Torah Thoughts – Shemot

Back when I was on active duty in the US Marine Corps, I was a statistician for a couple of years. While I did not ever want to be a bean counter, I did enjoy discovering trends and factors related to why certain maintenance practices were more successful than others and how lines of supply effected the operational dependability of the aircraft I worked with.

As I began to read and study this week’s parasha, Shemot, Exodus 1:1 – 6:1, I made a “statistical” discovery that is only immediately noticeable in Hebrew. In Genesis 32:33 (32 in most English translations), the phrase בְנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל, b’nei Israel appears and is usually translated son, children, descendants, or people of Israel, though literally it means sons of or children of Israel. This passage in Genesis is a brief explanation of why Jews traditionally do not eat the sinew of the thigh. But I digress. After Genesis 32, the phrase בְנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל, b’nei Israel appears seven more times, including twice in this week’s parasha, Exodus 1:1 with the naming of the eleven sons of Israel who came to Egypt with Jacob and again in 1:7 which proclaims that though in Egypt, 

Bnei-Yisrael (בְנֵייִשְׂרָאֵל) were fruitful, increased abundantly, multiplied and grew extremely numerous—so the land was filled with them.

Exodus 1:7

This has distinct overtones of modern anti-Semitic proclamations that the Jews are everywhere and are trying to take over everything. But, when we read the next two verses, we discover that it is not simply overtones of anti-Semitism, it is rather blatant.

Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. He said to his people, “Look, the people of Bnei-Yisrael are too numerous and too powerful for us. Come, we must deal shrewdly with them, or else they will grow even more numerous, so that if war breaks out, they may join our enemies, fight against us, and then escape from the land.”  

Exodus 1:8-9

In an article entitled “From Egypt to Israel,” Yosef Eisen points out a number of parallels between the “new king of Egypt” and Adolph Hitler, the most relevant here is, “Hitler claims the Jews are a threat to Germany and strong measures must be taken against them.

Hitler’s attitude and subsequent actions simply prove that the words of the Kohelet are true, “What has been is what will be, and what has been done will be done again. There is nothing new under the sun,” (Ecclesiastes 1:9), as well as the words writer and philosopher George Santayana who coined the phrase, “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Springing from Santayana’s words is an oft quoted phrase “those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Anti-Semitism is on the rise in our world today. Violent and deadly attacks are being perpetrated upon Jews around the world. Jewish communities are advocating beefing up armed security at synagogues and other Jewish establishments, as well as personally arming oneself. Some are encouraging the need for action. We must prepare ourselves, but that first step should be to heed the words of the Psalmist, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we praise the name of ADONAI our God,” (Psalm 20:8, CJB). We must first arm ourselves by trusting in HaShem and not being motivated by fear, then choose to live daily following Nehemiah’s plan when he and other returnees were rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, they always had a weapon by their side, even when getting water (Nehemiah 4:17).

I am not advocating armed resistance, nor am I speaking against it. All I am trying to say is that we need to be prepared. Yeshua’s words to his talmidim, “Put your sword back in its place! For all who take up the sword shall perish by the sword,” (Matthew 26:52) must be weighed against the Kohelet’s words, “For everythingthere is a season and a time for every activity under heaven…” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). Granted there may be times when we are to lay down our lives for others or the Gospel, or Kiddush HaShem, but being shot in a Jewish deli or in a synagogue, accosted on the street or on a bus for appearing to be Jewish, or being hacked by a machete during a Hanukkah gathering in your rabbi’s home, does not qualify, because the victims had no choice. They were attacked and/or murdered simply for being or  looking like Jews. In taking a stand against anti-Semitism we stand against the evil that would destroy the Jewish people simply because they are chosen by the Holy One, blessed be He. By doing that we indirectly standing up for the Gospel and Kiddush HaShem.

Returning to the statistical aspect with which I started, it is in Exodus that the Jewish people were first defined. In Exodus 1:9, the phrase עַם בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, Am B’nei Israel first appears. Pharaoh, the king who didn’t know Joseph, recognized the children of Israel, the descendants of Jacob, not merely as a nomadic clan but an actual genealogical people group on the world stage. Pharaoh recognized that Jacob’s descendants were to be feared because they were obviously blessed by the God who was bigger and more powerful than Pharaoh. 

Israel remains the chosen people of God, heirs of the covenants and the venue through which Messiah Yeshua entered this world to provide all creation the way back into full relationship with HaShem. Anti-Semitism is not only against Israel and the Jews, anti-Semitism is a true spirit of the anti-Christ. We would do well to heed the words that Joshua spoke to Israel after they had entered the land,

If it seems bad to you to worship ADONAI, then choose for yourselves today whom you will serve… But as for me and my household, we will worship ADONAI.

Joshua 24:15

We each have to make the choice; will we follow and serve the God of Israel and Messiah Yeshua, or contrary to the Scriptural encouragement, choose to follow the ways (gods) of the world?

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are from the Tree of Life (TLV) Translation of the Bible. Copyright © 2015 by The Messianic Jewish Family Bible Society.

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