We Begin The Book Of Exodus

I discuss the weekly Torah portion with Rabbi Rabbs every Monday at 7pm PST on my live cam and YouTube.

This week’s parsha is Shemot (Exodus 1:1-6:1).

Rabbi Rabbs says I was much more gentle with Tamara than I was with him on our first interview. He accuses me of having an interest in Tamara that is not strictly journalistic. He accuses me of having thoughts on matters other than Torah while I talk to her.

This was our best show. Watch the whole thing.

Here are the first few minutes of my first interview of Rabbi Rabbs on June 9, 2010:

* The central event of Christianity happened to one man on a cross. The central event of Judaism is the exodus from Egypt and it happened to an entire people. The individual is the focus in Protestant Christianity (individual salvation) while the people is the focus of Judaism.

* Does it matter whether or not the Exodus occurred as the Bible describes it?

* In Exodus, the Israelites are like a new creation. The creation of the universe began in Genesis. This is a new start for humanity. The words used for the Israelites multiplying and spreading out are the same words used in the beginning of Genesis.

According to Artscroll chumash: “In the context of resisting the corruptive atmosphere of Egypt and preserving the moral and spiritual grandeur of Jacob’s family, his sons were equal to the task. Because they kept the nation on the high level set for it by Jacob, the slavery did not begin as long as they were alive. His grandchildren…their merit was great enough to prevent the onset of the enslavement as long as they were alive.”

Do you buy this? I don’t. It was the religious Jews who were the most likely to die in Europe during the Shoah. The least religious were the most likely to get the hell out of Europe and consequently were the least likely to go up in chimneys. The gadolim of Europe, such as the Chofetz Chaim and Elchonon Wasserman, told the Jews not to leave Europe for America. Consequently, millions of them died needlessly, thanks to the sage advice of the gadolim.

* The Torah says a new king arose on Egypt. He was a tyrant. Can a nation be a tyranny without its consent? Russia, Germany, China, Egypt. Arab world. All governed by tyrants. Jews are the ultimate enemy of the blood nation, because they assimilate a bit and yet keep their own distinctive culture. Evil can’t be done by a Pharoah or Hitler or Stalin alone. They need the help of the people.

* There are two Hebrew words for nation — goy and am. Am is a nation based on blood ties. Goy not necessarily blood ties. A nation based on blood is never going to accept outsiders.

* Frightening parallels between the Shoah and the slavery in Egypt. According to the Ramban, the Pharoah’s goal was the extermination of Israel. (AS, 1:14)

* Pharoah told his people that the Jews had gotten rich off of them. (AS)

* The Israelites had been in Egypt for over a hundred years. In America, they’d be considered Americans, not outsiders.

* The Israelites had no plans to unite with an invader to get rid of the Egyptians. This is pure paranoia.

* Much of the purpose of the work was to humiliate the Israelites. Just as most Jews died naked in the Holocaust. A key point was to humiliate them.

This is kinda akin to the male desire to get women naked and humiliate them physically.

* Why is the traditional interpretation that the midwives are Hebrews? They are clearly not. Why would the Pharoah ask Hebrew midwives to murder their own people’s kids? The Torah says the reason the midwives do not murder is that they feared God. “Fear of God” is the formula for the righteousness of non-Jew in the Torah. When Abraham is afraid of how his wife will be treated, he says, there is no fear of God in this place. The midwives talk about the Hebrews in third person.

* Why didn’t Pharoah murder the midwives? They disobey him and then nothing. German who refused to participate in the Holocaust were not killed.

* Do you fear God and if so, for what? I fear God in particular for things I can apparently get away with.

* Midwives rewarded for their fear of God. Not often that occurs.

* AS on 1:15-22: “the savior of the Jews.” Oy, Christian language. Did Moses save the Jews? I don’t feel like Moses saved us. God saved us, perhaps. We saved ourselves, inspired by God and Moses, to take control of our lives and to leave Egypt and to live by the Torah. This notion of salvation comes from above, we are but dust and ashes, is more pagan than Jewish.

* Moses is a reluctant hero. Like the Mel Gibson character in The Patriot and Russell Crow in Gladiator.

* If the Torah was a human creation, it would be much more pro-Jewish than it is.

* People didn’t name their children upon birth in the ancient world because too many of them died. They didn’t name their kids until they had been weaned.

* Have you ever met anyone named Puah? Why not? Yet Shifrah is a common Jewish name.

* Nothing miraculous about the birth of Moses. He’s not divine. He’s not born of a virgin. God is the central character, the main mover, of the Exodus.

* According to Rashi, Moses’s mom Jochebed gave birth to him when she 130. Do you buy this? How would Rashi know?

* Ex. 2:2 “She saw that he was good.”
Artscroll: “The entire house became filled with light upon his birth.”
The same thing happened when I was born. Angels came down singing softly and I was born circumcised and I began immediately speaking in perfect Hebrew and a disco ball dropped from the ceiling and the Bee Gees started singing “Staying Alive” even though they hadn’t met yet. Perhaps I too am destined to save the Jews?

* All this talk of miracles is really for the dumbies right who need to believe in such things?

* Moses crying in his ark is the only instance of a baby crying in the Bible.

* Artscroll: Ex. 2:7 Moses refused to nurse from Egyptian women, because God said, “Shall the mouth that will converse with the Divine Presence drink unclean milk? Shall an Egyptian woman boast, “I fed the mouth that converses with the Divine Presence?”

Is there anything wrong with a Jew suckling from a non-Jew? Are non-Jews unclean? What if they shower? Is their breast milk unclean?

* If God had asked me to save the Jewish people, I would’ve been thrilled. But Moses isn’t.

* Could Moses have led the people if he had grown up as a slave like his fellows?

* When you hear God praising the land of Israel (Ex. 2:8), how do you feel? You hated Israel.

* I was watching Caligula Saturday night. Reminds me a bit of the Pharoah.

* Ex: 2:11 When Moses killed the Egyptian: Was it an impetuous act of youth? I say no. The Hebrew verb is the same for what the Egyptian was going to the Hebrew slave and what Moses did to the Egyptian.

* Ex. 2:12. Another ridiculous Artscroll commentary.

* Ex: 2:14. Hebrews give Moses some lip.

* In one instance, Moses kills. Another time, he speaks. Later, he simply stands up. Those are the three ways you stop evil. Moses is a model. These weren’t sins. Sometimes you kill, sometimes you speak, sometimes you just stand up.

* Ex. 2:18 The man is used to his daughters being bullied every day. How much bullying and evil do we take for granted? We’re used to locking our doors and using security and not going to certain places, particularly at night. We used to be able to walk straight on to our plane.

* Judaism asks us to never make peace with evil and with bullying.

* Ex. 2:19. Daughters say of Moses, “An Egyptian helped us.” Moses looked Egyptian?

* Ex. 2:23 Hebrews “groaned” because of their work. No stiff upper lip stoicism from the Jews.

* Ex. 2:25 What does it mean “God saw”? He didn’t know about the Israelites suffering or He didn’t care?

* Remembering is a big deal in Judaism. Even God remembers. In Torah talk, “remember” means to be able to do something. Not just a thought, but also action.

* Ibn Ezra says that if Moses had grown up with the Hebrews, they would not have respected him as much. Moses did not suffer from a slave mentality, unlike Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and most American black leaders who are obsessed with white racism rather than with internal problems in the black community.

* The burning bush. How come none of these miracles occur when CNN is there to document it?

* What makes the ground holy is the presence of God. Without God, one spot of land is not holier than another.

* We all see the equivalent of burning bushes. Do we stop to look? Do we see the divine? Do we choose to live as believers or as atheists? You can’t live as an agnostic. God can’t talk to you if you are not ready to hear from Him. You’re less likely to sense God at a Dodger game or a disco than at a church or synagogue or holy place. You have to open up your channels to God through prayer, study, meditation, and the like.

* Jews don’t like leaders. We’re not followers. We’re too fragmented to united being somebody.

* Ex. 3:19. God knows that Pharoah won’t let the Israelites go, so God says he will strike Egypt with much suffering. What’s going on here? Why the request for a three day journey into the desert when the Israelites were never going to come back? Why the request to ask for valuables from their Egyptian neighbors?

* Artscroll commentary on 4:3-9. Moses punished for doubting the Israelites?

* Ex. 4:24 Why did God try to kill Moses?

* What do you think about some Israeli rabbis saying you shouldn’t rent to non-Jews?

* Is it OK to gamble hundreds of dollars playing poker? Is it OK to make your living from hosting poker games? Is it OK for a rabbi to do this?

* What about this Orthodox couple who sued for sheitl damage?

* PBS show God in America. I particularly liked the last hour about the rise of the right-wing evangelical movement.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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