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The Bridge Between the Books

Finding a Connection From Bereishit To Shemot

Upon completion of one of the five books of the Torah, the congregation rises and enthusiastically calls “chazak chazak venitchazek!” (Be strong, be strong, and let us be strengthened). After this, we simply move on from the completed book; already at the Mincha service that Shabbat evening, we begin reading the next Sefer. As we conclude Sefer Bereshit, we can simply listen to its closing and then wonder,  “What’s for Kiddush today?” or “Who will win tonight’s basketball game?” Yet, doing this means missing the significant connection between Bereishit’s conclusion and the start of Shemot.

Looking at the end of Bereishit, we can see a direct parallel to the beginning of Shemot. At the end of Bereishit, we read about Yosef’s death: “Yoseph died at the age of one hundred and ten years; and he was placed in a coffin in Egypt,” (Bereshit 50:26). Once more, at the beginning of Shemot, after listing the names of those who came to Egypt, the Torah repeats that Yosef died, stating, “Yoseph and all of his brothers and all of the people of that generation died,” (Shemot 1:6). The connection between Bereishit and Shemot is demonstrated by the repetition of Yosef’s death. By restating points made in Bereshit, Shemot essentially provides a recap of previous events before launching into new narratives. Thus, Shemot seems to seamlessly continue Bereshit’s story, to the extent that one might wonder why there is a break to start a separate Sefer.

Although they build upon each other and continue one story, Bereshit and Shemot carry unique themes that, when identified, help us see the connection between the two books. In the Ramban’s introduction to Sefer Shemot, he outlined the separate themes of the two books. While Bereshit describes “how the world was brought forth” and foretells what will happen in this world, Sefer Shemot shows the fruition of these foreshadowed events. 

As we conclude Sefer Bereshit, we can simply listen to its closing and then wonder,  “What’s for Kiddush today?” or “Who will win tonight’s basketball game?”

Throughout Bereshit and Shemot, there are various instances where we see a plan in Bereshit and the implementation of that plan Shemot. For instance, Sefer Bereshit is the blueprint and foundation for God’s chosen nation, and, in it, He chooses the forefathers: Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov. Sefer Shemot then begins with the first stage of construction of this chosen nation. Furthermore, in Sefer Bereshit, God promises Avraham that he will make a great nation. Sefer Shemot begins with a description of Bnei Yisrael’s immense growth as God follows through with that plan: “And the Jews multiplied and increased very greatly so that the land was filled with them,” (Shemot 1:7). 

Another example of a planning and implementation pair that can be found in God’s covenant with Avraham is His prediction that the Jews will be enslaved in another land  (Bereshit 15:13-18), which is the period of slavery in Egpyt described at the beginning of Shemot. Shemot begins with a list of those who went down into Egypt, demonstrating the start of the first exile hinted at in Sefer Bereshit. 

In his introduction to Sefer Shemot, Rabbi Menachem Leibtag, founder of the OU’s Tanach Study Center, expanded upon God’s “implementation” of this covenant in Sefer Shemot by including the promised redemption: “God fulfills that next stage of that covenant by punishing their oppressor and redeeming His nation from Egypt” in “the ensuing story of the Exodus.” 

Similarly, the Ramban further understood that Shemot continues with this theme until the exile ends with the construction of the Mishkan. Once this redemption occurs, and the exile finally draws to a close, we conclude Sefer Shemot by going full circle with this Sefer’s theme and wrapping up this event foreshadowed in Bereshit. As the Ramban and Rabbi Leibtag posit, there is an underlying connection between Bereshit and Shemot. While calling “chazak chazak venitchazek,” we can recognize the transition from God’s blueprints in Bereshit to the beginning of His implementation in Shemot. Similarly, as the second semester of the school year begins, this message can be taken into students’ own lives. After writing their “blueprints” for the year and adjusting to a school day’s routines in the first semester, students can now step back from routines and reflect on areas for improvement in their blueprints. During this time, students can harness the tools and strategies that will make the second semester’s implementation successful.

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