The Book of Exodus, or Shemot is a saga of survival in a strange land. The Israelites are now firmly established in the land of Egypt, and things are now not going so well. A new Pharaoh, (subsequent to the Pharaoh who had sat rocking on the porch with Yaakov, who had given the Israelites welcome and land and honour), is much less inclined to look on this foreign people with favour.

Suspense builds. We can read eons of experience and expulsions into these stories of the Israelites being ruled and demeaned by those in power. We can, alternatively, read a story of our Jewish survival, of our capacity to hold our culture in the worst of times, of remembering who we are and where our Land is, even as it seems impossible to live there in any realm but our memory.

In this book we meet Moses. We read about Moses, his birth and discovery by the daughter of Pharaoh, and his eventual fleeing from Egypt. We read of his response to a call (maybe more of a demand) from God, from within a small flaming bush, and we read so much more; this saga provides the gripping beginning to the rest of Torah.

We too will be born as a people. We too will flee into the desert. We too will say “Yes” to the Presence of God, this time not in the shape of a small burning bush, but within the thunder and lightening at the base of Mount Sinai, a small hill really.

How do we say yes? Can we each say Hinei ni, Here I am? This response is, I suggest, the quintessential challenge of Judaism. The Book of Shemot, and Torah in general, challenges us each and all of us to be able to say, ken, yes, Hinei ni. Here I am. Where will my yes lead me?

With much love to all,

Rabbi Lynn