Ron Wexler, Weekly Newsletter
Janurary 4th, 2008
"Shabbat Shalom" is a weekly message, sent on Friday, that contains very short commentaries on the portion of the Bible that is read in synagogues on the corresponding Sabbath services.
Reading portion is from Exodus 6:2-9:34
At the end of the previous portion, Moses complained that God had sent him in vain, for instead of helping the people he had only made it worse for them. God now continues His response. He speaks harshly to Moses, comparing him unfavorably to the Patriarchs, who maintained their faith without complaint, even thought they were not privileged to see fulfillment of God''s oaths to them, while Moses, who had been told that the redemption was at hand, was so disillusioned that he could not wait for God to carry His plan to the conclusion, as He defined it.
In this context the root spoke connotes harsh speech: the Torah implies that God rebuked Moses for his previous complaint that God had not made his mission successful.
I am God. This term implies God''s trustworthiness to carry out his word which includes punishment for sin and reward for virtue. Thus, God began His rebuttal of Moses by assuring him that His pledge to the Patriarchs would be fulfilled, and that Moses had been sent as His emissary to do so. The reason that Moses'' arrival in Egypt was followed by and immediate intensification of the slavery was that the Egyptians could not be punished until their "measure of the sin" was full, for God is patient even with the wicked. By his cruel decree to deny straw to the hapless slaves, Pharaoh had reached his nadir and so the process of the Exodus and the punishment of Egypt could now begin. This, God''s response to Moses was that, far from coming to Egypt in vain, his arrival expedited the process of the Exodus, which was about to begin.
As is well known, God''s various "names" represents the different ways in which He reveals Himself, so that the Names used here represent differing ways in which God revealed Himself to the Patriarchs and to Moses. Moses had had the revelation of God, God''s highest manifestation, yet he questioned His ways while the Patriarchs had maintained their strong faith even though God had revealed Himself to the, only with His other name El Shaddai. The latter Name derives from the word sufficient, and donates God as the One Who sets limits on Creation by establishing the laws of nature, the limitations within which the universe functions. Also, it represents God''s establishments of limits to the success one enjoys and the suffering he must endure. By comparing the revelation of Moses with that of the Patriarchs, God was chastising him for is insufficient faith.
The sages contend that El Shaddai describes God when He performs miracles that do not openly disrupt the normal God when He assured their survival in times famine, made them victorious over physically superior enemies, and gave them extraordinary success in amassing wealth. Though miraculous, none of the above openly violated the laws of the nature. Thus, the Patriarchs had seen Him show Himself only in the guise of El Shaddai. Moses, however, would soon witness miracles of a magnitude that dwarfed anything the Patriarchs had ever seen.
The sages explain that "Hashem," the Name revealed to Moses, represents God as the One Who carries out His promises, for God was now prepared to fulfill His pledge to free Israel and bring them to the Land. But although the Patriarchs were told that God''s Name was Hashem, they had not seen Him in practice as having kept His promise for the time had not yet come for the Land to be given them. Nevertheless, they had perfect faith that when the proper time arrived, He would do so.
The sages comment that God''s essence is represented by the Name Hashem. Even though the Patriarchs knew that Name, only Moses had the degree of prophecy that enabled him to comprehend its significance to the highest degree possible.
Rabbi Bressler in his "Dvar" said that the Hebrew language has so many hidden lessons, and one such lesson lies within this week''s portion where God promises to take the Jews from under the ''burden of Egypt (6:6). But as the Rabbi of Gur explains, the Hebrew word that means ''burden'' also means ''tolerant'', which would make the verse read..."I will deliver you from being tolerant of Egypt". We find proof for this tolerance when even after the Jews were released from Egypt, when the situation looked bleak, they wanted to go back to slavery. If their slavery been such a burden, why would they ever consider going back?
The answer is that the problem was not that they were overworked, but that they were too tolerant of their surroundings! God therefore told them, and is telling us, that the first step Jews have to take is to realize that they were ''slaves'' in their society. If they would tolerate their surroundings, not only would they not appreciate how LUCKY were they to be different, but also they forget that they even were different! In a society where some people hide their religious identity, the Torah is telling us to always keep in mind our ultimate differences as children of God, to never settle for being just like everyone else, and to love it, show it, and prove it in constructive ways every chance we get! In response to this Portion, we should all pick one way to show the world, and OURSELVES what it means to be God''s child, whether it''s by volunteering to visit the sick, to give charity, or to say one paragraph of Psalm every day. Find a way to find your way!
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