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    Names & generations – Sh’mot

    The German Jewish Bible scholar Benno Jacob notes that the Book of Exodus begins, “These are the names of the Children of Israel,” not, as we might have expected, “These are the generations of the Children of Israel”.

    Is there a difference between names and generations?

    Benno Jacob relates the distinction to the patriarch Jacob. He thinks that generations = Jacob, the physical man who thinks of his progeny and their material needs, whilst names = Israel, the spiritual sire who struggles with his soul and thinks of his family’s faith.

    The rabbis say that when Jacob became Israel and lay on his death bed he wanted his family to say Shema Yisra’el, “Listen, Father Israel: we believe in God, the One True God of heaven and earth.”

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