Va’era: “I Did Not Make Myself Known…”

"A New Normal?" by Randy Heinitz, via (Creative Commons License)
"A New Normal?" by Randy Heinitz, via (Creative Commons License)

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.
Shabbat shalom
Rabbi Richard Address

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