Musings of an Orthodox Jew

Thoughts on Torah and the Jewish world today.

A bit more on Parshas Vaera

Every week when I study the Parsha I start with just a read through of the text, then the parsha with Rashi, then with Ramban.  When I am fortunate enough to have a bit of extra time, I like to read the commentaries of the Baalh Ha-Turim (Rabbi Ya’akov ben Ashe, author of the Arba’ah HaTurim).   His commentary can be difficult to follow at times, since he concentrates on Gematria and notes based on the Masoretic text , but at the same time it is frequently fascinating and illuminating.

I had some time last night to start looking at his commentary on Va’era and got struck by something right at the start.

ג וָאֵרָא, אֶל-אַבְרָהָם אֶל-יִצְחָק וְאֶל-יַעֲקֹב–בְּאֵל שַׁדָּי; וּשְׁמִי יְהוָה, לֹא נוֹדַעְתִּי לָהֶם. 3 and I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name YHWH I made Me not known to them  (Copied from Mechon Mamre )

So I had read this verse, and the commentaries by Rashi and Ramban that though the patriarch’s knew the shem hameforesh, Hashem made his promises to them using his name El Shadai.  His aspect under the shem hameforesh he did not use with them, though they were aware of it.  What fascinated me was one of the comments made by the Baal ha-Turim.  He takes the final letters of the patriarch’s names  The bet of Ya’akov, the kuf from Yitzchak and the mem from Avraham – which together are בקֹם using the At besh system whereby the alef is swapped with tet, bet with shin etc- this corresponds to the name שַׁדָּי.  Thus, he points out, since Hashem was connected to the patriarchs in this way, he appeared to them with this name!  He then shows how closely connected the patriarch’s are to Hashem- if you take the first letter of each name, the combined gematria is 21, the same as in the name “Ehyeh”- thus both the start and end of the names of the partiarchs are connected to Hashem!

Unfortunately, not all of us merit to be connected so intimately to hashem, not all of us share the relationship with Hashem that the patriarchs had- but we can try to emulate their ways as best we can.  As Hashem says to Moshe- they never had the opportunity to relate to me via the shem hameforesh as you have, and yet they never questioned or rebuked me!  Maybe this whole speech of Hashem is to illustrate that point, to emphasise- that while we may study and learn, seek to better our knowledge, in the end we need to accept the Torah because it comes from Hashem.   Its what we promised to do as a nation when we said “Na’aseh v’nishmah”- but how often do we cry out that Hashem has failed us, that he has abandoned us, that he has left us to be downtrodden and beset with miseries and woes?  We have the Torah, we know the miracles that Hashem did for our forefathers- after all we relive the experience every Pesach when we state “This is what G-d did for ME when I went forth out of Egypt”- but still we question and cry out to G-d why he has abandoned us or led us into misery.  Thus the reply of Hashem when Moshe comes to him and cries out that because of his actions at the command of Hashem the Jews were suffering even more:  “Moshe, you who have seen miracles from an aspect of me that the patriarchs never even got to see question my actions?  Have faith Moshe- everything will work out as I have said- the Egyptians will be punished, the Jews rewarded and set free to become my nation.”

So, as hard as it may be- when beset by problems and troubles we need to remmeber this- Hashem does everythign for the good, everything works out according to his plan.  Have the faith of Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya’akov that even though we do not see Hashem in all his glory, he is there and the world goes according to his plan.

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January 23, 2009 - Posted by | Parshah, Torah | , , , ,

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