Parshat Shemot

There’s a famous introduction to Sefer Shemos by the Netziv where he quotes the BaHag who says that the Reshonim gave very unique names to each sefer of the Chumash. Beresheis is known as Sefer Ha Yetzirah, Shemos is known as Sefer Ha Geula, Vayikra is known as Sefer Ha Cohanim, Bamidbar is known as Chumash Hapicudim, and Devarim is known as Mishna Torah. The BaHag points out that when it comes to Shemos he doesn’t call it Sefer Ha Geula, rather he calls it Chumash Ha Sheini. The Netziv is bothered by this. Why not give it more of a dramatic name? Why not call it the Sefer Ha Geula? Why was the BaHag so insistent on calling it the Chumash Ha Sheini? What is the message behind referring to Sefer Shemos as this?
The Netziv tells us that when it comes to creation, Shemos was part of it. Beresheis was the physical creation- we have Noach, recreation and reformation of monotheism. The BahHag says Shemos is a continuation of Beresheis, it’s not new. Shemos begins with” “וְאֵלֶּה שְׁמות “AND these are the names” linking the two sefarim together. Sefer Shemos is about spiritual creation. It’s the infusion of spiritualty into the world. The world wouldn’t be complete without the Ruchnius. Sefer Beresheis is the perfect introduction to Sefer Shemos.

Sefer Shemos is all about Geula from Mitzraim and how Bnei Yisrael became the chosen nation. We established a bond with Hashem. After we were chosen, we got the torah and mitzvot, and we began creating our bond with Hashem through talmud torah. This is the infusion of torah.

Later in the Sefer we get to Binyan Hamikdash- we make a Makom Hashchina in this world. Hashem is Kol Haolam Kulo. He contracts himself to make a place for us in his world and that’s what happens in Shemos- we make a special place for Him. The Mishkan is a physical place, but also “ועָשׂוּ לִי מִקְדָּשׁ”. In our hearts we limit our own desires so we make space for Hashem in us. Hashem worked for six days, kivyachol 39 melachot and then the seventh day He rested. So too when we make a place for Hashem in our world- in the Mishkan we did the same 39 melachot and now we make a place for Hashem in this world. So Beresheis and Shemos come full circle. Shemos opens up with the act of Tzimtzum, which is also the action that completes Shemos.
In Shemos Perek Beis we’re introduced to Moshe Rabbeinu and we’re told that when he was born his parents see “כי טוב הוא”. Rashi asks what that means. When Moshe was born the whole house was illuminated. The introduction to Moshe is light “כי טוב” because Moshe brings torah into light and that’s the spiritual light. Moshe is the shliach of Hashem. The first thing that happened to Moshe is that he’s threatened, so his parents put him in a taiva and Miriam watches him from afar. He’s wrapped tightly like a cocoon and shortly emerges in a new world in the house of Mitzraim. The only other time we see the word Taiva in the Torah is in Parshat Noach.

Reflecting the idea of the Netziv, that just as we have the idea of Sefer Ha Yetzirah and the taiva protecting the foreign water around us, so too in Shemos, Moshe brings in the ruchnius of the world. We have to understand the underlying yesod. We always need to bring the physical and spiritual light together to make sure we do the personal act of Tzimtzum- bringing Hashem in- and making a place in our world for Hashem and becoming a partner with him in a world of gashmius and ruchnius.

Student studying in MMY