Erev Shabbat 12 January 2024
Week of 07-13 January 2024
Torah portion: Exodus 6:2-9:35     Haftarah:  Ezek 28:25-29:21
Theme: “God Almighty”

Despite volumes of scientific researches, what initiates the process of human labor remains unclear. It is most likely the interactions between factors both from the mother and the fetus which play an essential role; but the precise mechanism of the onset still eludes explanation. Just as God defies definition!
Parashat Va’eira, (“and I appeared”), opens with God’s response to Moses when the initial audience with the Egyptian ruler seems to have made things worse for the Israelites by causing them to suffer miserably. God reassured him that Pharoah would eventually yield because of “the greater might” of His power to deliver His people (9:15-16). This parashah tells of the first seven Plagues in Egypt which are demonstrations that the LORD is uniquely powerful.
This week’s portionbegins: “God (“Elohim”) spoke to Moses and said to him, “I am the Eternal. I appeared to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as El Shaddai, but I did not make Myself known to them as my NameAdonai” (6:2). As if God is admitting to a confusion by design: “I am called Adonai, but I was called El Shaddai, but I did not tell them that I am also Adonai, but you should know that I am that same God” (Goldstein, 127).
Before this, the God of Moses was known only as the God of their ancestors, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Dictionary of Biblical Theology, p 377). A Midrash explains that the ancestors were satisfied with what was revealed to them. They never asked for God’s name.  “El Shaddai”, traditionally understood to mean “God Almighty”- a complex title believed to mean “Mountain God”, from Akkadian root word shadu, that intersects with Hebrew root sh-d-d, “to be powerful”, which also means “breast”, suggesting that this divine name expresses the fertile, life-giving aspect of God (Eskenasi, 333). This is the God who meets the needs of the ancestors the way a mother nurses her child.
Ramban notes that the distinction between the revelation of God Almighty and that of His ineffable name Adonai parallels the distinction between two kinds of Divine Providence.  One works through the ordinary events of human existence and the other through open miracles and in violation of human order. God appeared to Patriarchs as Prime Mover behind all natural events and it was not necessary for Him to communicate Himself through miracles and wonders, for they saw Him in everything. In the days of Moses, when the children of Isarel were many and “grew exceedingly mighty” (1:7), they would not have been able to discern the hand of God working in their lives without the display of the supernatural which would bring them out “with a strong hand” (6:1). For them, there was no comforting breast or limit to their suffering.  The situation called not for the revelation of El Shaddai symbolizing God in nature, but the manifestation of His special name, expressed in visible miracles (Leibowitz, 135).

 For Reflection and Discussion: How did God “appear” to you the first time you
recognized Him?

Bibliography: Eskenasi, The Torah, A Women’s Commentary (NY 2008); Goldstein, (ed.), The Women’s Torah Commentary (Vermont, 2000); N. Leibowitz, New Studies in Shemot (Jerusalem, 1996); Dictionary of Biblical Theology (Daughters of St. Paul, Philippines, 1988)

This week’s Parasha Commentary was prepared by
Ruby A. Simon, M.D, Philippines, Bat Kol alumna 2007, 2009


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