It doesn’t really make sense to have a favorite parshah for the same reason that it doesn’t make sense to have a favorite body parts (say your cute little toes). They only have content in relation to the rest of your body. It would be quite a stretch to envision anyone really liking disembodied toes! In the same way (but with infinite lehavdils- verbal separations between something sacred and something ordinary or profane), the Torah is one beautiful indivisible body of wisdom. Each word, letter and parshah is entwined with the whole. The source of this kind of unity is Hashem Himself. The Torah is Hashem’s unknowable wisdom, His unity and His infinity. He gave us some access to Him when He let it flow down to our world. We don’t always have the will or the ability to relate to the Torah and its mitzvos as being G-d’s Mind. Try to stretch… Imagine looking upwards and seeing a basin full of water flowing from a hidden source. If there are hundreds of holes in the bottom of the basin, what you see when you look up is hundreds of streams. You don’t even see the basin, let alone the source of its water.
When Hashem created the world, His light was unified and undiffused, like the water in our parable. When He decided to make a finite world, He created innumerable different streams, ranging from the vitality that gives your life, to the energy that sustains the physical world. As the flow grows more distant from its source an interesting thing happens. Because you just see the flow, you may end up not looking much further. You may end up not even looking up high enough to see that there is a source because it’s so far out of sight and your eyes are cast downward.
This is what happened to Pharaoh.
When he met Yaakov he knew that the person that he was facing was holy, and unlike anyone he had ever met. Yaakov blessed him before leaving. The result of the blessing was that the Nile rose towards Pharaoh when he went towards its shore. Instead of “looking up” realizing that the truth that Yaakov had revealed, which is that the Nile’s flow can be changed in response the being blessed by a person who “learned” G-d, who lives his entire life in awareness of the Source, Pharaoh came to an entirely different conclusion. “I am the Nile; I made it.
The Torah is Hashem’s will and wisdom. It comes from a place that is far beyond human vision, a place of absolute unity. This is why the Torah can’t be sensibly divided into segments and still retain its meaning any more than a body part divorced from the body still has real purpose.
I still like Parshat Shmot an awful lot.
The narrative of the nascent Jewish people sprouting from a family, the drama of self-discovery in the midst of enslavement and suffering and the sparks of heroism in the darkness all speak with the kind of poetry that words alone never have. It’s the first of six parshas that narrate the story of the redemption. It’s much bigger than anyone’s individual life. Being redeemed means (according to Maharal) being able to become what you are in the most genuine sense of the word. The suffering that this parshah narrates forced us into the kind of humility that comes from knowing that you have no choice but to relinquish any fantasy of control that you have. Once that’s there, you can morph into becoming the kind of person your great-greats were, when they followed Hashem into the desert. They chose to break the mold of dependency on humans, on natural cause and effect, and personal fear. They never could have done it alone; Hashem was with them every step of the way. Don’t you wish that you were there? The good news is that in a spiritual sense you were and you still are.
Enjoy the view from Goshen,