Office of the Chief Rabbi

D’var Torah: Parashat Shemot

We all have the potential to be great.

In Parashat Shemot, we have one of the most significant birth announcements ever: Vayeilech Ish Mibeit Levi Vayikach Et Bat Levi Vatahar Haishah Vateiled Ben, ‘a man from the tribe of Levi went and he married a woman from the tribe of Levi and she conceived and she gave birth to a son’.

Now we actually do know the names of the father, the mother and the child. Amram and Yocheved were blessed with a baby boy, Moshe. And this is Sefer Shemot, the Book of Names, so why in this very significant announcement is there a total absence of names?

‘This is Sefer Shemot, the Book of Names, so why in this very significant announcement is there a total absence of names?’

I once heard Rabbi Shlomo Riskin give a lovely Peirush as to the background to the names Amram and Yocheved. Amram was born at a time of deep persecution, a time when our oppressors treated us as if we were subhuman, people to kick about. And yet, his parents wanted him always to know that he was a part of an Am Ram, ‘an elevated people’, regardless of how people would treat us, we should always be a nation of dignity. What an amazing name.

Yocheved, ‘God of honour’. She was born at a time when people were questioning the existence of God and if they accepted the existence, then why was God allowing so many evil things to happen? Her parents wanted her to know, Yocheved, God is a God of honour and He will keep his promise to deliver His people.

So with such amazing names, why were they omitted?

‘The Torah wants us to know that whoever you are, you can be a truly outstanding person’

I would like to suggest the following answer. The Torah wants us to know that whoever you are, you can be a truly outstanding person. Forget about Yichus, famous parents and grandparents and wonderful lineage that everybody talks about – that’s not important. Any regular man and woman can produce a regular child and if you as a child, and then later on as an adult, use all of the God given talent that you have, if you reach your own personal and wonderful potential, then you can become the Moses of your generation.

Shabbat Shalom