WEEKLY SCRIPTURE READING
Torah Portion: Parashat Va’era (“and I appeared”)
Shabbat: Jan. 21, 2023 / Tevet 28, 5783
Torah: Exod. 6:2-9:35
Prophets: Ezek. 28:25 – 29:21
New Covenant: Rom. 9:14-33
TODAY’S PRAYER OF AGREEMENT
Paul’s prayer in Colossians
“For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins”. Colossians 1:9-14
This week's Torah portion (Va'era) begins with the puzzling statement that God appeared (va'era) to the patriarchs as El Shaddai, though He never made the name YHVH (יהוה) known to them:
God (אֱלהִים) spoke to Moses and said to him, "I am the LORD (יהוה). I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob as El Shaddai (אל שׁדּי), but by My Name the LORD (יהוה) I did not make myself known to them" (Exod. 6:2-3).
This verse is potentially confusing because the Torah clearly states that each of the patriarchs (i.e., Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) had indeed called upon the Name of the LORD (e.g., see Gen. 12:7-8, 26:25; 28:16, 32:9, 49:18, etc.). So what could this verse mean, then, when it states that God did not make His Name YHVH known (לא נוֹדַעְתִּי) to the patriarchs? Does the Torah contradict itself, as some "higher critics" of the Scriptures allege? Should we accept liberal scholarship that claims that the narratives were "pieced together" by a series of later editors (i.e., the JEDP theory)? Not so fast. Instead of making the dubious inference that the different Names of God imply different authors of the Torah, it is better to regard the Scriptures as divinely inspired, with each word and phrase carefully preserved by the hand of God for its intended purpose. After all, Yeshua regarded the Torah this way (Matt. 5:18; John 10:33), as He did the rest of the Jewish Scriptures (Luke 24:44). Jewish tradition likewise maintains that the Torah has been meticulously preserved from the time of Moses to this day (comparing the texts of the Dead Sea Scrolls with the current Masoretic text of the Hebrew Scriptures validates this claim). If we reject the liberal assumption that the Torah was "redacted" by different editors (i.e., that it contradicts itself), we must assume that this verse is intended to teach us something... We must remember that the Scriptures speak from an omniscient, "third person" perspective. When we read, for example, "In the beginning, God (אֱלהִים) created the heavens and the earth," we must ask who is speaking? Who is the narrator of the Torah? Jewish tradition maintains that Moses received the Torah by direct revelation from God while at Sinai, and that revelation included the infallible accounts of the lives of the early patriarchs. The New Testament elaborates that "all Scripture is inspired by God..." and is therefore the outworking of the Holy Spirit (2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:21, etc.). The traditional Jewish commentators have said that God's statement (i.e., "I did not make my Name known to them") was actually a form of rebuke of Moses' request to know God's Name.... They connect this statement with the end of the last Torah portion, when Moses complained to God that He has made the situation of the Israelites worse (Exod. 5:22-23). The Talmud comments on the connection: "Many times I revealed myself to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; but they did not question my ways, nor did they say to me, 'What is Your name?' You, on the other hand, asked from the start, 'What is Your name?' and now you are saying to me, 'You have not saved your people!' (Sanhedrin 111a). Rashi agrees with the Talmud's opinion: "You questioned my ways; unlike Abraham, to whom I said, 'Isaac shall be considered your seed' and then I said to him, 'Raise him up to me as an offering,' and yet despite all this he never questioned me." Similarly Nachmanides stated that the patriarchs were content to know God as El Shaddai, realizing that they could never fathom His essence, but Moses wanted to know the secrets of God and therefore asked for His Name. There are two places in the Torah when God explicitly revealed the meaning of the name YHVH to Moses. Both occurred at Sinai. The first occurred at the outset of Moses' ministry (at the burning bush), and the second occurred after incident of the Golden Calf. When God initially commissioned Moses to be Israel's liberator during the vision of the burning bush, he explicitly asked for "God's Name" in order to authenticate his message to the children of Israel. In response God answered, אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה / "ehyeh asher ehyeh" (Exod. 3:14). This phrase, often rendered as "I AM THAT I AM" in English, derives from the Hebrew verb hayah ("to be") and therefore indicates that God is the Source of all of life. In other words, the name YHVH appears to be a "play" on the verb "to be," and implies that God is hayah, hoveh, ve'yiyeh (הָיָה הוֶה וְיִהְיֶה), "the One who was, the One who is, and the One who always shall be," namely, the Master of the Universe. YHVH is the Source of all being and has life (being) inherent in Himself (i.e., He is necessary Being). Everything else is contingent being that derives existence from Him.