Congregation Etz Hayim at Hollis Hills Bayside

The consolidated communities of Hollis Hills Bayside Jewish Center and Marathon Jewish Community Center

Shabbat Vaera 5775

To the surprise of no one in our Thursday lunch and learn class, Exodus: Gods and Kings received nary an Oscar nomination. But it’s worth noting that unlike other Hollywood midrashim on Sefer Shemot, the Book of Exodus, such as The Ten Commandments and The Prince of Egypt, at least this film distributor understood what the story was really about. And while the word Gods in the title is contrary to Jewish theology, it certainly captures the crux of the confrontation. This story is about who’s in charge: Pharaoh or God?

At the bush in last week’s parshah, Moshe asked for God’s name, and received the famous calling card Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh. However it is to be translated, the root word is Hei-Yud-Hei, indicating the verb of being, of existence. Now, in Parshat Vaera, after Moshe’s first encounter with Pharaoh has ended in failure, God commits to boosting Moshe’s confidence. Crucial to that confidence is God self-identifying as YHWH, marking a new form of revelation after having appeared to to the patriarchs as El Shaddai (Exodus 6:3). 

Given what follows in our narrative, it’s significant that God has chosen to identify now as YHWH, the name we pronounce with the nickname Adonai. We’ll read about the first seven of the Ten Plagues. How does the revelation of the Divine Name and the onset of the plagues teach us what the Bible believes about God, and what are we encouraged to believe as a result? We’ll look at this in greater depth at Kabbalat Shabbat services on Friday evening.

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi David Wise