This week’s Parsha, Shemos, begins the second Book of the Five Books, the Book of Shemos. This Book is dedicated to the creation of our people. As we learn this Book we will follow our people’s development from their very genesis through their exodus. As the Book continues we follow our people’s growth until they finally achieve their mission of housing the Presence of HaShem within their camp.
Given that context let us examine the genesis of our people because there must have been some extraordinary beginning. The story of our people’s history presents a riddle. There is no culture/civilization who has survived and preserved their heritage like our people. While the young democracies and other societies frolic in the playground of history like young children, the Jewish people are an old seasoned traveler of history for three and a half thousand years. All the old travelers of history can be found only in the museums, the cemeteries of history and in history books, the tombstones history. The Jewish people can be found today in Academies studying their ancient books and practicing their tradition in their synagogues. How did we survive the storms of change when nobody else has?
To resolve this riddle let us examine the very first verse of our Parsha. “These are the names of the children of Israel that came to Egypt, each one came and his family came with Yaakov. Reuven, Shimon, Levi ….” Why does the Torah break the narrative mid verse? We already know from last week’s Parsha that they came down with their families. If the verse begins These are the names… why interrupt with the detail that each one and their family came with Yaakov?
I believe the answer to this question will reveal the secret of our people’s strength and endurance.
There are two critical components which if secure, our destiny is guaranteed. If they are not secure our destiny will fail. The first component is that we need to be connected to the source of Existence itself. The second component is that we must have a healthy family structure by which to maintain that connection to the source. In other words, to ensure your appliance is working you need a power source and you need a wire to connect to that power source.
Our father Yaakov is that source. Our Sages teach us that the Throne upon which Hashem sits (this is a metaphor for the basis upon which HaShem interacts with our universe) has the face of Yaakov etched into it. Yaakov is the individual who connects us the the very Source of existence.
The Jewish family which is constructed with a mother and a father who care about each other and together are dedicated to their children creates a powerful bond that connects one generation to the next. This bond can travel the distance of millennia; there is no limit.
Perhaps this is why the Torah interrupts the first verse of the Book as follows. “These are the names of the sons of Yisroel who came to Egypt, each one with his family; their families were strong, came with Yaakov; the source of existence.
Our destiny is secure, as long as we hold tight to our family and to our ancestral heritage.
How fortunate we are! There is no distance of time and no distance of space that separates us from Yaakov.
Have a wonderful Shabbos.
The NSA has been in the news lately. Please join us for a new series with a former codebreaker from the NSA, who will talk about the interface between science and Torah as well as his experience as a religious Jew working in the NSA. Starting Sunday Jan 29 at Ner Tamid. More details at Achim.org