By Rabbi Yonosan Perry
The first three Parshas of Sefer Shmos recount the story of the Jews exile in Egypt. In Parshas Shmos, Pharoah begins his campaign of slavery and genocide, and in Parshas Bo we are out of Egypt and under the protective cloud of Hashem. This week’s parsha comes between these two pivotal shifts in the condition of the Jewish people. Parshas Vaeira is the turning point and start of our journey from galus to geula. Parshas Shmos ends with Moshe Rabbeinu going to Pharaoh as instructed by Gd, to demand freedom for Gd’s nation. The angered Pharaoh refuses to free them and instead increases the workload of the Jews, making their slavery much more grueling than it had ever been. Moshe Rabbeinu asked Gd why He had sent him on this mission that had seemingly resulted in the opposite desired effect. Gd responds “Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh. he will drive them out of his land.” Our parsha begins with the continuation of this conversation.
Throughout the Torah, we find various names for Gd. Our parsha contains one of the few times that Gd addresses one of these differentiations. He tells Moshe Rabbeinu that he is HAVAYA (Y-H-V-H , the four letter name of Gd). He then immediately says that he appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as E-L Shadai. In last week’s parsha, Pharaoh asked Moshe Rabbeinu “who is HAVAYA?” According to Kabbalah, HAVAYA represents the transcendent aspect of Gd. This level of revelation is seemingly not directly felt in this world. Elokim is the restraining aspect of Gd mostly associated with the feminine and creative aspect of Gd. This is the level of Gd revealed in this world through nature and was the level of Gd Pharaoh understood. E-L Shadai can be translated as the Gd that is enough. This was the revelation that appeared to Abraham Isaac and Jacob. There steadfastness toward dedicating everything to Gd no matter what obstacles they had to face.
At first glance it would appear as though Gd was rebuking Moshe Rabbeinu for complaining. Perhaps this was his way of telling him that the forefathers were always content, as their relationship was one built on the revelation of E-L ShadaiI (Gd that is enough). However further on in the parsha, Gd tells Moshe Rabbeinu that one major purpose for the galus and subsequent geula was for the purpose of Gd (HAVAYA) being revealed to the Egyptians (and by extension the entire world). He tells him “The Egyptians will know that I am Gd (HAVAYA), when I raise My hand over Egypt and bring out the Israelites for their midst.”
On several occasions Moshe Rabbeinu questions his ability to carry out the mission required of him by Gd. He tells Gd that he has a speech impediment and later says he has “blocked lips”. Gd, however tells him each time that he has been chosen for this most important task. One thing to take from this particular message is that often when we see injustice, we feel for the victims but lack faith regarding our ability effect change. Parshas Vaera (I appeared) begins with Gd telling Moshe Rabbeinu “I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob”. Rashi on this verse says “Vaeira to the forefathers.” It is known that Rashi’s commentary is precise and calculated and would never simply give us a repetition of the verse. The Chasam Sofer explains that the word Avos contains the word Ava (to desire). What Rashi is teaching us is that Gd told Moshe Rabbeinu that He appeared to the forefathers (Avos) because they desired (Ava) his appearance. We are instructed to be the change we want to see in the world. Reveal Gd in this world by being just that, and help usher in the final redemption with the coming of Moshiach.
Rabbi Yonosan Perry studied in Lubavitch yeshiva and received smicha from Machon L’Horaah from Rav Nachman Wilhelm and Rav Dovid Shochat. He currently lives in Tucson, Arizona with his wife and daughter.