Blog Vaera Tevet 28 5779 בלוג וָאֵרָא, כ”ח טבת תשע”ח
In the portion Vaera – וָאֵרָא (I appeared), the Creator would make Himself known to His people in a new way. In Hebrew, the word “yodea – יודע” means to know in an intimate sense. You may think that we know each other here in this congregation but in truth we “know” very little about each other. The Creator told Moshe that He was known as “El Shaddai – אֵל שַׁדָּי” to our forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. They were new to their calling. El Shaddai (from the word, “shad – שד – breast”) denotes that He would care for them like a mother cares for her newborn. Israel was cared for by her surrogate mother Egypt and now the Creator was letting them now that it was time for them to leave and to grow up. They were now a large nation who had become estranged from Him and He would have to work with them to remind them Who He was. The people of Israel were overwhelmed by the gods of Egypt which were shown in a grandiose way, while the God of Israel was the “unseen God.” How could they relate to a god that they could not see or touch?
Can our feelings or our thoughts be made tangible? How can we manifest the sublime into this material world? Although mankind was the last of His creation, He breathed His spirit within us, and this sets us apart from the rest. In order for Israel to understand that there is only one God and that no other god can compare with Him, they would need to have an experience with Him. Many of us here today have had an experience that had changed us in such a way that we “know” that God exists even though it is not easy to explain. It is expressed in changes of our behavior and attitude. We are no longer the same person that we were. Here is the key to this entire process. We get to “know” the Creator as we develop a relationship with Him. He told Moshe…now they would get to know Me as יהוה Yud Heh Vav Heh.
We are so blessed to have these stories in the Torah from which we can learn, yet the world today, in spite of all its advancements, is no better off in a moral or ethical sense than the people were at that time. Moshe had a huge task to bring a people who had lost all hope, out of their situation. All they wanted from him was to improve their lot, but the Creator always gives us more than we ask for. He wanted them to have a relationship with Him both individually and corporately. Is it more important for you to have a relationship with God or with a particular person or group with whom you identify?
When we read the Torah, let us read what it actually says, not what we want it to say or what we’ve heard about it from others. Israel never asked God to deliver them. It says that the Creator heard their cries and remembered them. Did God really forget? He was letting them know that it was time to change their behavior or they would disappear as a people. There’s a parallel between the time of the exodus from Egypt and the recent Holocaust. The Jews in Europe were, for the most part, assimilating with their host nation. When we lose our identity, we lose everything. It is important for us to know who we represent. The Creator would begin the process of getting His people to know who He was.
Many think that the Torah and the God of Israel are only for the Jews. This is far from the truth. Many Egyptians themselves understood what the Creator was doing and advised the Pharaoh to let the people go. The Creator had warned the Egyptians to bring their animals inside before He sent the hail. Those who obeyed saved their animals, while the others died (Ex.9: 19ff). There is only one God and He is the Creator of the entire world and l humanity. We need to be clear that being part of Israel means that we play an important role – that of being ohr l’goyim, light of the world, bringing a message of hope. The Creator would teach BOTH Israel and Egypt. It is not that one is good and the other bad. Egypt represents the world that we live in today and it is very attractive. What is more fun…to read the Torah or to go to the movies or some other form of entertainment; to come here on Shabbat or to go on an outing with friends or family?
How would the Creator bring the people back to Him? He would slowly show us that the gods of this world are nothing and that He is the only true God upon whom we can depend. All the plagues were to show the people that the Egyptian gods held no power. If He were to send plagues today, which gods would He choose? What are our gods today? When we go to a restaurant, we see people eating together but they are too busy on their mobile phones to talk to each other. What or who are your favorites sports teams or players? Our material possessions have become our gods. Do we own them, or do they own us? Do you think that you are living in an environment where you are being oppressed and you beg your oppressors to give you just a little of what they have?
We are on a journey of self-examination. Do you identity with Israel or with Egypt? The Creator speaks to all of us, but it is up to us to listen and to respond. If we do not wish to hear Him, then He will allow us to go through situations that make us desperate enough to cry out to Him and then He will remember us!
Here is something important to think about…not one of the Israelites, including Moshe himself, repented or promised that they would always be good and not do anything wrong to anyone. It is time that we allow the Creator to work in our lives. He wants us to humble ourselves, to listen to Him and to build a relationship with Him. We have each experienced our own plagues in our lives. Practically speaking, if we are really sincere, we will see that there are areas in our lives that we need to work on. As we get to know and trust our Creator, He helps us to continue to grow. That is the beauty of our journey through the Torah.
Edited by Peggy Pardo