for pasturing other Hebrew’s flocks.
2 And one day when they were shearing sheep, when Curly by accident sheared off some of Larry’s hair, Larry grew angry, and lunged for him, but Moses bade them stop, and smote them both on the head.
3 And Moses sat down, but upon the shears that Curly had left beneath him, and Moses screamed, and he said, “Why, I’ll break your heads!” And he chased them into the field.
4 And there the angel of the Lord appeared to them in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush.
5 And Curly said, “Ooh, look! A boining bush! Nyuk-nyuk!”
6 And Moses said, “Quiet, you lame- brain!” and smote him on the head.
7 And then them became frightened, and turned to run, and the Lord saw, and he called to them from the midst of the bush, saying, “Hey, Moses! Hey Larry! Hey, Curly!”
8 And they said, “Nyah-ah-ah-ah!”
9 And the Lord said, “Do not come near here; remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you stand is holy ground.”
10 And Larry said, “I’ll say it is! And look at all them rocks, too!”
11 And Curly laughed, and Moses smote them on the head.
12 And the Lord said, “I have seen the oppression of my people by the Egyptians. Therefore, to bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt, I will send … you!”
13 And they were unsure as to who “you” was.
14 And Moses looked at Larry, and Larry looked at Curly, and Curly – who saw he had no one to look at – trembled and clicked his teeth loudly.
15 And Moses said, “Which `you’ do You mean?”
16 And the Lord said, “You!”
17 And Moses said, “I?”
18 And Larry said, “Aye!”
19 And Curly said, “Aye-aye!” and the three Hebrews began saluting each other vigorously.
20 And the Lord said, “Cut it out!” and they did, and He continued, “Now go and gather the elders of Israel together, and say to them, `The Lord has appeared to us, saying He will bring you out of Egypt and into the land of Canaan – a land overflowing with sweets!'”
21 And Curly said, “Ooh! A candy Canaan! Nyuk-nyuk-nyuk!” And Moses smote him in the stomach, and Curly bent over and Moses smote him on the head.


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1 Response to Shemot (Exodus 1:1-6:1)

  1. Pingback: Shemot (1:1 – 6:1) | Torah Portion Humor Weekly

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