Sh’mot – שְׁמוֹת (Exodus 1:1−6:1)
This Week’s Torah Portion: Sh’mot – שְׁמוֹת (Exodus 1:1−6:1)
“Out of the Mountain of Despair a Stone of Hope”_Shemot 2023 by Cantor Lauren Adesnik
וְכַאֲשֶׁר֙ יְעַנּ֣וּ אֹת֔וֹ כֵּ֥ן יִרְבֶּ֖ה וְכֵ֣ן יִפְרֹ֑ץ וַיָּקֻ֕צוּ מִפְּנֵ֖י בְּנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃
V’cha’asher y’anu oto kein yir-beh v’chein yif’rotz va-ya-ku-tzu mi-p’nei b’nei Yis’ra-el.
But the more they [the Israelites] were oppressed, the more they increased and spread out, so that the [Egyptians] came to dread the Israelites.
18th Century commentator Or HaChaim, one of the founding members of the European Hasidic movement offers an interpretation through a lens of Jewish mystysism. Referencing the Zohar (literature of Jewish mystical thought known as Kabbalah) he concludes that the more The more persecution the Israelites suffered the more “good” was released from what had been only a mixture of good and evil previously. With the release of that “good”, i.e. good qualities, the Israelite families merited having more and more children.
This abundance of procreation not only elevated the blessings of the Israelites, it brought forth a new generation and a sense of renewed faith and hope for the future. This concept still rings true today. The more oppression many marginalized communities face today, the more good will rise from that oppression if we center ourselves with a firm foundation of faith and hope.
This weekend as we begin our journey from slavery to freedom as detailed in the book of Exodus, we celebrate and remember one of the most remarkable prophets of the 20th century Martin Luther King Jr. We cannot equate our story with that of our brothers and sisters here in America, yet we stand together as brothers, sisters and fellow human beings in continuing to rise above the marginalization and oppression that faces us today.
Hope is our launching pad. It is the light that illuminates our path. It is hope that keeps us moving forward when all seems lost, or the finish line seems impossibly far away. As we face the rise of antisemitism, racism, and divisive community, let hope motivate our action to “go high, when everyone else goes low.”
 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “I have a Dream” Washington, D.C. August 28th, 1963