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Shemot: Why is this book different from all other books?

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Why is this book different from all other books? 

This shabbat we’ll be commencing the reading of the book of Shemot, which some people call the book of Exodus. Interestingly, the Rambam calls the book Sefer HaGeula, the Book of Redemption, for obvious reasons. 


But I find most fascinating the fact that the Bal Halachot Gedolot, (the BH’G), calls Shemot by the name ‘Chumash Sheini’, the second of the chumashim.

We know that there are ‘chamisha chumshei Torah,’ five chumashim – the five books of the Torah. But why doesn’t the BH’G call Bereishit ‘Chumash Rishon’ – the first chumash? Why doesn’t he call Bamidbar, ‘Chumash Revi’I’, the fourth of the chumashim? Why is it only Shemot which is called the second?


The Netziv, in his masterful work HaAmek Davar, gives a beautiful explanation. The Netziv says as follows. The BH’G wants us to know that Sefer Bereishit is incomplete without Sefer Shemot. Sefer Shemot is the continuation of Bereishit, and the reason is because Bereishit is all about the creation and the first generations on earth, while Shemot is about the prelude to the giving of the Torah, the actual giving of it, and the housing of the Torah in the Tabernacle. The message for us therefore is that that the creation was incomplete without the existence of the Torah

So here, we are reminded yet again about the centrality of Torah in our lives. Without Torah, we are nothing. That’s both at an individual level and also as far as our nation is concerned. In addition, we have a responsibility in all of our deeds and in our teachings to always reflect the values of Torah and ultimately, in this way, we will enhance our environment because we also recognise that the entire world is incomplete without Torah values. 

Shabbat shalom.