Parshas Shemos-Summary of the Parsha


Parshas Shemos

Pesukim:124  [Siman:ויקח ]

Haftorah:[1] Yeshayahu 27:6-28:13; 29:22-23 

Number of Mitzvos:

There are no Positive or Negative commands mentioned in Parshas Shemos.


  1. The family of Yaakov who arrived in Egypt:
    • These are the names of the children of Israel who came to Egypt. Reuvein, Shimon, Levi, Yehuda, Yissachar, Zevulun, Binyamon, Don, Naftali, Gad, Asher. A total of seventy souls who descended from Yaakov were in Egypt.
    • Yosef and all his brothers and all that generation passed away.
    • The Jewish people reproduced and multiplied to great numbers, and the earth became filled with them.
  1. The slavery begins:
    • The plan: A new king was appointed over Egypt who did not know Yosef. He told his nation that the Jewish people have multiplied more than us, and therefore we should conspire a plan to deal with them, lest they multiply even more and drive us out of our land.
    • The slavery: Pharaoh appointed tax collectors to make the Jewish people work in hard labor, and had them build cities of storage for Pharaoh, the cities of Pithom and Raamses. The more the Jews were oppressed, the more they multiplied. The Egyptians became disgusted by the Jewish people.
    • The Egyptians enslaved the Jews with crushing labor. They were worked with hard labor involving mortar and bricks and every labor of the field. All the labors they performed were crushing and back breaking work.
  1. The midwives Shifrah and Puah, and the decree to kill the boys:
    • Pharaoh instructed the Jewish midwives, Shifrah and Puah, to kill all the male children born to the Jewish people. The girls were to be spared. The midwives feared G-d and did not listen to his instructions and allowed the male children to live.



  • Pharaoh confronted the midwives and they replied that the Jewish people are akin to wild animals who give birth on their own. The Jewish people thus continued to multiply. Hashem gave the midwives homes in reward of them fearing Him.
  • The decree to kill all the male born children in Egypt: Pharaoh then commanded his entire nation to kill their male born children, while sparing the females.
  1. Moshe Rabbeinu is born and placed in the river:
    • A Levite man took a Levite daughter for a wife and the woman became pregnant and had a son. The mother saw that he was good and so she hid him for three months.
    • Moshe is placed in the river: After this time expired, his mother placed him in a reed basket, smeared it with clay and tar, and entered him into the reeds of the banks of the Nile river. His sister stood from a distance to see what would happen to him.
  1. Baby Moshe is rescued:
    • Batya rescues Moshe: The daughter of Pharaoh [i.e. Basya] was strolling with her maidservants by the river and when she saw the basket, she stretched her hand and took it. She opened it and saw a lad crying and had mercy on him. She exclaimed that the child is from the Jewish people.
    • Yocheved nurses Moshe: The sister of Moshe [i.e. Miriam] offered Basya to bring a Jewish wet nurse to nurse the boy. After her acceptance, she summoned the boy’s mother who nursed her son in exchange for payment from Basya.
    • Moshe grows up: The child grew up and became adopted by the daughter of Pharaoh as a son. She named him Moshe, as he was drawn from the river.



  1. Moshe kills the Egyptian and flees:
  • Moshe grew up and visited his brethren, witnessing their slavery. He saw an Egyptian man hitting one of his Jewish brothers. Moshe turned both ways, seeing no one around, he struck the Egyptian, killing him and buried him in the ground.
  • Moshe flees: The second day he came out he saw two Jews fighting, and admonished the Rasha for hitting his friend. The Rasha replied “Who placed you as a ruler over us, will you kill me like you did to the Egyptian?” Moshe feared that word of the murder would spread, and eventually the news reached Pharaoh who desired to kill him. Moshe fled to Midian to escape death.


  1. Moshe in Midian, his marriage and children:
  • Moshe fled to Midian and settled there.
  • Moshe gives the sheep of Yisro to drink: Moshe sat by the well and saw the seven daughters of Yisro, who was the priest of Midian, coming towards the well in order to give water to their father’s flock. The shepherds came and drove them away and Moshe got up and saved them and gave their flock to drink.
  • Moshe marries Tzipporah and has children: The daughters came home to Reuel their father [i.e. Yisro] who was surprised at their early return home, and asked them as to the reason. They replied that a certain Egyptian man saved them from the shepherds and gave the flock to drink. Yisro replied that they should not have left the man there, and they should go call him to eat bread with us. Moshe accepted the request and lived in Yisro’s home. Yisro gave his daughter Tzipporah to Moshe as a wife. They had a son whom Moshe named Gershom, in name of the fact that he was a stranger in a foreign land.
  1. Hashem hears the screams of Bnei Yisrael:
  • After many days, the king of Egypt died [i.e. was afflicted with leprosy] and the Jewish people groaned and cried due to the labor. Their scream ascended to G-d and He remembered the covenant he made with Avraham and Yitzchak and Yaakov. Hashem saw the Jewish people and Hashem knew [their suffering].



  1. The burning bush:
  • Moshe was grazing the sheep of Yisro his father in-law and he guided the sheep far into the desert. He arrived to the mountain of Hashem [i.e. Mount Sinai], towards Horeb. An angel of Hashem appeared to him within the bush and Moshe saw that the bush was burning but was not getting consumed. Moshe said, “Let me turn to the bush to see this great phenomenon. Why is the bush not getting burnt?”
  • Hashem asks Moshe to redeem the Jewish people: Hashem saw that Moshe turned around to see the bush and He called to him from within the bush saying “Moshe, Moshe.” “Here I am,” replied Moshe. Hashem replied “Do not come any closer. Remove your shoes from your feet, as this ground that you are standing on is Holy. I am the G-d of your forefathers; Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov.” Moshe hid his face as he feared to gaze towards G-d. Hashem told Moshe “I have seen the suffering of my people and I have heard their scream and know their pain. I will descend to save them from the hands of the Egyptians and bring them out from Egypt to the good and spacious land which flows with milk and honey. I will bring them to the land of the Cananite, Hiti, Emori, Perizi, Chivi and Yevusi nations. Now, I will send you to Pharaoh to take my nation out of Egypt.”
  1. The ensuing conversation of Hashem and Moshe:
    • Moshe replied to Hashem “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and take the Jewish people out of Egypt.” Hashem responded by saying “I will be with you, and this is the sign [i.e. reason] that I have sent you, as when the nation leaves Egypt they will then serve G-d on this mountain.”
    • Hashem’s name: Moshe requested Hashem for his name, just in case he is question by the Jewish people as to who sent him. Hashem replied “Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh, and so you shall tell the Jewish people that Eheyeh sent you to them. Also tell them that the G-d of Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov sent you to them.” This is my name forever and my remembrance for all generations.


  • Gather the elders of the Jewish people: Hashem instructed Moshe to gather the elders of Israel and tell them that the G-d of your fathers have appeared to me and He told me “I have remembered that which is being done to you in Mitzrayim, and I shall take you out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of Canaan, a land of milk and honey.” Hashem told Moshe that the elders will listen to his voice.
  • The message to Pharaoh: Hashem instructed Moshe that he and the elders should come all together to the king of Egypt and tell him that Hashem the G-d of the Hebrews has come to you, and you request to leave Egypt for a three-day journey to the desert to bring sacrifices to Him. Now, says Hashem, I know that he will not adhere to your request to allow you to go, without a mighty hand [striking him].
  • Hashem promises miracles and wealth: Hashem told Moshe: I will strike and smite Egypt with all of My wonders, and only afterwards will he send you. I will grant favor of the nation in eyes of the Egyptians and they will not leave empty handed. Each woman will request from her neighbor silver and gold vessels, and clothing, and you will place them on your children and leave Mitzrayim.
  1. Moshe argues that the Jewish people will not believe him:
  • Moshe replied to Hashem saying that the Jewish people will not believe him, and not listen to him, as they will claim that Hashem did not appear to him.
  • Moshe’s staff turns into a snake: Hashem then asked Moshe “What is that which you are holding in your hand?” Moshe replied “It is a staff” Hashem told Moshe to throw it on the ground, and so he did, and it turned into a snake. Moshe fled from the snake [out of fright]. Hashem told Moshe to grab it by the tail, and it turned back into a staff. Hashem stated that this was done in order so the Jewish people believe that Hashem appeared to you.
  • Moshe’s hand turns white: Hashem further told Moshe to place his hand in his bosom and he did so. When he took it out, he saw that his hand was white like snow. Hashem told Moshe to reinsert his hand, and he did so, and when he removed it again it returned back to normal. Hashem concluded that if the Jewish people will not believe the first sign then they will believe the second sign.
  • A third sign-Turning water into blood: Hashem further stated, if they will not listen to the first two signs then you shall take water from the river and pour it on the ground and behold it will turn into blood.
  1. Moshe argues against being appointed as messenger:
    • Moshe argues that he can’t speak: Moshe replied to Hashem that he cannot do the job as he has speech disorders and thus cannot articulate his words properly. Hashem responded that He is the one who grants the ability to speak, or to be mute, or deaf, or smart, or blind.
    • Hashem appoints Aaron to join Moshe in the mission: Moshe again asked Hashem to send a different person, and not him. Hashem became angry with Moshe and told him that his brother Aaron knows to speak, and he has come out to meet him, and he will rejoice in seeing you. Hashem told Moshe that he should speak to Aaron and tell him what to say and I will be with both of your mouths, and teach you both what to do. Aaron will do the speaking to the nation for you and you will be to him a master. Hashem then told Moshe to take the staff with him with which the miracles will be performed.



  1. Moshe journeys back to Egypt:
  • Moshe returned to Yeser his father in-law and asked him to allow him to go back to Egypt and visit his brethren. Yisro replied that he can go in peace. Hashem appeared to Moshe and told him to return to Egypt as all the men who seek to kill him have died.
  • Moshe took his wife and sons and mounted them on the donkey and returned to Egypt. Moshe took the staff with him.
  • Moshe’s job in Egypt and his message to Pharaoh: Hashem told Moshe that when he returns to Egypt he should perform the miracles before Pharaoh, although I will strengthen his heart and he will not let the nation go. You are to tell Pharaoh: So says Hashem, my firstborn son is the Jewish people, send my son out so he can serve Me, and if you refuse to send him I will kill your first-born son.
  1. Moshe’s son is circumcised:
  • During the journey, while in the inn, Hashem met Moshe and desired to kill him [through an angel]. Tziporah took a sharp stone and circumcised the foreskin of her son. She threw it at Moshe’s feet and exclaimed “You are to me a murderer of my husband.” The [angel] then loosened his grip on Moshe.


  1. Moshe meets Aaron in the desert:
  • Hashem appeared to Aaron and told him to go greet Moshe in the desert and he went and met Moshe by the mountain of G-d and kissed him there. Moshe told Aaron all that Hashem spoke to him, and that he had sent him on a mission, and of all the miracles he had commanded him to perform.


  1. Moshe and Aaron gather the elders and show the signs to the Jewish people:
  • Moshe and Aaron [arrived and] gathered all the elders of the Jewish people. Aaron spoke all the words that Moshe was told and he performed the miracles in front of the nation. The nation believed them, that Hashem had remembered the Jewish people and saw their affliction. The nation bowed their heads and prostrated.



  1. Moshe and Aaron approach Pharaoh and request that he free the Jewish people:
  • Moshe and Aaron then approached Pharaoh and told him “So has said the G-d of the Jews, let My people go so they can celebrate for Me in the desert.” Pharaoh replied “Who is this Hashem that I shall listen to His voice to send the Jewish people? I do not know this G-d and I will not send them.” They again persisted “The G-d of the Hebrews came to us, so let us please go for a three-day journey to the desert to offer him sacrifices there, lest He strike us with plague or the sword.” Pharaoh replied to them “Why is Moshe and Aaron disturbing the people from their work. Go mind your own business. The people of the land are many and you want to have them cease working!”


  1. Pharaoh increases the conditions of slavery:
  • No more straw but same work quota: After Moshe’s failed request Pharaoh instructed the taskmasters and police to stop giving the people straw to make bricks and rather they will go themselves and gather the straw. “However, the quota of bricks that must be made daily will remain the same. They are being lazy and lax and that is why they are screaming to leave and slaughter for their G-d. Make them work harder and do not pay attention to words of falsity.”
  • The Jewish people are told the news: The taskmasters and police told the Jewish people of Pharaoh’s new work conditions and that they would need to gather their own straw, although the work quota would remain the same.
  • The Jewish police are beaten: The Jewish people scattered throughout Egypt to gather straw and the taskmasters would press them to finish the daily quota, as before. The police officers who were appointed by the taskmasters to supervise the work were beaten, as the Jewish people had not met the quota.
  • The Jewish police confront Pharaoh: The Jewish police cried before Pharaoh asking why he is doing this to his servants. “You are not giving us straw and you demand we still follow the daily quota and as a result we are being beaten. This is a sin upon your people. Pharaoh replied “You are being lazy, that is why you are requesting to leave to sacrifice to your G-d. Now, go back to work and straw will not be given to you, although the work quota will remain the same.” The Jewish police had to unfortunately relay the news back to the Jewish people that the quota will remain the same, and they had to see them in their suffering.
  1. The Jewish police confront Moshe and Aaron:
    • The Jewish police met Moshe and Aaron who were coming towards them as they left their audience with Pharaoh and they said to them “Let Hashem look upon you and judge what you caused, as you have destroyed our standing in the face of Pharaoh and his servants, and you have now given them the sword to kill us.”


  1. Moshe confronts Hashem:
  • Moshe returned to Hashem saying “My master, why have you caused evil to befall this nation, why did you send me. Since I have come to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, not only have You not saved them, but he has harmed the people. Hashem replied to Moshe “Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh, as with a mighty hand I will send them out of his land.”


[1] So is followed by Ashkenazi and Chabad communities. However, Sefaradi communities read from Yermiyahu 1:1-2:3

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