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עשה תורתך קבע – אמור מעט ועשה הרבה

Parshat VaEra

Posted by rabbiart on April 21, 2008

The parshah this week is Va-Era. HaShem makes a proclamation to Moshe at the beginning of our Torah reading. Surprisingly, HaShem tells Moshe is told that the name YHVH was not used with the founding ancestors. The answers only knew the name El-Shaddai. Yet this name appears repeatedly throughout the book of Breshit.

In the creation story, HaShem eventually gives over to humankind responsibility for the construction of identities — the naming things in the world. At the beginning of Shemot we are also concerned with identity. A new Pharoah does not know the name of Yosef. How quickly could the memory of Yosef’s service be forgotten? Now Moshe asks the ultimate question of HaShem — what is Your Name?

As we go through life, sometimes we are called by different names. Even without multiple identities, different parts of our personality reveal themselves to different people. Almost everyone I know calls me “Art”, except for a pair of cousins who call me “Arthur”. After twenty years or so, it would feel strange for them to address me the way everyone else does. Growing up, if my mother called me “Arthur” I knew I should look for a place to hide. Names, identities, how we are perceived by others; these are important when we try to take action in the world. They give us important clues about what is going on in the minds of people around us.

When Moshe returns to confront HaShem over the initial difficulties in freeing the Israelites, HaShem opens the conversation by announcing Ani Adonai — I am Adonai! HaShem them goes on to proclaim some of Hashem’s powers to Moshe, and reassures Moshe that “everything will turn out all right.” Why does HaShem do this? Neither the Israelites nor Pharoah percieve Moshe as able to complete the task that he has been assigned. Moshe needs a stronger identity, so HaShem builds up his belief in himself and in a successful outcome. Now Moshe is equipped to battle with Pharoah. Let the plagues begin!

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