Parashat Va’era

“God spoke to Moses, and He said to him, “I am the Lord. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob with [the name] Almighty God, but [with] My name “Havaye”(1) I did not become known to them. And also, I established My covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, the land of their sojournings in which they sojourned. And also, I heard the moans of the children of Israel, whom the Egyptians are holding in bondage, and I remembered My covenant. Therefore, say to the children of Israel, ‘I am the Lord, and I will take you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will save you from their labor, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments.” (Shemot/Exodus 6:2-6)

In this week’s Parasha, G-d speaks to Moshe and tells him that He will reveal His name “Havaye” to the Jewish people, unlike their forefathers, Avraham, Yitzchak and Yakov, in which he referred to himself as “El Shaddai” and “Elohim”. Many questions can be asked on these few verses, but there are a few in particular that I would like to focus on.

What exactly is the meaning of this name of G-d, “Havaye”, that He is now revealing to the Jewish people? And why, suddenly, to the Jewish people, in their lowliest state in Egypt, deserve this revelation, whereas there exalted forefathers did not?

The classic Torah commentator, Rashi, comments on this (ibid, verse 3) and explains that the name “Havaye” is one used when He is faithful to His word, by keeping His promises. Since He promised the forefathers that He would take their descendants out of Egypt, yet did not fulfill it in their times, He did not reveal his name “Havaye” to them. But now, since He was ready to redeem them from the slavery of Egypt, the use of this name was now justified.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe (Likkutei Sichot, Vol. 30) builds on Rashi, based on the simple Kabalistic meaning of the name “Havaye”, one which is on an extremely exalted level. When G-d revealed himself to the forefathers, He used names which involved a much lower level of manifestation of His presence, namely the two names “El Shaddai” and “Elohim”. In order for the Jewish people to be worthy of revelation of “Havaye”, they needed to undergo something very difficult, proportionate to the level of this name. This, now after having undergone 210 in bondage, now the time was ripe to manifest His name “Havaye” in the world.

The Netivot Shalom answers this question, by combining both of the above, in the realms of Chassidic thought. The two names of G-d which were used to reveal Himself to the forefathers, were names which are representative of nature, the normal order of the world. According to Chassidut, the Jewish people were now hovering on the 49th level of spiritual impurity, and if they remained in Egypt for any longer, would sink down to the 50th, leaving them unredeemable. Thus, the order of nature, would have left them in Egypt for another 190 and years, (as G-d told Avraham, that the Jewish people would be enslaved for 400 years), something which could not possibly be done! G-d created His people with free will, in order to serve Him, thus they were being punished for abusing their free will – but to lose His Eternal People forever, was unfathomable!

Therefore, the Jewish people being placed in an emergency situation, G-d could no longer resort to letting the world run by the laws of nature, His two other names. Now was the time to unleash the name that was purely supernatural, which would put an end to His limited revalation until now, and change the natural order of the world to redeem His people. The name “Havaye” was used to reveal Himself to the Jewish people now – ten plagues, the drowning of the whole nation of Egypt in the Sea.

Dear Reader, you may have read the above, (if you made it until now), and ask yourself – beautiful, but what does all this have to do with me?

Look at the world around us. Being in Jerusalem, I can even count the amount of emails people have sent me from abroad, asking what they can do to help the Jewish people today. I believe this week’s Parasha is a lesson to all of us.

As Jews, in the year 2009, we have to asses our situation. How many of us, are in our own “Egypt”, our own troubles in which we cannot see escape? How many of us feel so spiritually distant from our Creator, as if we too were on the 49th level of impurity? How many of us have something in our lives, which we so desperately need to overcome, but cannot?!

Now is the time…to take G-d’s example. We have to put our foot down, as a Nation, and as individuals. We can no longer live our lives, according to the laws of nature. We must unleash and reveal the spark of supernatural, dwelling deep in the souls of every single one of us. We must take on something in our lives, be it a simple Mitzvah, a good deed, or a daily prayer to the One Above.

Just as He redeemed us once – He will do so again, if we sincerely mean it. And then, you will no longer have to read any more – for we will both be in Jerusalem together, around this little desk from which I write. Amen.

Shabbat Shalom,

Yonatan Halevy

(1) The verse uses the name “Y-H-W-H”, G-d’s ineffable name, which is commonly translated as “Hashem”. We will refer to this name as “Hevaya”, a name commonly used in Kabalistic writings, to refer to the same name, but in a way that is allowed to be pronounced.

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