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Parshas Shemos 5763

Rabbi Avraham Brandwein of Jerusalem
(in translation)


The Book Of Shemos (Exodus) – The Book Of The Deliverance (Sefer HaGeula)

This Shabbos, we begin the second Book of the five Books of the Torah, which is also called the Book of Deliverance (Sefer Hageulah), as stated by Nachmanides (the Ramban, a Rabbi and Kabbalist in the 1200’s), in the end of the Book (of Exodus), on the Portion of Pekudei,

In this (week’s) Torah portion, it tells us about the harsh decrees of Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, and how the Egyptians enslaved the Children Of Israel with backbreaking labor.

The question is: why is this book called the Book of Deliverance, if the beginning of the book is specifically the story of harsh enslavement, as it is also with the upcoming portions of Vaeira and Bo?

The idea is (as follows): There is an important basic rule of behavior in all of the created beings. From our vantage point, all of our (mental) awareness and emotional responses to (having our pleasures) filled with goodness and pleasure, comes to us, only if we previously (felt) a lack (of pleasure) and a (strong) desire (to obtain it). Only then is there a receptive vessel for the (pleasure) filling.

This is not the case, if there is no vessel, which (we have defined as) the lack (of pleasure) and the longing (for it), since there would be no way to receive the (pleasure) filling.

This innate behavior of all created beings was implanted (in them) in the Act of Creation. It says there (in Genesis), “And it was evening and it was morning, (this made) one day.” (This same phrase is used on all six days (of Creation). This means that a complete day is (only when there is) a composite (of evening and morning). First there is evening, which symbolizes darkness, a lack of knowing, and a longing, but most of all, a lack. The morning symbolizes the complete light, satisfaction, and fulfillment. Only the union of evening (followed by) morning makes a complete day.

This (prerequisite), of beginning with a lack and a longing, was implanted in all of creation, both in general and in particular. (For example), when a person studies, they first ask a question, and afterwards receive an answer. Without the question, there would be no vessel for the answer. Therefore, a person is first created with self-centered desires (vessels to receive), (so that) when they mature they can acquire altruistic desires.

Therefore, the concept of freedom cannot be understood, valued or maintained, if it is not preceded by slavery and subjugation. Moreover, it is impossible to separate the subjugation from the deliverance, (just as it is) impossible to separate a question from its answer.

This central (rule) is what is written by King Solomon in Ecclesiastes, “The excellence of the light is (only seen) from the darkness.” This means to say, that we can only value the great level of light, when we first have (a contrast with its complete opposite) darkness. Only then we can value the light.

Torah Portion Of Shemos

This Torah Portion is called Shemos (Names), because in this portion, the Torah begins to enumerate the names of the Children of Israel, who went down to Egypt. Moreover, we find more names mentioned in this Torah portion: the names of the midwives, Shifrah and Puah, the naming of Moses (Moshe) by the daughter of Pharaoh. Furthermore, Moses, our Teacher, asks the Holy One Blessed Be He (G-d), what is His Name, so that he (Moses) would be able to speak to the Children of Israel in His Name.

The Midrash, (a 2000-year-old Torah commentary), equates the five Books of the Torah to (the five times the word Or (Light) is mentioned in) the verse, in the Act of Creation, (in Genesis), “And Elokim (the Lord) said, {1.} ‘Let there be light,’ {2.} and there was light. {3} And Elokim (the Lord) saw that the light was good, {4} and Elokim (the Lord) separated between the light and between the darkness. {5} And Elokim (the Lord) called the light “day”, …” The five times, (the word) “light” (is mentioned), corresponds to each Book, from the five books (of the Torah). According to this, the book of Shemos (Names, Exodus) corresponds to the words (in Genesis), {2} “And there was light.”

First, we must explain the concept of a “name”. A person’s (life) is a composite of two things, i.e. the senses, (and what is being sensed). (The senses) are the mediums through which (the person) can receive, get pleasure, distinguish, investigate, and emotionally respond to things. All recognition by the individual, together with the actual matter (being sensed), which is outside of the person, comes by way of the senses. For example, if two white substances are brought in front of a person at a table, and they taste one and consider it salty, and the second as sweet, this is because there was a combination (a blending) of the material with the (individual’s) sense of taste. Only then, each (substance) is given a name (a designation), according to the perception (of the taster). This means that the perception can only be designated by the perceiver.

The Book of Genesis primarily relates to the action of G-d, in the Act of Creation. And so too, it is called the book of the Forefathers (Sefer HaAvos), in which there is the history of the Forefathers of the Nation. The Book of Exodus (Shemos, Names) already directly relates to the actions of the children, (the descendants) themselves, their subjugation, acceptance of the Yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven, while standing at Mount Sinai, and the making of the Tabernacle, within which was the indwelling of the Shechinah (the indwelling presence of G-d). Therefore, the Book of Genesis corresponds to (the words quoted above from Genesis), {1} “And Elokim (the Lord) said, ‘Let there be light.”

The action of G-d, May He be blessed, of “Let there be light”, began to shine from His power, after the Divine command (for the light to shine), (only) by way of the name (and designation) “Light”. Therefore, each name is only applicable if there are two, (a Creator and the created, or a perceiver and a perception). This is actually the reason for the restriction (Tzimtzum) (in the creation of the world). The Holy One Blessed Be He limited the Light, in order for the created beings to be able to recognize, by themselves, the actions of G-d, and (thereby be able to attribute and) give G-d the names (and titles) of “The Good One,” “The One who does good to others,” “The Compassionate One,” “The Gracious One,” etc.

Also, the five-times mentioned “Light” (in Genesis) corresponds to the five spiritual soul-levels of a person: Nefesh (Soul), Ruach (Spirit), Neshamah (Pneuma), Chaya (Life-Force), and Yechida (Singular). Nefesh represents relaxing, therefore it corresponds to the level of the inanimate, like a fetus, whose being (and actions) are all from its father and mother. Therefore, a name is not given to a fetus (while in the mother’s womb). The level of Ruach already reveals the actions of the created being, like (the level of) a nursing child, and plants, where their tendencies and desires are already discernible. Then we can apply a name to them. Therefore, the Book of Shemos (Names, Exodus) corresponds to (the words in Genesis) {2} “And there was light.” (The next soul level) Ruach already has movement, i.e. the recipient shows their emotional responses.


Moses asked the Holy One Blessed Be He, “With which Name will I deliver the Children of Israel?” The Holy One Blessed Be He answered him, “Tell them, ‘Ehyeh (I will be) (Ekyeh: Alef, Hay, Yud, Hay) has sent me to you.’” Moses replied, “Please send another (deliverer in its place).” We need to understand, why did Moses not want to deliver Israel with the Name Ekyeh, but with the name Havaya (Yu, Hay, Vav, Hay, the Tetragrammaton)? The idea is that the name Ekyeh represents the future tense, (I will be) as Rashi explains, “I will be with them in this exile, as I will be (with them) in the other (future) exile.” From this (choice of Name by G-d), Moses understood that this deliverance would not be the eternal, final one, and that there would be additional exiles (diasporas). Therefore, he did not want to deliver Israel with this Name, but rather with the Name Havaya (the Tetragrammaton) so it would be the final deliverance (Geula) as is hinted to in the last letters of the (Hebrew) words (stated by Moses), “and they will say to me what is His Name, “Liy Mah Shemo Mah”,) the last letters spell Yud, Hay, Vav, Hay).

The idea is that the true deliverance (Geula, redemption) will only occur when mankind’s hidden powers (and abilities, now in a state of potential) are revealed. Therefore, it is necessary for further subjugations, for through (the suffering) the hidden potential powers within mankind come out into action.

May it be the Will (of G-d) that we should merit the complete deliverance, speedily in our days, Amen.


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