Last week we finished the first book of the Chumash - Breishis. It began by describing creation of the universe through the generation of Noah, the lives of the patriarchs Avrohom, Yitzchak, and Yakov, and their families. At the end of the book of Breishis, Yakov's son Yosef is second in command of all of Egypt, and Yakov's whole family is in Egypt to escape a famine in the land of Canaan. That began the first exile of the Jewish people, the Egyptian exile.
This parsha begins the second book of the Chumash - Shmos.
The first aliyah begins by naming the brothers who formed the tribes of the nation of Israel. The people who came down to Egypt are numbered as "shivim nefesh" (seventy soul -- the word for "soul" is singular, while the adjective "seventy" is plural, teaching that they were all united with one heart serving the one G-d -- Rashi).
The Jews are fruitful and multiplied (Rashi says that they gave birth to six children at each birth).
Then a new king arises in Egypt, who does not know Yosef and all that Yosef had done for the Egyptian people. He says to his people "let us deal wisely with them." Thus, they afflict the Jewish people, and since they continue to increase, Pharaoh tells the Hebrew midwives: "Kill all sons, but let the daughters live". However, the midwives fear G-d, and do not do as they were told.
In the second aliyah Pharaoh calls the midwives and asks why they didn't follow his orders about killing the male children. They answer that the Hebrew women are able to deliver without midwives, therefore the midwives did not get a chance to follow Pharaoh's orders.
Rashi says that on Moshe Rabeinu's birthday, Pharaoh's astrologers predict that the deliverer of the Jewish people is being born that day, and they further predict that this deliverer's end will be water. Therefore, Pharaoh commands that all male children should be cast in the river, even Egyptians.
Moshe is born, and his mother puts him into the river in an ark. Moshe's sister Miriam follows and observes what happens to the ark. Pharaoh's daughter comes down to bathe, and takes the child.
In the third aliyah Moshe grows up in the house of Pharaoh. Moshe goes out and looks at the Jewish people's burdens. He sees an Egyptian man smiting a Hebrew man. Moshe turns this way and that and he sees that no righteous man was destined to issue from him or convert from him (Rashi), so Moshe kills him miraculously and hides him in the sand. Later, when the matter of this killing becomes known, Moshe flees from Egypt and goes to Midian.
In Midian, Moshe becomes a shepherd, and he marries Tziporra.
Meanwhile, back in Egypt, things get worse for the Jews (according to Rashi, Pharaoh becomes leprous and bathes in children's blood), and their cry goes up to G-d and He remembers them.
In the fourth aliyah Moshe is feeding the flock of Yisro his father-in-law in the furthest reaches of the wilderness (to avoid their feeding on the property of others). Moshe comes to the mountain of G-d and sees a burning bush. He notices that the bush is not being consumed by the fire, so he turns aside to investigate.
G-d calls to Moshe, saying: "Moshe Moshe". (This is the only place in the Torah where a name is doubled without any separating punctuation.) G-d introduces Himself and says that He has seen the afflictions of the Jews. G-d says that he is hereby sending Moshe to take the Jews out of Egypt so that they can be brought to a land flowing with milk and honey. G-d says that he will be with Moshe throughout this matter.
In the fifth aliyah G-d gives Moshe specific instructions about gathering the elders of the Jews and going to Pharaoh and saying: "Let my people go." G-d says that Pharaoh will not allow them to leave until the Egyptians are smitten with a strong hand and with wonders. After that they will leave with the riches of Egypt.
Moshe protests his appointment and says the Jews will not believe him and that he does not speak well. G-d gives Moshe miraculous signs with which to prove himself. Rashi says that this discussion lasted seven days. Rashi also says that all of Moshe's hesitation was because of his respect for his brother Aharon. Moshe believed Aharon more deserved the honor of this mission than Moshe, since Aharon was older.
In the sixth aliyah Moshe goes back to his father-in-law and asks permission to go back to Egypt, and his father-in-law says he should "go in peace." Moshe takes his wife and two sons and puts them on the donkey which Rashi says is the very same donkey as Avrohom Avinu used in the akaida, and that Moshiach will ride in the future, may it be speedily in our days, Amen.
G-d charges Moshe to warn Pharaoh that if he doesn't let the Jews (G-d's first born) go, He will slay Pharaoh's first born. (Rashi says that this confirms Esav's selling of the birthright to Yakov. Rashi also says that this is a lofty warning, warning Pharaoh of the ultimate punishment in advance, while a human would sneak up and attack unsuspected). On the way back to Egypt, Moshe's wife Tziporra performs a bris mila on her son Eliezer.
In the seventh aliyah Moshe and Aharon go to Pharaoh. (The elders start to go with them, but slip away one by one out of fear, and because of this they did not get to go up to Mount Sinai when the Torah was given.) Moshe and Aharon say to Pharaoh "Let my people go so they can serve G-d" and Pharaoh refuses. Immediately following this Pharaoh increases the burden of the Jews by no longer giving them straw to make bricks, yet insisting on the same quota of bricks being produced. Moshe sees how things had gotten worse for the Jews since he came, so he talks to G-d about it. G-d says that now you will see how, because of a strong hand, Pharaoh will let the Jews go.