Shemot (1:1 – 6:1)

It’s only January 4, and I’ve already had enough of snow, ice, wind, daily highs below 20⁰F, slippery roads, and car mishaps (I’m fine, the car isn’t, but it’s drivable).  To think that, at this time 2 years ago, I was concerned that flowers were blooming too soon, it was that warm.  Below, I’ve cobbled together comments from past TPH’s, with an anecdote about my mother, about another cold winter day, at the end.

The book of Exodus is known in Hebrew as Shemot, (“names”), as is the week’s portion, because it starts with the names of Jacob and his sons who went down to Egypt.  A new pharaoh enslaves the new generation of Israelites and schemes to weaken them by killing their newborn sons, first by trying fruitlessly to enlist the aid of the midwives, Shifrah and Puah. 

Are these midwives Hebrew or Egyptian?  According to the Talmud and several medieval commentators, they are not only Hebrew women, but the mother and sister of Moses.  A different tradition is that the midwives were Egyptians, as they are described as having “feared God” (1:17), a phrase used to describe non-Hebrews who have come to believe in the Hebrews’ God.   And it seems more logical for Pharaoh to expect Egyptian women to carry out his nefarious order. 

After the failure of his scheme, Pharaoh simply decrees that newborn Hebrew boys are to be thrown in the Nile.  One such newborn, placed in a pitch-smeared basket in the bulrushes next to the Nile, is adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter, who names him Moses.  Thanks to his sister Miriam’s intervention, he is nursed by his own mother, Yocheved.

Fast forward:   Moses, now an adult, has both a keen sense of justice and a temper, which together lead him to kill an abusive Egyptian taskmaster.  Fearing for his life, Moses flees to Midian, rescues the 7 daughters of Jethro (at a well, of course), marries one of them (Zipporah), and lives quietly as a shepherd until he’s 80.  Then he is shown a bush that burns without being consumed and has his first encounter with the Lord, who tells him that he is to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. 

Moses is dragged into this new position kicking and screaming, finally capitulating when he runs out of excuses and is told Aaron will help with the public speaking.  The Lord outlines the entire plan (3:16-22) and teaches Moses a few nifty signs and wonders (Effective Presentations 101).  At first, all goes well.  The people are convinced, and Moses and Aaron meet with Pharaoh to ask him to let the Israelites go, for 3 days of worship in the desert.  But then, Pharaoh snidely refuses, saying he doesn’t recognize this god and increases the slaves’ workload by making them gather their own straw for brick making.  The slaves lose faith and blame Moses, not for the last time. Moses, perplexed, asks the Lord “What gives?” The Lord replies that this was just a warm-up act, with the main show still to come.

This portion is filled with strong women who get things done.  In addition to those above, Zipporah saves Moses’ life by circumcising their son on the way to Egypt (strange little episode, 4:24-26).  They cared enough to fight back, and they came up with and implemented practical solutions.  I am fortunate to come from a long line of similarly strong women, not the least my mother Lillian.

Lillian had a close friend from Normal School (teacher training), whom we called “Aunt” Rosanna.  Rosanna’s sister Margaret recently learned that Lillian had passed away and related her fondest recollection of our mother.  In February, 1954, Margaret’s husband died.  She had a small daughter and was 4 months pregnant.  It was extremely cold, and there was snow on the ground.  Everyone expressing sympathy was concerned about the pregnancy, but Lillian thought about what Margaret needed immediately.  A few days before the burial, she asked Margaret if she had a fur coat.  She didn’t.  So Lillian took public transportation to the opposite end of the city (Southwest Philly to Tioga) and brought Margaret a fur coat and a fur hat.  That’s the type of practical, effective action initiated by the women in this week’s Torah portion.  It’s the same mindset, whether for rescuing Hebrew babies or protecting a young widow from the cold at her husband’s burial.”

Shabbat shalom,


Don’t worry; Moses was a basket case, too

In case you needed a reminder today that we are all works in progress, a Salvation Army church on our (long, hot, tiring) drive home from the cabin gave me a laugh-out-loud moment with this one:

“Someone always shows up to pull us out of the bulrushes, don’t they?”

Peace and deep breaths to you and yours.


tph toasting marshmallow

———————– (from 2004 – dead link)

Borrow Some Straw?

A first grader was sitting in class as the teacher was reading the story of the Three Little Pigs. She came to the part of the story where the first pig was trying to acquire building materials for his home.

She said “…And so the pig went up to the man with a wheelbarrow full of straw and said ‘Pardon me sir, but might I have some, of that straw to build my house with?’

Then the teacher asked the class, “And what do you think that man said?” and my friend’s son raised his hand and said “I know! I know!, he said….. ‘Yikes! A talking pig!'”

The teacher was unable to teach for the next 10 minutes.


Matryoshka Obstetrics

tph matryoshka obstetrics


Rebellion Quotes

I think every girl has a little bit of rebellion inside. It’s always fun to not follow every trend and not be the perfect good girl. It’s edgy to be a little rebellious. Behati Prinsloo

If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice, or representation. Abigail Adams

Poetry is the lifeblood of rebellion, revolution, and the raising of consciousness. Alice Walker

The genius of any slave system is found in the dynamics which isolate slaves from each other, obscure the reality of a common condition, and make united rebellion against the oppressor inconceivable. Andrea Dworkin

An oligarchy of race, where the Saxon rules the African, might be endured; but this oligarchy of sex which makes father, brothers, husband, sons, the oligarchs over the mother and sisters, the wife and daughters of every household… carries discord and rebellion into every home of the nation. Susan B. Anthony

There is something that Governments care for far more than human life, and that is the security of property, and so it is through property that we shall strike the enemy. Be militant each in your own way. I incite this meeting to rebellion. Emmeline Pankhurst

tph powerpoint-compiler

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1 Response to Shemot (1:1 – 6:1)

  1. Voice of Dil says:

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