Friday, January 13, 2012

Shmos 5631 Fourth Ma'amar

This week’s parsha relates a dialog between God and Moshe Rabbeinu wherein God commands Moshe to return to Egypt in order to end the exile and save the nation.  Moshe Rabbeinu asks God by what name will He be known to the nation.  God tells Moshe, "... כה תאמר לבני ישראל א-היה שלחני אליכם/… So shall you say to the children of Israel, 'I will be' sent me to you." (Shmos 3:14)  This is the only place in the entire Torah where God is revealed with this name.  Why?  Why did God not tell Moshe to reveal His ineffable name, the Tetregramaton – YHVH?

The Sfas Emes explains.  Both names are forms of the verb, "to be".  The difference between them is one of tense.  The name, "א-היה/I will be" is in the future tense whereas the ineffable name implies always present.  God is outside of time.  He created time.  For God everything is always in the present.  Time means change and God does not change, "... אני ה' לא שניתי .../… I am God, I have not changed …" (Mal'achi 3:6)

Since God never changes, His enlightenment is always revealed even during exile.  The reason that we experience exile is because we are not on a high enough level to see through the mirage of exile to the truth – that God is always with us.  Moshe Rabbeinu was on that level.  Chazal[1] imply this when, comparing the level of Moshe Rabbeinu's prophecy to that of the other prophets, say that his was like a clear lens.  There was no barrier.  Exile did not hide God from Moshe Rabbeinu.

The nation of Israel, though, was on a much lower level at the time of the exile in Egypt.  The people experienced the travails of the exile and believed that God was hidden from them.  They would not have been able to accept God's ineffable name that implies continuous revelation.  Therefore God told Moshe to reveal the name, "א-היה/I will be."  This name was intended to give the people much needed encouragement.  They understood that although they were experiencing God's concealment, there would be redemption and they would experience His revelation.

The jump from a level of "א-היה/I will be" to the level of experiencing God through His ineffable name is in fact recorded in the Torah itself.  After the nation left Egypt, watching the Egyptian army destroyed in the Red Sea the Torah tells us, "ויאמינו בה' ../They believed in God (YHVH) …" (Shmos 14:31)  Even more clearly, in the Song of the Sea they sang, "... ה' שמו/… God (YHVH) is His name." (Shmos 15:3)  They reached a level on which they recognized God's constant revelation. May we merit it as well!

[1] Yevamos 49b

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