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Parshas Shmos
by Rabbi Yakov Horowitz

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Always With Us

After encountering the presence of Hashem at the Burning Bush (Shmos 3:2), Moshe was asked by Hashem (3:10) to lead the Bnei Yisroel out of the bondage of Egypt. Moshe, the most humble of men (See Bamidbar 12:3), was reluctant to assume the mantle of leadership. He initially demurred, claiming that he was unfit to guide the Jewish people. Hashem attempted to allay his fears by informing Moshe, “Ki ehyeh imach (For I shall be with you, 12:12); that Hashem will be with Moshe and support his efforts as he faces down the most powerful man on the world at that time.

Moshe then asked Hashem how to respond when the Bnei Yisroel inquire as to the name of Hashem. Hashem responded, “Ehyeh asher Ehyeh (Shmos 3:13).” The phrase Ehyeh asher Ehyeh is perhaps best translated as “I will be what I will be.” Later in the same pasuk, Hashem shortens His name and informs Moshe to tell the Bnei Yisroel “Ehyeh shlochani aleychem (Ehyeh sent me to you),” only using the Holy Name of Ehyeh once.

It is quite obvious that there is deep meaning behind this enigmatic dialogue between Hashem and Moshe. Several questions arise as we explore these important words carefully. What is the significance of the different names that Hashem is represented by in the Torah? What does the name of ‘Ehyeh’ represent? Why did Hashem only note His holy name of ‘Ehyeh’ one time during the second quote to Moshe? Finally, why would Moshe feel that the Jews would be comforted by the name of ‘Ehyeh’?

An Expression of Support

Rashi offers a profound insight into this dialogue. He explains that when Hashem invoked the double mention of 'Ehyeh asher Ehyeh', He was informing Moshe that He would accompany Klal Yisroel and support them during this exile in Egypt – and in all future exiles (as Ehyeh means "I will be there").

Rashi explains that Moshe was concerned that the Jews may become despondent upon hearing that galus Mitzrayim would be merely the first of their many periods of exile. "Da'ay letzorah beshayta” (It is sufficient to deal with difficulties as they come), Moshe maintained. We should be addressing the issue of future exiles as they arrive. Why do we need to burden the Jews with the disheartening information that other exiles lurk beyond the horizon?

Rashi, quoting the Midrash (3:6), informs us that Hashem agreed with Moshe's line of reasoning. "Yafa amarta," said Hashem – you have spoken correctly. Hashem informed him to share only the single name of 'Ehyah' with the Bnei Yisroel. In fact, some versions of Rashi’s commentary suggest that Hashem never intended for Moshe to share both 'Ehyeh' names with the Bnei Yisroel. That additional Divine name was merely to reassure Moshe. However, it was always Hashem's intent for Moshe to only share with the Jews the comforting information that Hashem would remain with them during the current exile.

The Significance of Hashem's Names

In an effort to help us comprehend Hashem’s infinite greatness, the Torah often uses human metaphors to explain His actions or attributes; describing His ‘Right Hand’ during the redemption from Egypt, symbolizing strength, (Shmos 15:6) or ‘His face’ in the birchas Kohanim (priestly blessings), describing that Hashem will ‘turn’ his full attention and love to us, (Bamidbar, 6:26).

So, too, is the case with the various names that represent Hashem’s glory in the Torah. Each of them represents the attributes of Hashem, and helps us gain insight into a better and deeper understanding of His greatness.

The Divine Name of ‘Ehyeh’ according to the commentary of Rashi represents the most basic and simple expression of Hashem boundless love for each of His children. It speaks of the concept that Hashem will always remain with each of us, even – and perhaps most importantly – during our most challenging times.

Always With Us

In our interpersonal relationships, the most comforting thing that we can hear – and feel – from a parent or close friend is “I will always be there for you.” When uttered sincerely it is the most profound sign of devotion. It means that no matter what transpires, regardless of the twists and turns of the road on our journey of life, the person in our lives is committing to supporting us – unconditionally.

Moshe Rabbeinu was exposed to the full glory of Hashem’s Shechina at the Burning Bush. In fact, we see (3:6) that he actually covered his face, as he was afraid to gaze at Hashem’s presence. In chassidic terms, the ‘Shemos hakedoshim’ (Holy names) of Hashem refer to all levels of His glory. Moshe had been privileged to see profound levels of greatness and he was inspired to share all that he was exposed to with his fellow Jews.

I would like to suggest that we could possibly view the dialogue between Hashem and Moshe through the prism of this understanding. Moshe asked Hashem which ‘name’ or ‘names’ should I relate to the Bnei Yisroel? Moshe was eager to share all that he had seen and experienced with the B’nei Yisroel.

Hashem informed him that the Bnei Yisroel were suffering too much to bask in the beauty of higher levels of kedusha (holiness). This was nearly impossible while they were being crushed under the boot of the Egyptians. During Kriyas Yam Suf (the splitting of the Sea) and Kabbolas HaTorah (the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai) they will see My glory in all its splendor. But they are simply not emotionally prepared for that at this moment.

For now, Hashem told Moshe, just inform them of my eternal love for them. When they ask you for the name of Hashem, please share with them the most basic Divine Name, Ehyeh. Hashem promised to remain with – and support – each and every one of His children.


Best wishes for a Gutten Shabbos

© 2007 Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, all rights reserved

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