Parshat Shemot Summary

Parshat Shemot is the 1st parsha in Sefer Shemot (also known as Exodus).

This parsha is verses Exodus 1:1 – 6:1 for a total of 124 verses.

Here is a brief summary for each aliyah.

Aliyah 1: Exodus 1:1 – 1:17, 17 verses

The Book of Exodus begins with a list of Jacob’s sons who came to Egypt with him. At verse 8 the Torah makes a quick transition. Suddenly there is a new Pharaoh who begins oppressing the Jewish people. After manual labor and slavery prove to be ineffective, Pharaoh orders that all male babies be killed.

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Aliyah 2: Exodus 1:18 – 2:10, 15 verses

The plan to kill babies at birth didn’t work. So Pharaoh orders male babies be thrown into the Nile River. During this time of slaughter, Moshe / Moses is born. He is rescued from drowning by Pharaoh’s daughter.

Aliyah 3: Exodus 2:11 – 2:25, 15 verses

Moses is raised by Pharaoh’s daughter, but he knows who are his people. Moses rescues a Jew from an Egyptian. Then he mediates a dispute between 2 Jews. He is forced to flee for his life. He goes to Midian where he protects 7 shepherdesses. He marries one of them, Zipporah. She gives birth to a son named Gershom.

Aliyah 4: Exodus 3:1 – 3:15, 15 verses

Moses encounters God at the burning bush. God wants to send Moses to confront Pharaoh. Moses has several excuses why he’s not the right person for the job.

Aliyah 5: Exodus 3:16 – 4:17, 24 verses

The dialogue between God and Moses continues. God turns Moses’s staff into a snake. Then He causes a disease to infect his hand. Then Moses is told that he can take water from the Nile, pour it on the ground, and it will turn into blood. God tells Moses that these signs will convince the oppressed Jewish people that God sent him.

Aliyah 6: Exodus 4:18 – 4:31, 14 verses

Moses asks his father-in-law for permission to return to Egypt. God again commands Moses to go to Egypt. On the journey to Egypt Moses almost dies until Zipporah circumcises her son. (This son is not Gershom mentioned above. This is Eliezer who is mentioned by name in Exodus 18:4.)

Aliyah 7: Exodus 5:1 – 6:1, 24 verses

Moses and his brother Aharon (Aaron) meet with Pharaoh and demand that he let the Jewish people leave Egypt. Pharaoh refuses. In retaliation, he increases the work load on the people. At the end of the parsha, Moses wonders why God has sent him to Egypt.

Haftarah Summary

Ashkenazi tradition: The haftarah comes from Isaiah 27:6 – 28:13 and 29:22 – 23.
The prophet Isaiah discusses the future redemption of the Jewish people, which will be similar to their redemption from Egypt. No matter how low they have sunk, eventually God will redeem them.

Sefardi tradition: The haftarah comes from Jeremiah 1:1 – 2:3.
This haftarah relates the calling of Jeremiah to be a prophet and the first communication he received from God. Jeremiah was like Moses and thought he was not qualified to be God’s prophet.

Further Reading

In Parshat Shemot, the midwives play an important and heroic role. This article goes into more details about them.

A Note on the Translations
The translation of Bible verses is based on the Judaica Press Tanach.
The translation of Gemara is based on the Soncino Talmud.
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