Rabbi Michael Shtiglitz
Former Shaliach in Chicago


In his introduction to Sefer Shmot, the HaAmek Davar discusses why Chazal simply refer to Sefer Shmot as Sefer Sheni (literally, the second book). After all, Vayikra is called Torat Kohanim, and Bamidbar is called Chumash HaPekudim, etc. Why was no unique name coined for Shmot as well?

The Netziv explains that by its very nature, Sefer Shmot is a direct continuation of Sefer Breishit. In other words, Sefer Shmot constitutes a further stage of Creation.

Why, then, are the two Chumashim separated and not combined into one Sefer? According to my father – and I believe that this is what the Netziv is trying to say – Sefer Breishit deals with the Creation of the individual, and therefore, Breishit concentrates on individuals. Noach, Avraham, Yitzchak, Yaakov, Yosef, and his brothers are all private individuals – albeit private individuals who happen to be visionaries and blessed with larger-than-life personalities.

As the Kuzari states:

“Thus, Avraham was the chosen one among Ever and his students, and hence, he is called Ivri… And Avraham’s chosen one among his sons was Yitzchak, and therefore, Avraham sent all his other sons away from that special Land… And Yitzchak’s chosen one was Yaakov… However, Yaakov’s sons were all chosen. They were all eligible for the Divine task, and therefore, they had that special Place of Divine Revelation for an inheritance. From that moment, the Divine task began. For until this point, there was not an entirety; rather, there was a collection of individuals…” (1:95)

Perhaps, this is yet another reason that Sefer Shmot opens with an additional enumeration of Yaakov’s sons who arrived in Egypt: To show us the connection between the individual and the nation as a whole.

The S’fat Emet (Parshat Shmot 5645) elaborates on this idea:

“‘And these are the names’ – Chazal said, ‘wherever it says “and these” it adds to that which came before’… Kabalat HaTorah (receiving the Torah) is the purpose of the Egyptian Exile. Therefore, it says ‘and’, which adds to the original discussion in Sefer Breishit. Moreover, it should be understood that, in truth, the purpose of Creation ended with the Exile and the Exodus from Egypt… [The Torah] adds to the original discussion, to say that this is the purpose of Creation…”

Furthermore, the Torah’s transition from a focus on individuals to a focus on the nation as a whole serves to teach us about the Torah’s true essence. The Torah was not given to individuals, and HaKadosh Baruch Hu only dwells among individuals on a temporary, limited basis. However, once we became a nation, the Torah was revealed to us in all its strength, and the Divine Presence is located in our midst.

In Chassidism, there is a principle known as “negation to the whole”. This concept, which the S’fat Emet refers to as “hitkalelut,” helps a person determine his life’s goal and essence. Without hitkalelut, one would be unable to achieve spiritual objectives. As the S’fat Emet explains elsewhere:

“The Egyptian Exile was the root of all the exiles, and similarly, the Exodus was the prelude to Yisrael’s Redemption from all of the world’s misfortunes… And similarly, the Exodus was through Moshe Rabbenu a”h, who is the root of all the neviim and righteous of the generations… During Matan Torah, Bnei Yisrael were truly on Moshe Rabbenu’s spiritual level…” (Shmot 5637)

In other words, Creation was completed when Am Yisrael joined together as a nation. They had to cease being a collection of individuals who were each concerned with their own personal problems. Instead, they had to unite and become one. Thus, HaKadosh Baruch Hu could give them His Torah and dwell amongst them.

The Gemara (BT Sanhedrin 97a) states:

“‘When Hashem will judge His people… when He sees that the power is progressing, and none is saved or strengthened.’ (Devarim 32:36) Ben David will not come until the informers have become numerous. Another explanation: Until the [Torah] scholars have become few. Another explanation: Until the perutah (coin) has gone from the pocket. Another explanation: Until they despair of the Redemption.”

In Margaliyot HaYam, Rav Reuven Margaliyot explains:

“‘Until the perutah has gone from the pocket’ – And see Sefer Yismach Moshe by HaGaon Rav Moshe Teitelbaum… who cites that Eliyahu z”l revealed to one wise man in a dream that the heart is dependent on the pocket, and Ben David will come when partiyut (individuality) will be removed from the pocket.”

Perhaps the time has come to free ourselves from this individuality which overwhelms us. Instead, we must heed Sefer Shmot’s message and recognize that we are a great and remarkable nation and that our power stems from our unity.

As the economy collapses, the financial systems tremble, and everything that appeared simple and obvious has become complicated and inextricable, maybe we must rise above this individuality. Perhaps we must examine our reality from a more encompassing vantage point – a vantage point which combines more values, more ideals, and more Jews.

Perhaps this is the prelude to the Redemption, and perhaps this is the basis for Michah’s prophecy:

And it shall be at the end of the days, that the mountain of the House of Hashem will be firmly established at the top of the mountains, and it shall be raised above the hills; and peoples shall stream to it.And many nations will go, and they shall say, Come, let us go up to the Mountain of Hashem and to the House of the God of Yaakov, and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths;for from Tzion shall the Torah come forth, and the word of Hashem from Yerushalayim. And he will judge between many peoples and reprove mighty nations from far away; and they will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning shears – nations will not lift sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. And they will dwell, each man under his vine and under his fig tree and no one will frighten them; for the mouth of Hashem, Master of Legions has spoken. For all peoples shall go, each man in the name of his god; but we will go in the Name of Hashem, our God, forever and ever. On that day, the word of Hashem: I will assemble the limping one, and the lost one I will gather; and those whom I harmed. And I will make the limping one into a remnant, and the scattered one into a mighty nation; and Hashem will reign over them on Har Tzion from now and forever. And you – Tower of the Flock, Fortified Hill of the daughter of Tzion – to you they will come; and the original kingdom will come, kingship to the daughter of Yerushalayim.” (Michah 4:1-8)

Shabbat Shalom!