In this week’s portion we find an interesting genealogy of Moses and Aaron. The first question to be asked when encountering this genealogy is concerning its placement. We read of Moses and Aaron encountering an angry Pharaoh, next Moses speaks to God and suddenly . . . a genealogy? The storyline seems to be coming to an epic peak, an impressive foreshadowing, when suddenly we’re confronted with the genealogy of Moses and Aaron? What an anticlimactic moment! It’s as if the narrator forgot to give a proper introduction, or the playbill failed to mention a list of characters. We suddenly have to stop mid-script and reintroduce our main actors and the details of the central plot. Why?To begin, let us read the Biblical account and see what the “pshat—plain/simple” meaning of the text relates to us. “These are the heads of their fathers’ houses: The sons of Reuben, the firstborn of Israel…and the sons of Simeon…” Wait, what? I thought Aaron and Moses were from the tribe of Levi? Why does the text start by mentioning Reuben and Simeon?

Baal haTurim in his commentary writes, “Reuven’s and Shimon’s genealogy are mentioned [] in order to accord them the courtesy due to seniority. Had the Torah ignored the genealogy of Reuven and Shimon at this point, some people might have thought that Levi was the senior of the brothers.” Basically, the Baal haTurim is showing that the seniority of the older brothers/order of the tribes remains important and unchanged. However, as the saying goes “2 Jews equals 3 opinions” means that this is not the only reason given by the Rabbis as to why the names of Reuben and Simeon are mentioned before Levi. Rashi writes, “because their father Jacob reproached these three tribes in the hour of his death, Scripture again enumerates here their genealogy alone of all the tribes to indicate that they nevertheless were men of worth.” (Genesis 49) When Jacob the Patriarch blessed his 12 sons, some of his harshest rebukes went to his 3 oldest, Reuben, Simeon, and Levi.

According to Rashi, the words here in the Torah show us that though Jacob’s rebukes were harsh, these men still held value among the tribes and in the family of Israel. However, just because these men held value does not mean anyone among their progeny was ready to lead the nation of Israel to deliverance. Sforono, an Italian Rabbi and philosopher, expounds upon this verse by saying, “Moses and Aaron were justifiably referred to as the heads of the various tribal groups of Israel, as they were the most respected and most honored. Reuven, [] none of his descendants were particularly noteworthy… [with] the same consideration [being] true for the descendants of Shimon. Levi, the longest surviving member of the original 70 Hebrews who migrated to Egypt, managed to raise even his grandchildren to become leaders of the people in their own right. Amram produced three outstanding children in the persons of Aaron, Moses and Miriam, all of whom attained prophetic stature.” 

So while the Rashi on the one hand states that Reuben and Simeon were men of worth, Sforno points out that worth versus capability are two separate issues altogether. (A concept which often is confused in our modern era.) The reason Reuben and Simeon’s descendants are mentioned is to point out that there was none more qualified than Aaron and Moses in any of the tribes that came before the tribe of Levi. However, Rabbeinu Bachya adds that, had only the tribe of Levi been mentioned, “We might have thought…that the entire list was only recorded in honor of Moses.” Therefore, while this list was given to show Aaron and Moses’ qualifications over those in other senior tribes (according to birth order), at the same time, this order of genealogies was given to remind Aaron and Moses, that there was nothing to pride themselves in because God could have chosen anyone from the tribes of Reuben, Simeon, or even Levi.
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As it states in the following verses (Exodus 6:26-27), “These are the same Aaron and Moses to whom the Lord said, ‘Bring out the children of Israel from the land of Egypt according to their armies.’ These are the ones who spoke to Pharaoh king of Egypt, to bring out the children of Israel from Egypt. These are the same Moses and Aaron.” What is this verse implying? In Numbers Rabbah 11 is found the phrase “Like the first redeemer was, so will the final redeemer be.” The “first redeemer,” Moses, gives us a glimpse into the mission and purpose of the “final redeemer,” the Messiah. Within the verse above along with several other verses from Moses’ life, I would like to make a parallel with a passage we read in the Gospel of Matthew. In Matthew 13 we read, “When He had come to His own country, He taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished and said, ‘Where did this Man get this wisdom and these mighty works? Is this not the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this Man get all these things?’ So they were offended at Him. But Yeshua said to them, ‘A prophet is not without honor except in his own country and in his own house.’ Now He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief.”

 In the verses above about Moses and Aaron we read a repetition of the phrase, “These are the same Moses and Aaron.” Why? Because traditionally, many of the Hebrews looked at Moses and Aaron and said, “we know these blokes. We know where they come from and who their families are. How can they be the saviors of Israel?” Moses and Aaron were scorned and ridiculed when they first arrived on scene. In the verses about our Master Yeshua’s ministry we read that the people said of him, “Is this not the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us?” The townspeople who knew Yeshua said much the same as what was said of Moses and Aaron. We know him! How could it be that this is the redeemer of Israel? Yet, Moses and Aaron, as well as Yeshua, these very same people are the ones who brought deliverance for God’s people.

Earlier in Exodus chapter 6 we read, “Moses spoke . . . but the [Israelites] did not heed Moses. . . .” The same is written of Yeshua. “So they were offended at Him . . . He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief.” Because the Israelites thought they knew Moses, Aaron, and Yeshua, they rejected them because of the calling that God had placed upon them. And lastly, just as an Israelite responded to Moses by saying, “Who made you a prince and a judge over us?” So too, the villagers of Yeshua’s day said, “Where did this Man get this wisdom and these mighty works. . . . Where then did this Man get all these things?” Both Moses and Aaron, along with Yeshua faced rejection. Why? Because the people said “We know these guys. How can they be what we’re waiting for?” And to be completely honest, unfortunately, I feel this same attitude is prevalent today as well. When people feel summoned by God to a certain calling, direction, or mission, oftentimes it happens “the ones closest, hinder the mostest.” It reminds me of one of Marty Goetz’s songs in which he sings about his family. “But now they ask me how I could go so wrong and why all of a sudden I’m singing this song. They say ‘son you’re deserting your fathers of old, so why don’t you just come back to the fold, you’re such a nice boy, or weren’t you told, that when you were born they broke the mold, so whadya need with this stuff you’ve been sold?” 

I think most of the family and friends of Moses and Aaron along with Yeshua probably thought that these poor souls had gone loony and they were just trying to “help a brother out” by bringing them back to reality; and I do understand, I mean, if one of my brothers suddenly proclaimed himself as the savior of Israel, I would think he’d lost his marbles as well. Moses, Aaron, and Yeshua each faced the struggles of interpersonal relationships while still holding fast to their individual calling from God; they each had familial problems. It is much easier to be a Superhero-savior without a family. In fact, I did some quick research on some of the most classic Superheros of all-time. Guess what…Superman was born on the planet of Krypton and sent away by his parents on a spaceship down to earth before the planet of Krypton was destroyed. He was an orphan. Batman as a child witnessed the murder of his parents. He was an orphan. Spiderman lived with his Uncle and Aunt because his parents were killed in a sabotaged airplane crash. He was an orphan. Ironman’s parents were both killed in a car accident. He was an orphan. Captain America lost his father when he was young while his mother died of pneumonia. He was an orphan. These were some of the ones I recognized, but I believe if we continued examining the numerous Superhero characters this pattern would probably continue. Why do you think most fictional characters are orphans or estranged from their family? Family generally stands in the way of greatness…in the eyes of the world. Real-world dictators, guess what? Most throughout history have eliminated all/almost all of their family or have removed them far from positions of power. Why? Family members know and remember too much. They could expose the façade that a person in power would want to remain standing.
However, this is not what we should do. When in a position of power, we should lift up our family and friends, even if they don’t believe in our mission as much as we do. Remember, even though you are a leader, they do know you and their insight can be helpful for you in your blind spots. (Notice the plural of the words blind spots—we all have more than one!) For those who have a “Jesus Freak” for a family member, don’t tear them down just because you “know them,” rather let everyone build each other up! Most individuals see family as a hindrance whether it is in ministry, business, or career. But for those who follow God, not only is family one of the greatest of blessings, it is also the hidden key and unstoppable power that can change the world for good. Broken families and relationships are as old as the Garden of Eden. Healed and reconciled relationships are what will bring us back to the Garden of Glory. If you have a “Moses” in your family, bless and guide them into their calling. Whatever calling others have, I have learned to say, “ If your eyes are on God, then I bless you.” Because how could I not? Therefore, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up…[and do] not neglect[] to meet together [] but encourage[e] one another… encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing… [and] you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God…being joined together, grow[ing] into a holy temple in the Lord. (Ephesians 4:29. Hebrews 10:25. 1 Thessalonians 5:11. Ephesians 2:18-21)
Grace and Peace from God’s Bondservant,
Shabbat Shalom,
Samuel

97 thoughts on “Parsha Va’era “I Appeared” Exodus 6:2-9:35

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