Va’era, the second portion of Exodus, takes us through the first rush of plagues. Likewise, we meet the confrontation of God and Moses when Moses again is reluctant to assume leadership saying that he is of “impeded” speech.(6:30). Aaron is brought in to help Moses in his confrontations with Pharaoh. But, let me return to the beginning of the portion to a verse rarely discussed.
In Exodus 6:2,3, we read that God appeared to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob “as El Shadai, but I did not make Myself known to them by my name Adoni”. Why? Let’s look a little at the context of the chapter and the portion. Liberation takes time. We go though a series of chapters that recount the struggle of Moses and Aaron with Pharaoh and the resulting plagues, that mostly fail to break through Pharaoh’s “hardened” heart. Liberation, it seems takes struggle and evolves.
Likewise, our relationship with the sacred. Rarely is there an “a-ha” moment. Indeed, we can make the argument from this portion that the God of previous generations may not be the God of our time. There are commentaries that discuss the prayer book recount of the “God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob” (see the Amidah) as proof that each generation sees God in their own way, through their own eyes.
As we get older, as we see God, we define what that relationship is in ways we did not see when we were younger. We may even call the name of that God differently. This also reminds us that Judaism is a religious civilization that sees change and adaptation as a positive, in truth, it is a key to our own survival. We learned in Exodus 3, when we saw the name of God as untranslated, that we are charged with the challenge, and even permission, to evolve our own definition of how we see God. This is a gift that Judaism gives us. It is a serious invitation that Jewish life gives us; to allow a new “revelation” of the sacred that speaks to us as we get older, confront our own mortality and seek to establish a legacy for those who come after us.
Rabbi Richard Address
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min, is the Founder and Director of www.jewishsacredaging.com. Rabbi Address served for over three decades on staff of the Union for Reform Judaism; first as a Regional Director and then, beginning in 1997, as Founder and Director of the URJ’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns and served as a specialist and consultant for the North American Reform Movement in the areas of family related programming. Rabbi Address was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972 and began his rabbinic career in Los Angeles congregations. He also served as a part time rabbi for Beth Hillel in Carmel, NJ while regional director and, after his URJ tenure, served as senior rabbi of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ from 2011-2014.