Perhaps Man’s greatest fear is his ultimate irrelevance, that we really don’t make a difference and that in the greater scheme of things, our lives are for naught. This is why people yearn to leave a legacy, and it is often for this reason that people have children. The historical tendency to value male babies over females is due to the fact that it was (is?) the male who would carry on the family name and legacy. Upon marriage, females were typically absorbed into the family of the husband.
Parsha Thoughts: Rabbi Jay Kelman
“And it was on first month of the second year on the first of the month that the Tabernacle was erected” (Shemot 40:17). The first of Nissan is a most special time in Jewish history. It was on this date that Moshe and Aharon began preparing the people for their exodus from Egypt. It is thereby "the head of the months", marking the beginning of national Jewish history.
"And the people saw ki boshesh Moshe, that Moshe delayed in coming down from the mountain" (Shemot 32:1). As a young nation coming from a hedonistic society that had many gods, the transition to a monotheistic people living a disciplined life was not (and is not) an easy one. They needed lots of 'hand-holding' as they matured as a people, and were paralyzed with their leader away.
For many, when the Torah reading reaches the parshiot of Terumah and Tezaveh interest in the parsha wanes just a bit (or maybe more). It is hard to compare the technical details of these parshiot with the excitement of, say, the Yosef story. Add to that the inapplicability of these parshiot for the past 2,000 years and we can understand the diminished attention paid to them.
Judaism sees the sparks of the Divine within the most mundane of activities. Revelation at Sinai is followed by a series of laws dealing with such topics as slavery, property damage, assault and battery, lost objects, and court procedures. While all societies have civil codes, Judaism sees these laws as rooted in the Divine system of justice. Their observance embodies the essence of Judaism no less—in fact, more—than the “rituals” of Judaism.
One of the revolutions that Judaism brought to the world was its attitude towards, and its treatment of, slaves. Whereas in the ancient world slaves were considered to be no more than chattel, Judaism taught that slaves are to be accorded the same rights and privileges as their masters.
Fulfilling G-d's commandments is the essence of Torah. "If not for my covenant, day and night, the laws of heaven and earth, I would not have established" (Yirmiyahu 33:25). Rashi begins his commentary on Chumash asking why the Torah begins with the story of creation. Being a book of mitzvot, one might posit that it should have begun with the first mitzvah given to the Jewish people, namely, the sanctification of the new moon.
“And Pharaoh approached...they saw the Egyptians marching at their rear, and the people became very frightened. The Israelites cried out to G-d....They said to Moshe, ‘It would have been better for us to be slaves in Egypt than to die in the desert’” (Shemot 14:10-12).
Judaism places great emphasis on the proper use of time. For serious students there is practically no greater sin than that of bitul Torah—the wasting of precious time that could be devoted to Torah study and action. Successful people have effective time management techniques balancing the need to study, earn a living and spend time with their families. It should therefore come as no surprise that the first mitzva given to the Jewish people concerns the fixing of a calendar. To the slave, time had little relevance.
Moshe was frustrated. Having been coerced by G-d to redeem the Jewish people, things were not going as planned. As Moshe confronted Pharaoh, demanding—as G-d had instructed—that he let them go free, Pharaoh worsened the conditions for the Jewish people. Moshe could not take it and cried out, “O Lord, why do You mistreat Your people? Why did You send me? As soon as I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he made things worse for these people, and You have not saved Your people” (Shemot 6:27).