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  • Writer's pictureEve Was Right

13. Humanity is Getting Better

Updated: Jan 9

Parshah Shemos

TL;DR of the Text

Major Themes

  • Finally Moses showed an improvement in the treatment of women

  • Humanity is getting better all the time, even if it's difficult to see


*Important attribution note: All quotes listed in this article are credited to the Artscroll Stone Edition Chumash. Here is an Extremely Clear Citation so I don’t get in trouble: Nosson Scherman, Hersh Goldwurm, Avie Gold, & Meir Zlotowitz. (2015). The Chumash : the Torah, Haftaros and Five Megillos. Mesorah Publications, Ltd.


Exodus 1:8-10*

“A new king arose over Egypt, who did not know of Joseph. He said to his people, ‘Behold! The people, the Children of Israel, are more numerous and stronger than we. Come, let us outsmart it lest it become numerous and it may be that if a war will occur, it, too, may join our enemies, and wage war against us and go up from the land.’” 

Ah, one of the familiar excuses for subjugating a population: “Deep down, they’re not like us; they’ll join our enemies to act against us.”


Exodus 2:15-19*

“Pharaoh heard about this matter and sought to kill Moses; so Moses fled from before Pharaoh and settled in the land of Midian. He sat by a well. 

The minister of Midian had seven daughters; they came and drew water and filled the troughs to water their father’s sheep. The shepherds came and drove them away. Moses got up and saved them and watered their sheep. They came to Reuel their father. He said, ‘How could you come so quickly today?’ They replied, ‘An Egyptian man saved us from the shepherds, and he even drew water for us and watered the sheep.’” 

Many women in the Torah who later became wives were first encountered at a well. However, Moses’ story serves as the very first case where a man performed a service for his future wife. In contrast, Eliezer relaxed near the well while Rebecca watered his camels, and Jacob observed as Rachel did her chores. 


Exodus 3:13*

“Moses said to God, ‘Behold, when I come to the Children of Israel and say to them, “The God of your forefathers has sent me to you,” and they say to me “What is His Name?”- what shall I say to them?’” 

The fact that Moses asked God how he should address Him indicates the extent to which the Israelites lost their traditions and beliefs in the years after Joseph’s death. 


Exodus 3:21-22*

“[God said,] ‘I shall grant [Israel] favor in the eyes of Egypt, so that it will happen that when you go, you will not go empty-handed. Each woman shall request from her neighbor and from the one who lives in her house silver vessels, gold vessels, and garments; and you shall put them on your sons and daughters, and you shall empty out Egypt.’” 

Nations of the world take note: God believes in reparations. 


Nations of the world take note: God believes in reparations. 

Exodus 4:24-26*

“It was on the way, in the lodging, that Hashem encountered him and sought to kill him. So Zipporah took a sharp stone and cut off the foreskin of her son and touched it to his feet; and she said, ‘You caused my bridegroom’s bloodshed!’ so he released him; then she said, ‘A bridegroom’s bloodshed was because of circumcision.’” 

God tested Moses’ commitment, and in return, He received confirmation of both Moses and Zipporah’s commitment. There is no indication in the text of circumcision being the reason behind the attack, which makes this a confusing episode. We get a lot of information about Zipporah but not enough information about God’s motivations to draw conclusions. 


In this passage, Zipporah exercised agency to God directly, a refreshing change from women’s lack of agency during the age of the Patriarchs. This change is likely due to time’s inexorable march towards justice; despite Egypt’s hardships, people still improved their character.


It still feels a bit odd to hear Zipporah scold her newborn baby because he “caused her bridegroom’s bloodshed.” Who tells a baby, “How dare you cause injury to my husband?!”


*Again with the Extremely Clear Citation so I don’t get in trouble: Nosson Scherman, Hersh Goldwurm, Avie Gold, & Meir Zlotowitz. (2015). The Chumash : the Torah, Haftaros and Five Megillos. Mesorah Publications, Ltd.

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