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Shemot/Exodus 1:1 And these are the names of the Sons of Israel, the ones coming to Egypt
Rashi connects this verse with the promise that G-d gave Avraham: "Look up at the sky, and count the stars - if you can count them! Your descendants will be that many" (B'resheet 15:5, CJB), and a verse from the prophet Isaiah, "Turn your eyes to the heavens! See who created these? He brings out the army of them in sequence, summoning each by name" (Isaiah 40:26, CJB). At this point, the start of the story of our departure from Egypt, it is as if Rashi is reminding us that as children of Avraham not only are we numbered as the stars of the sky, but like the stars, each of us is sufficiently important and precious to G-d to be known individually by name. HaShem is about to call our people out of Egypt, "with an outstretched arm and with great judgements" (Shemot 6:6, NASB), but each one of us is to be counted and called by our names.
Now the verse from the prophet continues, "Through His great might and His massive strength, not one of them is missing" (Isaiah 40:26b, CJB). At the same time, Chazal tell us that not all of the descendants of Israel left Egypt; whether they didn't think it would work, were too young, too old or too sick to travel, or had slightly higher ranking jobs that they didn't want to leave, we don't know. Similarly, when the exiles returned to Jerusalem from Babylon (under Ezra, Nehemiah and Zerubabel) we know that only a relatively small number chose to return to Eretz Yisrael - many chose to remain behind in Babylon. Even today, when the State of Israel and a number of religious charities are doing all that they can to encourage Jews from around the world to make aliyah and return to Israel, there remain significant numbers of Jewish people, particularly in the USA and Europe, who simply don't want to live in the Land at this time and are voting with their feet to stay put. Can and have all those people frustrated G-d and made His word void or of null effect? It's a question of understanding the call and how it works.
Writing to the believers in Rome, Rav Sha'ul said, "we know that G-d causes everything to work together for the good of those who love G-d and are called according to His purpose" (Rom 8:28, CJB). So we know that G-d calls people to enter into relationship with Him and, as Yeshua said, "For G-d so loved the world that He gave His only and unique Son, so that everyone who trusts in Him may have eternal life" (John 3:16, CJB), that relationship is available to everyone. What matters is whether people respond to that call and accept G-d's invitation. Yes, G-d does know each of us individually and knew our names before we or our parents did, but He does not force Himself upon us; He calls and cajoles, "for it is not His purpose that anyone should be destroyed" (2 Peter 3:9, CJB), but the choice is ours.
Further Study: Matthew 22:1-14; Psalm 139
Application: Ask G-d to show you how you have responded to His call on your life up until today. Have you preferred the leeks and onions of Egypt, or have you followed our father Avraham and left everything to follow Him to a land that He will show you?
© Jonathan Allen, 2004
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