January 8-14, 2023 Exodus 1:1-6:1
A Part of the Torah portion of this week: The children of Israel multiply in Egypt. Threatened by their growing numbers, Pharaoh enslaves them and orders the Hebrew midwives, Shifrah and Puah, to kill all male babies at birth. When they do not comply, he commands his people to cast the Hebrew babies into the Nile.
וְאֵ֗לֶּה שְׁמוֹת֙ בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל הַבָּאִ֖ים מִצְרָ֑יְמָה אֵ֣ת יַעֲקֹ֔ב אִ֥ישׁ וּבֵית֖וֹ בָּֽאוּ׃
"Even though the Torah enumerated Jacob's sons by name when they came into Egypt,it does so again here, when they die, in order to indicate how dear they were to God: These are the names of the sons of Israel who came to Egypt; each man and his household came with Jacob" ( Shemot 1:1)
The sages give three reasons why Jacob's sons are listed again, and this blog will look at the first:
to stress that the Jews did not change their Jewish names to Egyptian ones, that is, that they refused to assimilate totally into Egyptian culture;
to inform us that G-d considers the Jews as precious as the stars, whom He also counts by name when they go into "exile" (at daybreak) and when they come out of "exile" (at nightfall); and
to tell us that Jews are essentially good, for the Torah introduces righteous people with the formula "his name was x" and wicked people with the formula "x was his name."8 Here, too, the phrase "these are the names" precedes the list of proper names.
The Jews stuck to their customs, habits, to their values despite the society they found themselves in.
Noahides grew up in "Egypt" and customs and habits learned as a child are hard to unlearn. You have to consciously distance yourself from them, i.e. distance yourself from them with your mind and distance yourself from them with your emotions.
We can do the former by taking note of the Torah values and norms we want to live by.
The second is trickier. A certain tune can take you back to your childhood that you had fond memories of. A certain lyric may come to you as comfort because your loved ones spoke those words to you.
Intellectually, you can reason that you want to distance yourself from such things and have done so, but how do you distance yourself from evoked positive emotions.
Acknowledge that the feelings are there. But don't pay attention to them, because everything you give attention to grows, even if you were to resist these feelings.
Find alternatives and name them to yourself the moment you experience a positive feeling with a memory, text, thought that you don't want.
"This song makes me feel good because - it was my former way of honouring G-d - now I will sing this song instead".
It is wise to initially use 1 song or 1 niggun that appeals to you extremely for this purpose.
"This text gave me comfort - because it gave me the thought that G-d will always help and comfort me - now I will use this text instead - a text that shows His Omnipotence and Love."
It is wise to make a list for yourself of texts from Tenach, from the Tehillim that appeal to you and that you find appropriate in certain situations. It is good to memorise these texts.
The Jewish people, as a whole and as individuals retained their Torah-based identity. We must transform our identity into a Torah-based identity.
Sources: Kehot Chumash Parshah Shemot
Angelique Sijbolts is one of the main writers for the NoahideAcademy.org website. She contributes for the admin of the website in English and Dutch. She teaches Hebrew to beginners and intermediate students at the Academy.
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