Below is a collection of Parashat Shemot resources created by The Lookstein Center staff or contributed to the site by Jewish educators.
This is a growing collection. Check back soon or write to us at email@example.com if you didn’t find what you’re looking for.
DISCUSSION AND REFLECTION QUESTIONS
Question #1: What does it mean to be a responsible sibling or family member? Have you ever had to do something you found difficult in order to take care of a younger sibling? How did you feel while you were doing it? How did you feel afterward? In Parashat Shemot, Miriam takes on a special role in watching over her baby brother. How do you think it felt for her to have that responsibility?
Look inside the text (Shemot 2:4, 7-8),
וַתֵּתַצַּב אֲחֹתוֹ מֵרָחֹק לְדֵעָה מַה יֵּעָשֶׂה לוֹ – And his sister watched from a distance, to learn what would happen to him.
וַתֹּאמֶר אֲחֹתוֹ אֶל בַּת פַּרְעֹה הַאֵלֵךְ וְקָרָאתִי לָךְ אִשָּׁה מֵינֶקֶת מִן הָעִבְרִיֹּת וְתֵינִק לָךְ אֶת הַיָּֽלֶד – Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Should I go and get you a Hebrew nurse to nurse the child for you?”
וַתֹּֽאמֶר לָהּ בַּת פַּרְעֹה לֵכִי וַתֵּלֶךְ֙ הָעַלְמָה וַתִּקְרָא אֶת אֵם הַיָּלֶד – And Pharaoh’s daughter answered, “Yes.” So the girl went and called the child’s mother.
Question #2: What should you do when you see two people arguing and it looks like someone is going to get hurt? Do you try to stop it? Do you keep on walking because you don’t really know them? Do you run to get help?
In Parashat Shemot, Moses sees two Jews arguing and one is ready to hit the other. He tries to stop them, but he doesn’t receive the response he expected.
Look inside the text (Shemot 2:13-14),
וַיֵּצֵא בַּיּוֹם הַשֵּׁנִי וְהִנֵּה שְׁנֵי אֲנָשִׁים עִבְרִים נִצִּים וַיֹּאמֶר לָרָשָׁע לָמָּה תַכֶּה רֵעֶךָ – When he went out the next day, he found two Hebrews fighting; so he said to the attacker, “Why are you hitting your friend?”
וַיֹּאמֶר מִי שָׂמְךָ לְאִישׁ שַׂר וְשֹׁפֵט עָלֵינוּ הַלְהָרְגֵנִי אַתָּה אֹמֵר כַּאֲשֶׁר הָרַגְתָּ אֶת הַמִּצְרִי וַיִּירָא מֹשֶׁה וַיֹּאמַר אָכֵן נוֹדַע הַדָּבָר – He answered, “Who made you chief and ruler over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” Moses was scared, and thought: Then the matter is known!
Question #3: God is patient with Moses as Moses repeatedly looks for excuses to avoid taking on the mission. Taking on responsibility for the community is praiseworthy – at what point does someone have the right to say “NO, thank you” and bow out? Is it justified to pressure someone to take on a responsibility they don’t want to assume? How do we balance the needs of the individual and the needs of the community?
Question #4: After Moses’s first encounter with Pharaoh, the condition of the Jews gets worse. They complain to Moses, who in turn complains to God. God responds that now Moses will see that Pharaoh will indeed free the people. Moses, as the middleman between God and the people, is put into an uncomfortable position and needs to rely on the authority of someone else, in this case, God, to take responsibility for the outcome of his actions. When is it appropriate to rely on reassurances from the authorities that our actions are OK, and when must we take personal responsibility for them? For example, at what point can, or must, a soldier refuse to obey the authority of a commanding officer because the soldier deems it immoral? What would happen to armies, or any organized system, if every individual decided for themselves what was appropriate or inappropriate?
LESSON PLANS AND ARTICLES
Parashat Shemot: Why Moshe? – This lesson plan for grades 7-8 explores aspects of Moshe’s youth and moral courage in Judaism.
The Prince of Egypt: An Orthodox Look – This study guide for The Prince of Egypt film was designed to help students understand the traditional Exodus story.
Ancient Egypt and Modern Germany – This unit challenges students to ponder issues surrounding Jewish identity and Jewish integration within surrounding society.
Go, Return to Egypt – This article by Nechama Leibowitz provides an in-depth view into God’s revelation to Moshe in Midyan.