Friday, December 24, 2010

Shemos 5631 Third Ma'amar

... וְאָמַרְתִּי לָהֶם אֱ-לֹהֵי אֲבוֹתֵיכֶם שְׁלָחַנִי אֲלֵיכֶם וְאָמְרוּ-לִי מַה-שְּׁמוֹ מָה אֹמַר אֲלֵהֶם/… and I will say to them, ‘The God of your forefathers sent me to you,’ and they will ask me, ‘What is His name,’ what shall I say to them?” (Shmos 3:13)  Why did Moshe Rabbeinu think they would ask God’s name?  Why would this be important?  What is the significance of knowing His name?

The Sfas Emes explains that God’s name symbolizes His revelation in this world.  During exile we say that the glory of His name is concealed.  Redemption means that the glory of His name is revealed.  His Providence is clearly apparent to all.  In a time of redemption everyone understands that exile is simply a shell preventing us from experiencing God’s presence.  The Zohar makes this point when it says that Shabbos is the name of God.[1]  Shabbos is that aspect of Creation that represents an uplifting of everything towards its spiritual source.  The ultimate spiritual source of everything is God Himself.  God is thus more “revealed,” – it is easier to be aware of His presence – on Shabbos.  Shabbos, then, is the name of God because His name represents His revelation.

God, of course, does not change.  There is a higher level of faith whereby one’s recognition and awareness of God are not affected by external circumstances.  Moshe Rabbeinu was on this level.  During the exile, the nation of Israel was not.  The significance of the question, “What is His name?” then, is, “Where do we see the revelation of God in the exile?”  God’s answer is that His name is, “אֶהְיֶה/I will be.” (Shmos 3:14)  God says that although now, in the exile, His presence is hidden, the exile, specifically because of its darkness, causes a greater revelation later.  Even the Egyptians will recognize that God is in charge.

After the redemption, the nation reached the higher level of faith.  We find in  Shiras HaYam, “ה' אִישׁ מִלְחָמָה ה' שְׁמוֹ/God is master of war, God is His name.” (Shmos 15:3)  At the time of redemption there is clear recognition that, “God is His name.”  They are one and the same.  Significantly the name of God used here is the Tetragrammaton, which means that God is beyond time – He does not change.  When He reveals Himself, it becomes clear that the God who is revealed – represented by His name – is the same as the God that was hidden before.

Certainly, before the redemption, the nation of Israel was not on this level of faith, hence the question, “What is His name?”  Moshe understands this when he says to God, “וְהֵן לֹא-יַאֲמִינוּ .../They will not believe.” (Shmos 4:1)  Even though the pasuk relates subsequently that they did believe, Moshe Rabbeinu was not mistaken.  The nation believed the signs that Moshe showed them.  They believed that the redemption was at hand.  They were on a certain level of faith.  This, however, is not what Moshe Rabbeinu was referring to.

Moshe Rabbeinu was referring to the total and complete faith that God is present in the exile exactly as He is present in redemption.  Moshe Rabbeinu was saying that they were not on his level of faith, the faith of knowing that God is here the way we believe in what we actually see with our eyes.  Moshe Rabbeinu knew that he would not be able to make them understand that God is present in the exile the same way He is present in the redemption.  After the redemption, though, the pasuk testifies that the nation reached this level, “וַיַאֲמִינוּ בַה'/They believed in God.” (Shmos 14:31)

According to this we can understand the three signs that God sent Moshe Rabbeinu to show the nation.  After each of the first two signs, God says to Moshe that He is giving another sign in case the nation does not believe the previous one.  Isn’t this strange?  God obviously knows beforehand whether the nation will believe or not.  Why did He not simply send Moshe Rabbeinu the sign that He knew would be effective?  The explanation according to what we have said, is that there are levels of belief.  The highest level is the level of Moshe Rabbeinu, the level akin to seeing with our own eyes.  It is possible, though, to start at a lower level and work up to a higher level.  The three signs represented this process.  Each subsequent sign represented a higher level of faith than the previous sign.

At the level of faith that Moshe Rabbeinu reached, the surrounding exile and darkness is recognized for what it really is.  It is an illusion that God created.  It is not reality.  The Sfas Emes teaches us that built into Shabbos is a spiritual enlightenment which allows us to experience this, to some extent.  Significantly, the chapter in Tehillim that describes Shabbos states clearly that even though we see evildoers succeeding, this is not truth.[2]  This is not reality.  This is an external illusion.  That which gives life and existence to everything, even to the evildoers, is only God.  May we merit seeing God in everything both redemption and exile and may we merit redemption this year!  AMEN.

[1] Zohar 2:88b
[2] Tehillim 92

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