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April 21, 2018

Shemot (Exodus) Parsha – Weekly Torah Portion

Shemot

Exodus, 1:1-6:1

This Week’s Torah Portion | December 31 2016 – January 06, 2018 – 13 Tevet – 19 Tevet, 5778

In A Nutshell

The portion, Shemot (Exodus), begins with the demise of Joseph and all of his contemporaries, “And a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph” (Exodus, 1:8). Subsequently, Moses is born in Egypt and his sister hides him in an ark. She places the ark in the Nile and follows it. Pharaoh’s daughter goes down to bathe in the river, finds the ark, and takes the baby. Moses’ sister offers to help her find a Hebrew nursing women and brings Moses’ mother as a nursing woman.

Moses grows in Pharaoh’s home forty years. One day he sees an Egyptian beating a Hebrew. He strikes and kills the Egyptian and buries him in the sand. When he realizes that one of his Hebrew brothers saw him in the act, he fears being told on and escapes to the desert.

In the desert he meets Jethro, priest of Midian. He marries his daughter and sees the burning bush, where he is told he must return to Pharaoh and to the people of Israel, and tell them it is time to go out of Egypt.

The portion ends with the children of Israel complaining to Moses about their poor situation. Moses turns to the Creator who says to him, “Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh, for by a strong hand shall he let them go, and by a strong hand shall he drive them out of his land” (Exodus, 6:1).

 Commentary by Dr. Michael Laitman

The stories deal with man’s soul. The Torah tells us how to correct ourselves in order to develop the soul within us, how to open it up to the upper light, to the revelation of the Creator, and how to feel within it the upper, spiritual world.

The process begins with a special desire called Abraham, which awakens and asks about the meaning of our lives, leading us to open up our souls. The developing desire must escape Babylon, the sum of our great ego.

Subsequently, that desire procreates another desire, Isaac, which begets yet another desire, Jacob. These three desires form the foundation of the soul.

Jacob, which is a special desire, has twelve sons. This is a development of the third desire, which achieves equivalence with the upper force—the Creator—who is pure bestowal. The exodus from Babylon symbolizes our desire to achieve that same level of bestowal. Jacob is the first to actualize that desire through his sons, particularly through Joseph, who assembles all the qualities of bestowal of the corrections that Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the rest of the sons have made. Joseph is the only one who can descend to his ego with all the corrections and begin to work with the ego that is called Egypt.

The whole of the house of Jacob goes down to Egypt, complete their corrections, and die there. After a while, a child is born in the tribe of Levi. Unlike the rest of the Hebrew children that Pharaoh put to death, this one survived. In spiritual terms, Pharaoh “swallowed” all the desires that were corrected into having the aim to bestow. He put them to death by the ego’s taking over all the desires. Thus, even if a person wanted to advance toward spirituality, the ego, life, and the environment killed that person.

In the period preceding the birth of the desire called Moses, it is impossible to advance toward spirituality. One must wait until the Moses desire appears and grows in a person thanks to his mother, who nurses him, and thanks to Batia, Pharaoh’s daughter, who receives him afterward.

Batia is Bat Yah (Daughter of the Creator); she is a part of the quality of Pharaoh within us, a special part of our ego, the will to receive. This part can connect with the desire to bestow and grow.

Moses grew in Pharaoh’s house as a grandson, the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, Batia. He was raised as a prince who was educated in all of Egypt’s wisdom until he was forty.

Age forty is the age of Bina (understanding). It is not an indication of a number of years, but a stage in which the desire not only grows and draws from the side of Pharaoh, the ego, but begins to correct itself, as well. The desire that reaches the age-state of forty discovers it is opposite from Pharaoh and must use him to get out of him.

The exodus from Egypt begins when one feels that one can no longer tolerate the struggle. It happens when there is resistance, when we feel both Pharaoh and Moses within us, and the Jews in us crave unity but are unable to achieve it because they are Pharaoh’s slaves. Here is where one discovers Pharaoh’s rulers. There is an inner struggle between the Jews and Pharaoh’s rulers, and a person feels it as unbearable. This is when we begin to resist and must interfere in order to correct ourselves.

The Moses force within kills Pharaoh’s men, the Egyptians within us, and must therefore flee from Pharaoh. In fact, when Moses kills the Egyptian within him, the struggle between him and his ego only intensified and he has to draw very far from his ego. This is the meaning of the escape from Egypt.

However, one cannot escape all at once because the rest of the desires, the children of Israel, are still enslaved in Egypt, under the ego, working in order to receive. Only Moses grew and escaped to Midian, to Jethro, married the priest’s daughter, Zipporah, and stayed there for forty years.

While in the desert, Moses understood that there is one special point, the burning bush, that can lift him up. With Jethro he connects to it for forty years. He continues to grow there and acquires all of Jethro’s wisdom, which gives him a springboard back to Egypt, to the beginning of the confrontation with Pharaoh.

The Creator says to Moses, “Let’s go to Pharaoh together because ‘I have hardened his heart.’” In other words, a person feels two forces once again, which provide the understanding  and ability to cope with what is required, with the ego. Such a person understands that “there is none else besides Him” (Deuteronomy, 4:35), that there is nothing but the singular force that on the one hand plays with the ego and hardens Pharaoh’s heart, and on the other hand goes with the person and helps one advance above it. Thus, the Creator gradually brings a person toward exiting one’s ego entirely, exiting Egypt.

At the same time, “the children of Israel sighed from the work” (Exodus, 2:23), building Pithom and Rameses, which are beautiful cities, corresponding to the first and second Temples, yet are for Pharaoh. The ego continues to grow, as do the children of Israel, and all those qualities of bestowal within our forces of reception chase away the Egypt in us, our ego.

We can see the great force that exists in these qualities only as we advance. As long as they are enslaved by Pharaoh they are cities of poverty—a state in which one desires to exit the ego and advance toward spirituality, but has no outlet by which to escape. “Cities of poverty” also means that a person is in danger[1] because if he remains in his ego he will never attain the spiritual world.

During his time with Jethro, Moses acquired the powers to cope with Pharaoh. He made a covenant and arrived at Egypt with his son, Gershon. Upon his return to Egypt he begins to struggle with Pharaoh. He reunites with his brother Aaron, and together they collect the rest of the elders of Israel. Put differently, a person summons all the inner forces with which one believes one can rise above one’s ego and correct oneself. The forces, thoughts, and intentions with which we can rise above our ego, above Egypt, are the ones that are in equivalence with the Creator. It is in those desires that the upper force is revealed, and where the spiritual world is felt.

In that struggle, a person connects with the inner Aaron, the right side, and with Moses, the left side. Together they are Cohen (priest) and Levi. One summons all those inner forces and discovers a little bit of the Creator through “miracles,” meaning forces that act on one’s desires. Once a little bit of the spiritual force appears in a person, one sorts the desires with which one can build the Kli (vessel) for the revelation of the Creator, the “soul.” These desires intend to demand of Pharaoh, “Let My people go” (Exodus, 5:1).

At that point, a person feels that one is at a crossroads, that one has the endurance and demand to detach oneself from the ego and rise to the level of Bina, outside of Egypt. That person’s strength does not manifest at once. The Pharaoh within says, “No way,” “Who is the Lord that I should obey His voice?” (Exodus, 5:2).

Within us is a mighty struggle, preventing us from detaching from our nature. It keeps pulling us toward it. We try, but we are constantly pulled back. This is why we suffer the blows called the “ten plagues of Egypt.” They push us forward.

It is a tough process. The struggle resembles labor pains. Indeed, the exodus from Egypt is called “birth,” the birth of the spiritual man. In these states, the quality of Israel suffers, meaning the people of Israel—all the desires and intentions in us. Such a person is very frustrated and needs a lot of support. It is quite difficult to go through these states without the support of the proper environment, which serves as a “midwife” in Egypt. In that state a person needs those midwives in order to muster the needed strength. It happens in order to bring us to the necessity for the upper force, to feel that without the help of the Creator we will never rise above our Egypt.

We therefore see that there is a meaningful “game” here between the strengthening Pharaoh and the strengthening Israel. But only when one comes to a state of bewilderment and helplessness does the Creator say, “Come on to Pharaoh” (Exodus 7:26) “for I have hardened his heart” (Exodus 10:1). That is, the Creator wishes to save us precisely through the hardening. By that, He shows us His greatness.

The dramatic process and difficult conditions we face are for our own sake. During the study of the wisdom of Kabbalah, as we rise above our egos and discover spirituality—the upper force—we undergo a complicated process of self scrutiny and inner struggles between desires, forces, and intentions. We experience it so we may feel what is the upper force, what is the spiritual world, and where it is because we can neither see nor feel it in our senses.

We must collect these supporting forces—Pharaoh, Jethro, Moses, Aaron, Israel in Egypt, and all the patriarchs—as forces that desire to rise above the ego and discover the spiritual world. These forces face up to Pharaoh, the ego, and demand to rise above it, as it is written, “Let My people go that they may serve Me” (Exodus, 7:16). It happens so we may discover the greatness, the so-badly-needed help that one receives from above, from the Creator.

This is the only way by which we acquire the power that the Creator sends us, the upper force, the force of bestowal, the love of others, through which we rise above the ego and come out of Egypt. This is the spiritual birth, and only then do we begin to feel the spiritual world. Henceforth, we will have revival.

The portion opens before us a new stage in man’s development. This is why the book Shemot (Exodus) is the second book in the Torah. There are five books in the Pentateuch, corresponding to the five egoistic desires in us that we need to correct on five degrees: the worlds AssiyaYetziraBeriaAtzilut, and Adam Kadmon, until we reach the end of correction, complete redemption. Each world contains five internal degrees, which in turn contain another five degrees in each. Thus, altogether there are 125 degrees by which we ascend to the final and complete correction, the complete redemption.

Redemption begins after the first, preparatory stage. This is when one discovers the real Pharaoh within, the real ego. Because we face two conflicting forces—Pharaoh and Moses—we need a third force to determine between them. That force is the Creator, the upper force, which then appears and helps us.

Questions and Answers

The portion describes the preparations for the spiritual birth. Is it similar to what is happening in the world today?

Of course. We are all in a state of scrutinizing our egos, its control over us, and the narrow boundaries that it allows is. We have yet to achieve the recognition that the evil is the ego, but many people are already beginning to see that we are helpless because we don’t know how to correct the comprehensive crisis.

Is this the sensation of Egypt or is it not yet it?

This is already the sensation of Egypt. We are under great stress because we have not determined whether Pharaoh is our “good grandpa,” sitting Moses in his lap and giving us the joys of life, including the Jews that are in Egypt, enjoying the abundance, or is there a new stage arising here.

For thousands of years we have been progressing through our growing egos, and we enjoyed it. We thought we would thrive and prosper indefinitely. But suddenly, we have discovered that precisely the good force by which we thought we’d achieve abundance has become a harmful force. This is Pharaoh changing his way toward the Jews in Egypt, becoming the bad ruler, as it is written, “Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph” (Exodus, 1:8).

Over the last one hundred years, but particularly since the turn of the century, we have begun that self-scrutiny, and we must finish it quickly. However, everything depends on the dissemination of the knowledge of the situation we are in because people (Israel in Egypt) do not know what to do.

It is similar to what happens on Purim, when the city of Shushan is bewildered and people do not know who is right, Mordechai or Haman. Likewise, the story in Egypt repeats itself with the Jews who wanted to tell on Moses killing the Egyptian.

Therefore, we must explain to everyone what is really happening, the reason for all the bad things, the crisis, and how we can rise above them. It is only our ego that has brought us into this predicament. Through the right process, as the Torah tells us, we must come to see the ego as an evil force and bring over it the light that reforms.[2] In other words, the Creator that is now appearing to Moses tells him, “Come to Pharaoh because I have hardened his heart,” meaning “I caused the crisis so you would find Me, because only I can help you out of it.”

We must pass this message to everyone as quickly as possible and show how we can discover the upper force through which we are rewarded with abundance. If we relate to our crisis in the right way we will obtain—while in this life—the spiritual world, eternity, and perfection.

What is Moses in spirituality, and what are all the stages he went through on the spiritual level?

Moses is the force that pulls us out of Egypt, our ego, raising us above this world and into the spiritual one. It is contrary to what Batia says, “I drew him out of the water” (Exodus, 2:10). Moses is the force that must now lead us from here until we enter the land of Israel.

Why is Pharaoh’s daughter called Batia (the Creator’s daughter), aren’t they opposites?

Pharaoh is the posterior side of the Creator. The upper force is playing with us. It is written, “I have created the evil inclination,” which is Pharaoh, “I have created for it the Torah as a spice” (Masechet Kidushin, 30b), because “The light in it reforms it” (Eicha, “Introduction,” Paragraph 2). In other words, He reforms the evil inclination, Pharaoh.

At the end of the process we must take from Egypt all the Kelim (vessels), all the desires, and empty the Egyptians from everything, as it is written about the children of Israel that they went out with “great substance” (Genesis, 15:14). This is how we sanctify these Kelim, these great desires—which so far worked for our own good—and invert them into working for the sake of others. It is precisely in these desires that we discover our eternal life.

Why did Pharaoh refuse to let Israel leave Egypt?

When Israel are in Egypt, they give great substance to Pharaoh. The forces of bestowal inside the will to receive are very helpful to it. The will to receive knows how to trade, how to develop industry, science, and so forth. The will to receive is a special force.

It seems as though the Creator is waiting for Pharaoh’s approval because in the end He brings them out in haste. Initially, Pharaoh refuses, then the Creator brings them out in haste.

It is a person’s own choice. A person stands between the ego, the force of reception, and the force of bestowal. The person is the one who recognizes the evil in Pharaoh. In that person’s eyes this evil gradually loses its strength, and through the actions one takes, one can exit it.

[1] The Hebrew word, Miskenot, means both Misken (poor) and Mesukan (dangerous).
[2] Midrash Rabah, Eicha, “Introduction,” Paragraph 2.

  

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