Shemot begins the Book of Exodus and signifies the begining of a 6-week period called Shovavim – an acronym for the first letter of the first six portions of Exodus (Shemot, Va’eira, Bo, Beshalach, Yitro and Mishpatim). This period coincides with the story of the Jewish nation becoming enslaved in Egypt, their ultimate release from bondage, their travels through the desert and the receiving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai. The Kabbalists use this period of time to reflect on any of the things that “enslave” them and to overcome the limitations of a spiritual Egypt. The Hebrew word for Egypt is Mitzrayim, which means narrow place or constriction. Similar to the holiday of Passover, we now have a 6-week period to experience growth and freedom by being proactive, loving our neighbor and practicing unconditional love. The cosmic window is open for us to move from a place of limitation (“Egypt”) to a place of endless freedom and fulfillment (“Torah”). Be aware of opportunities to correct potential acts of selfishness or reactivity and become your highest self.
After describing the 70 souls and descendants of Jacob who were fruitful and multiplied in Egypt, the portion says: “Then a new king arose who did not know Joseph and who came to power in Egypt”. This begins the period of enslavement of the Jewish people. The new king was fearful of the Jewish nation and sought to keep them down. It is important to appreciate our freedom at all times and see how perilous it can be. Even with friends in high places and being fully assimilated into the local culture, as was the case in Egypt and in Germany in the early 20th century, a new leader can arise and take away all personal freedoms. The message is one of appreciation. When you stop appreciating, you become disconnected from the Light and problems will ultimately befall you. The new king should have appreciated all that Joseph had done for the Egyptian empire as well and we should always have appreciation for our freedom.
The portion of Shemot is a very important portion as we see G-d introduce himself to Moses and provide him with a Holy name that can be used to access G-d consciousness. The story tells of an infant placed in a basket in the Nile River by a Jewish woman trying to save her baby from the edict of the Pharaoh to drown all newborn Israelite boys. The baby is found by Pharoah’s daughter, given the name Moses (being drawn from water) and raised in the Royal Palace. Moses grew up in luxury but went to work with his brothers – the Jews, outside the palace. He killed an Egyptian soldier that was abusing a Jewish slave and fled to avoid punishment. He found refuge with Yethro, the high priest of Midian and married Yethro’s daughter, Tziporah. After many years of living on the land as a shepherd, Moses sees a burning bush on the mountain – which was not being consumed by the fire. He approached the burning bush and has a personal interaction with G-d.
After a dialog about how Moses will act as an agent of G-d to free the Jewish nation from slavery in Egypt, he asks G-d to tell him his name so that he can share it with the people of Israel. God says – ” Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh – I am who I Am. This is what you will say to the Israelites – say that I AM has sent me to you”. And He said – “This is my name forever to be remembered from generation to generation.” The Kabbalists and other mystics view this exchange as a secret to personal empowerment of G-d and “I am” consciousness. If we consider the name as being personally applicable to us, then we can become like G-d by using “I am” as part of our daily affirmation and acknowledgment of self. By identifying our life with “I am” – I am health, I am peace, I am love, I am happy – we become aligned with the I am presence of G-d. When we personalize G-d’s name, we can consider ourselves to be part of G-d and can connect to our highest self where everything is possible.
Another important message found in this week’s portion is the power of an individual. We read how despite Moses’ simple life of a shepherd and his communication challenges (“I am slow of speech and tongue”), he was still chosen by G-d to lead the Jewish people out of slavery in Egypt and to receive the Torah on Mount Sinai. The message is that no matter how simple our lot in life and no matter what limitations we believe we have, we can accomplish anything and achieve the highest level of success. With belief in ourselves and the understanding that it all comes from G-d, a simple shepherd can become the leader of a nation of people.
In sum, we have the next six week period (Shovavim) to rise above our limitations and love unconditionally to transform limitation to freedom – the representation of going from Egypt to receiving the Torah. We must always appreciate what we have and never forget people who have helped us. We can connect to the essence of G-d by using “I am.” I am is a state of consciousness and presence to connect to the infinite at any time by using the Holy name G-d revealed to Moses. It is simple, yet profound and powerful. I am Light. I am health. I am prosperous. I am happy. Lastly, like Moses, we should always recognize that we can accomplish anything with belief in ourselves and the power of universal consciousness. If a simple shepherd with a speech impediment can become the savior and spiritual leader of the Jewish people, then each one of us can also achieve unlimited success and greatness in our lives.