Shemot / Exodus 1:1-Exodus 6:1
“And these are the names of the Children of Israel who were coming into Egypt…The Children of Israel were fruitful, teemed, increased and became strong—very much so; and the land became filled with them.” (Exodus 1:1,7)
As with a good number of the parashot, Shemot begins with the letter ו (vav). In Hebrew, a vav is a letter added to the beginning of a word to represent the conjunction “and.” Our parasha begins “And these are the names (shemot / שמות)…” This statement connects the current parasha with the previous one. But the vav is the connector. It connects the previous thought to a new thought. In this case it connects the previous parasha to the current one. But not only does it connect one parasha to the next, it connects one generation to another. But not only does it connect one generation to another, but it connects despair to hope.
“Chazak! Chazak! Venitchazeik!”
Last week was the first time we have spoken these words for this Torah cycle. They are spoken at the end of each book of Torah as a transition from one book to the next. They mean “Be strong! Be strong! And may we be strengthened!” I find it fitting that these words connect the last words of Breisheet with the first words of Shemot. They connect the bitter ending of Breisheet with the optimistic introduction of Shemot.
Joseph died at the age of one hundred and ten years; they embalmed him and he was placed in a coffin in Egypt.
These words cannot be the fatalistic end of the story. There has to be more. There has to be hope for a future. Then we hear the reminder… “Chazak! Chazak! Venitchazeik!” Be strong! Be strong! And may we be strengthened! They are followed with the words of Shemot…
And these are the names of the Children of Israel who were coming into Egypt…The Children of Israel were fruitful, teemed, increased and became strong—very much so; and the land became filled with them.
Did you hear that? They “teemed, increased and became strong—very much so.” The death of Joseph wasn’t an end, but a beginning. It wasn’t the end of the story. On the contrary, it only set the stage for the greater story—a story of signs & wonders, devotion, love and redemption.
Maybe there has been tragedy or unfortunate circumstances in your life recently. It’s not the end. There is a vav if we continue reading. Just as the Children of Israel were at a point of hopelessness at the passing of Joseph (the one that led us into the country!), a vav was waiting for them just ahead. We all have a vav waiting on us if we stand firm.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Always remember—Mashiach is the vav connecting us to Israel. Torah is the vav connecting us to Hashem. If you are in a difficult place, remember the words “Chazak! Chazak! Venitchazeik!” and hang on to your vavs.
- Chazak! Chazak! Venitchazeik!
- 5 Minute Torah – Va’eira
- Fishers of Men – Yeshua’s Messianic Midrash
- Strengthening the Prodigal
- Israelites found in Ancient Egypt