Beshallach

“Be’shalach” means “let go,” and the portion begins with Pharaoh regretting his decision to free the Hebrews, so he musters his chariots in an attempt to bring them all back. Instead however Abba YHWH parts the waters of the Reed Sea and destroys Pharaoh’s army. But even as Israel rejoices, her trials are just beginning. After leaving camp from Elim on the 15th day (proving lunar sabbath wrong), the Israelites complain they don’t have enough meat, Abba YHWH sends a flock of quail and this is the first appearance of the mysterious Manna bread. The portion ends with a key victory against Amalek; a victory only achieved with Moshe’s arms being held up by Aaron and Hur.

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Bo

“Bo” means “go,” and that’s exactly what the Israelites do! After the last three plagues of locusts, darkness and killing the first born of Egypt do their damage, Pharaoh at last relents and lets Israel go. In the stunning aftermath of these events, the Pesach meal is instituted as an eternal memorial.

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Va’Era

Va’Era means “and I appeared,” as in Abba YHWH explaining that He appeared to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and this thought of course follows from His introduction in Shemot that Moshe is a descendant of these people, “I am the El of your fathers…”.

After the initial “Bricks Without Straw” setback which happened last week, Moshe is strengthened to go back to Pharaoh though neither he nor his own people seem willing to do the right thing. Now also the “warning period” is over and Abba YHWH prepares to begin the real battle. After the signs of the serpent and the leprosy are given and Pharaoh refuses to listen, Moshe turns the Nile to blood and Egypt thirsts for 7 days. Plague after plague follows, along with failed attempts on Pharaoh’s part to either muddy the issue or distract Abba YHWH from His purpose. The portion ends with the plague of hail, but worse plagues are still in their future.

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Shemot

Shemot means “the names,” and it is almost impossible to do justice in a few lines to such a majestic portion. We begin with the set-up of “the Pharaoh who did not know Joseph” and who therefore enslaves the Israelites (probably Ahmose I). Despite an edict to kill all Hebrew male infants, Moshe escapes and is adopted by the Pharaoh’s daughter called “Bithia” by the rabbis, “Thermuthis” by Josephus or “Tarmuth” by the Talmud. Moshe is raised as a Prince of Egypt until he kills an overseer for beating a Hebrew slave. Then he flees to Midian and is given shelter by Jethro, priest of Midian, but it is in the wilderness outside of Midian that Moshe meets Abba YHWH for the first time as he climbs Mount Sinai. Abba YHWH reveals Himself and gives Moshe his true purpose—he is to return to Egypt and free the slaves. The portion though ends on a down note, with Pharaoh refusing and saying they must now make bricks without straw, so Abba YHWH warns a fearsome judgment is on the way.

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Vayechi

Vayechi means “and he lived,” referring to the 17 years Ya’akov would spend in Egypt before dying. The portion begins with Jacob making final arrangements to be buried in Canaan once he dies. Ironically the portion ends with Joseph making those same arrangements, but deferring final relocation until the Exodus. It seems that Joseph’s final vision then was his foretelling the time of Moshe. In between these events, Joseph’s sons Ephraim and Manasseh are introduced to Jacob and in a very ironic twist Jacob does intentionally the same thing his father Isaac was deceived into doing by blessing the younger son Ephraim ahead of elder Manasseh. After this, all tribes are given prophecies and blessings and the family of 70 souls make final settlement in Egypt.

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Vayigash

Vayigash means “and he approached,” referring to Judah approaching Joseph and pleading with him to return Benjamin. After this plea Joseph reveals his true identity and begins reconciling with his brothers. The portion ends with Joseph sending his brothers to fetch Jacob into Egypt and setting up the main foundation pieces for what will become the Exodus.

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Mikkets

Mikkets means “at the end” as in at the end of two years since Joseph interpreted the dreams of the baker and wine taster, and about 3 and half years for the total time of Joseph’s confinement. When Pharaoh has bad dreams and can’t get any of his seers to interpret them, the wine taster remembers Joseph and tells Pharaoh he can help. After Joseph correctly interprets the dream, he is quickly elevated to the second in command, given an Egyptian priestess for wife and moves forward with his plan for storing grain during the years of plenty. The rest of the portion details the intricate series of comical pranks Joseph plays on his brothers—but to those brothers it is a matter of life and death which, obviously, is the whole point. It’s time for Joseph to hold their lives in HIS hands.

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Vayeshev


Vayeshev means “and he dwelled.” This portion opens with the amazing story of Joseph, starting with his being sold into slavery to Midianite traders who in turn sell him in Egypt. The parsha then interrupts the Joseph story with the account of Judah and Tamar, but then resumes talking about Joseph first being tempted by his master’s wife only to have his abstinence backfire and land him in prison. Once there, Joseph’s intellect gets him noticed and he makes prophecies that come true for two prisoners, the baker and the wine taster. The baker is killed but the wine taster was prophesied to go free but reneged on his promise to put in a good word for Joseph immediately upon his release.

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Vayishlach

Vayishlach means “and he sent” and once again the ‘he’ is Jacob sending messengers ahead with gifts in an attempt to reconcile with Esau, and what follows is for me, bar none, the greatest apology EVER given in Scripture. After that we get the tragic story of Dinah and Shechem where he rapes her and, even though he later wishes to make it right by marrying her, the sons of Israel exact revenge anyway. This is followed by a rather unique wrestling match—in this corner, the cunning man of Canaan, Jacob! And in that corner-uh-Yeshua the Messiah! Guess who wins? The parsha ends by giving Esau’s extensive descendant list.

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Vayetze

Vayetze means “and he departed” the ‘he’ being Jacob heading towards Haran. At Haran
Jacob has his famous vision of the heavenly ladder before proceeding to dwell with his
uncle Laban. This of course sets up the struggle with Jacob wanting Rachel but being
forced to marry Leah as he toils for twenty years. After finally escaping, Jacob finds
himself trapped between a deceptive uncle he left behind and a brother who publicly
swore to kill him coming towards him with hundreds of armed men.

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Toldot

Toldot means “generations” or “family records,” referring to the lineage of Isaac. The troubled sibling rivalry of Jacob and Esau is the focus here. Jacob will eventually steal Esau’s birthright and blessing before running away. But as crafty as Jacob is he will find his uncle Laban even more deceitful and it is Laban who will outmaneuver Jacob for 20 years before Jacob gains advantage again. We also have the third occurrence—this time with Isaac and Abimelech II—of a wife (Rebecca this time) being passed off as a “sister” because a patriarch was afraid for his life. The portion ends with Esau taking another wife.

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Chayei Sarah

Chayei Sarah means “life of Sarah” but ironically it begins with her death! The full meaning actually is “the Life of Sarah WAS.” In the wake of her death, Abraham must find an appropriate place to bury his wife. Ephron the Hittite first offers some land to Abraham for free, but Abraham insists on paying (actually OVERPAYING according to the rabbis) and signing a contract for the land to avoid future strife.
Chapter 24 then gives us the beautiful love story between Isaac and Rebecca. It becomes clear that while Isaac himself gets relatively little attention in Torah compared to his ancestors and descendants, he certainly did very well in the marriage department—Rebecca is in a way his inheritance and treasure. The portion ends with Abraham’s death and a reunion at his funeral with Isaac and Ishmael.

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