Rabbi Cliff Maynard
Torah – Exodus 6:2-9:3 Haftarah – Ezekiel 28:25-29:21 Brit Chadashah – Romans 9:14-33
The Torah continues in this, the second week in the study of Shemot (Names or Exodus). This is one of the more dramatic and action packed parashot (studies) that we will take a look at here as we explore the deeper things of G-d.
Va’era, which translates “and I appeared” and is found in verse 2 of Exodus chapter six. We embark on what could easily be mistaken as a grand script for a Hollywood blockbuster production by Cecil B DeMille. Ok, so we know that this was indeed the inspiration for just such a movie, but is there any wonder why?
You have amazing characters and struggles like that of Moshe (Moses) as he struggled with his calling despite being slow of tongue We have the villain in the strong willed pharaoh and of course the first seven plagues that were brought upon the Egyptians.
Not to be confused with the concluding book of the New Covenant, another great title could be the revelation! Again, not an end times thing, or a revealing of the Messiah, but rather a revealing of the G-d of Israel in a deeper more intimate way. This is how we begin this week’s parasha (portion.)
Exodus 6:2-3, “And G-d spoke to Moses and said to him: “I [am] the L-RD. 3 “I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as G-d Almighty, but [by] My name L-RD I was not known to them.” (NKVJ)
In verse 3, we see G-d declaring to Moses that “I am the L-RD” is what we use in the English translations in place of the tetragrammaton YHVH.
Exodus verse 3 G-d tells Moses that to his ancestors He was known as El Shaddai. There is, of course, a huge difference in that the latter El Shaddai is the G-d who is Almighty, powerful and the G-d you would call upon if you were to find yourself in trouble. Sadly, this is the G-d that I dare say a large portion of the Christian body knows Him as even today. They pay Him all kinds of lip service and show up here and there when times are good. But when they really get involved and become “on fire” type believers is when they’re in trouble. This is when they call upon Him. Almost as if the G-d of Heaven and Earth were some sort of genie in a bottle we can call upon to make Him show up and do our will and then go away until the next time we need a fix!
Here at the very beginning of this parasha, we see a huge shift in the relationship between G-d and His people. Up until this time, the El Shaddai G-d was pretty much the way people related to Him. But now G-d Himself was looking to change the terms of the relationship, for the better. What we see here is an invitation to His people. This invitation was to draw closer to Him that we might know Him and be known by Him in a deeper and more intimate way. This is a monumental shift in man’s relationship with his Creator that should not be taken lightly. From this point on, everything changes as G-d’s ultimate plan of redemption is put into full speed ahead mode for all the world to see.
Read Exodus 6:4-7, “I have also established My covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land of their pilgrimage, in which they were strangers. 5 “And I have also heard the groaning of the children of Israel whom the Egyptians keep in bondage, and I have remembered My covenant. 6 “Therefore say to the children of Israel: ‘I [am] the L-RD; I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, I will rescue you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. 7 ‘I will take you as My people, and I will be your G-d. Then you shall know that I [am] the L-RD your G-d who brings you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.”
In the preceding verses, you will read what the sages refer to as the four promises. They are highlighted by the words, “bring, rid, redeem and take.” These are four great promises that you should take the time to look up for yourself. Perhaps another year I will look at all of them, but for this year I will only look at the final promise to “take.”
I am looking at this one promise for G-d to take to Himself the people. This ties into the revealing of his most intimate name YHVH. Again, this intimate name is akin to the intimacy of a man knowing his wife.
It is important here because his promise to take is in reference to the taking of a bride. Jumping ahead to Mt Sinai and the giving of the mitzvah, commandments is in fact a marriage covenant, or contract. Now perhaps you can see “the plan” a little clearer even at this early point in the narrative.
One other not so little thing we will take a look at is something we have looked at in year’s past. The idea of the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart. The argument has oft been made that if Pharaoh was perfectly playing the role for which he was created, why then should he be punished? Well, in years past we looked at the word hardened. This should have better been translated from the Hebrew as strengthened. In other words, this Pharaoh, King of Egypt was the head of State and presided over a nation that worshipped many gods that were no gods at all. Each time Pharaoh was strengthened he was given the strength needed to stand up and declare to the people of the land that the G-d of the Hebrew people was indeed the One True G-d. But this of course, never happened.
If you take a look at Romans 9:17, “For the Scripture says to the Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.” This will also give you a little further insight to the matter. We, as the clay vessels do not have it within us to understand much less judge the actions and decisions of the potter. It is simply for us to trust and live for Him. Shalom.