Shabbat Shemot (Ex. 1:1-6:1)
The first portion of the second book of Torah is called “Shemot” in Hebrew, which means “names”
This week we fast forward 400 years. There’s a Pharaoh – we never find out what his name is, but then again the 5 Pharaoh’s named in Torah all are never called anything except “Pharaoh” – who doesn’t remember Joseph’s name. We meet two midwives, and we learn their names are Shifrah and Puah A man from the tribe of Levi (who’s name we do not learn until much later) takes a wife (again, no name given) and they have a son and hide him. When it becomes impossible to hide the baby any more, he’s placed in a basket and his sister (no name given) keeps an eye on him until Pharaoh’s daughter (whose name we never learn except in midrash) draws him from the water and names him Moses.
In the whole narrative of Moses’ birth and life until adulthood, the Torah only gives us the names of the midwives and Moses himself. Through midrash, we understand that these midwives are actually Miriam and Yocheved – Moses’ sister and mother – working under assumed Egyptian names.
Nobody – not ancient scholors or modern commentators – have ever stated what Moses’ name was before he was floated down the Nile. What was he called for the 3 months he was kept hidden?
And most compellingly, we are given the first formal presentation of God’s name. According to Richard Friedman, this 4-letter name “…is a verb. It is third person. It is singular. And it is masculine. Its root meaning is “to be”. It is generally understood to be a causative form. It’s tense is the imperfect, and it cannot be limited to a past, present or future time. Its nearest translation would be ‘He Causes To Be’. ”
SO… limited only by your creativity and the category of food assigned , please plan to bring a food with many names.
Not sure what this Torah portion is about? You can find a brief summary in The Edible Torah’s “Condensed Guide to the Weekly Torah Readings”. For more information on what The Edible Torah is all about, along with insight on how to set up a pot-luck Shabbat experience, check out “The Edible Torah”.