My notes on Shemot

Parashat Shemot (Exodus 1:1-6:1)

Exodus 1

1:17          But the midwives feared God, and did not as the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the men children alive.

Comment: When one has to choose between obeying Gd or obeying a human being, it is better to choose the former.

1:19          And the midwives said unto Pharaoh, Because the Hebrew women are not as the Egyptian women; for they are lively, and are delivered ere the midwives come in unto them.

Comment : Better to lie than to kill other people or let themselves be killed unjustly.

1:20          Therefore God dealt well with the midwives: and the people multiplied, and waxed very mighty.

Comment: “dealt well”: Despite the midwives’ lying. This is due to Gd’s grace, that He does not only bestow goodness to perfectly good people. 

1:21          And it came to pass, because the midwives feared God, that he made them houses.

Comment: The reason that “the midwives feared Gd” precludes them from lying malicious in the future.


Exodus 2

2:15          Now when Pharaoh heard this thing, he sought to slay Moses. But Moses fled from the face of Pharaoh, and dwelt in the land of Midian: and he sat down by a well.

Comment: According to some Christian and Jewish sources (Acts 7:23,30; [1] [2]), Moses was 40 years old when escaping to Midian. He lived for a total of 120 years: 40 years in Egypt, 40 years in Midian, and 40 years in the wilderness leading the Israelites on their way to the promised land.




Exodus 3

3:16          Go, and gather the elders of Israel together, and say unto them, The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, appeared unto me, saying, I have surely visited you, and seen that which is done to you in Egypt:

Comment: “have surely visited” (pakod pakadti): A similar phrase “will surely visit”(pakod yifkod) was transmitted ahead of time to the Israelites many years ago through Joseph (Genesis 50: 24). Only the tense has been changed here, to reflect the imminent salvation. This may be a prearranged secret code so that “they shall hearken to thy voice” (the Israelites shall listen to Moses) (see v.3:18). See also


Exodus 4

4:14          And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses, and he said, Is not Aaron the Levite thy brother? I know that he can speak well. And also, behold, he cometh forth to meet thee: and when he seeth thee, he will be glad in his heart.

Comment: “when he seeth thee, he will be glad in his heart”: if you accept the leadership role to lead the people out of Egypt, your older brother Aaron will not be jealous of you, but will be glad in his heart. This is in contrast to the many other brothers in human history turning into enemies due to jealousy, starting from Cain and Abel, Esau and Jacob, Joseph’s older brothers and Joseph. Aaron was eventually rewarded to be the High Priest, a hereditary position (Exodus 28). As Psalm 133 says: (133:1-3) “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments; As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the LORD commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.”

References: Rashi’s comment on this verse. Also, see


Exodus 5

5:13          And the taskmasters hasted them, saying, Fulfil your works, your daily tasks, as when there was straw.

Comment: The straws were used to make bricks. They were provided to the Israelites beforehand, but not now. Now the Israelite slaves have to gather the straws themselves, while keeping the same output in making bricks.

5:14          And the officers of the children of Israel, which Pharaoh’s taskmasters had set over them, were beaten, and demanded, Wherefore have ye not fulfilled your task in making brick both yesterday and to day, as heretofore?

Comment: The demands are now overwhelming and can no longer be fulfilled. The slaves are beaten. 

It is a very realistic situation even nowadays, that sometimes people become overwhelmed with demands that they cannot fulfill, and they suffer consequently.

Exodus 6

6:1          Then the LORD said unto Moses, Now shalt thou see what I will do to Pharaoh: for with a strong hand shall he let them go, and with a strong hand shall he drive them out of his land.

Comment: “Now”: When Gd’s people become overwhelmed,  when their suffering becomes unbearable, then this situation can no longer continue, then it is the time for Gd to act to change the situation: “Now shalt thou see what I will do …”. 

It is very realistic that in our lives, sometimes hardships came, one upon another, and became impossible for us to handle, and we started to worry that life couldn’t continue this way any more.  Then it is time for us to count on Gd,  that He would surely act to change the situation for better.