“The Judgments” concerns a list of rules and regulations that Abba YHWH is giving to Israel. Generally they involve practical examples from the root commands given at Sinai. However, there is much more going on here than a mere laundry list of obligations. Sandwiched between these rules are some of the most powerful insights that Abba YHWH has ever imparted to man. It’s as if we have to wade through the rules to get to the reward of these insights. Hey, that sounds a lot like life too!
It is very significant that this parsha is named “Jethro” and not “The Ten Words” or Commandments that it contains. In a sense the advice that Jethro gives Moshe is just as important as the Ten Commandments because it shows YHWH’s plan.
First Moshe needs to keep himself from getting exhausted. Then he needs to set the leaders of the nation of Israel on the right course, and encourage discussion between them and the people. And finally, the people need to understand that when Abba YHWH says “Don’t go there or you will die” that He means business! Only then, with every one playing their appropriate part and in the right frame of mind, can the Commandments be given.
“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.
“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.
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.
One epic ends and another begins. Joseph and all the other sons of Jacob are dead. And now, their descendants are in bondage waiting for a deliverer. Enter Moshe. Born a prince of Egypt, explore the real life Egyptian history behind the Torah account. Find out who the main people in Moshe’s life really were and how archaeology sheds light on the world they knew. This is just about as exciting as any parsha gets and it is packed with extras…enjoy!
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.
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.
Mikkets means “at the end” as in at the end of two years 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.
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.
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, 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-Y’shua the Messiah! Guess who wins? The parsha ends by giving Esau’s extensive descendant list.
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.