Parshas Vaeira begins with the Bnei Yisrael at their lowest point. They’ve been enslaved by Egypt for generations, and just when Moshe comes to ‘rescue’ them, all that changes is Paroh makes their burden even harsher. Last week’s parsha ended with Moshe asking Hashem what will happen next; what is he supposed to do at this point! All seems lost.
The parsha begins with Hashem’s response to Moshe. “וַיְדַבֵּ֥ר אֱלֹהִ֖ים אֶל־משֶׁ֑ה וַיֹּ֥אמֶר אֵלָ֖יו אֲנִ֥י יְהֹוָֽה” “And Elokim spoke to Moshe, and He said to him, ‘I am Hashem” (Shemos 6:2). Rav Hirsch explains that through the mention of His name, Hashem is signifying to Moshe a fundamental change in how He will act towards the Bnei Yisrael. The name ‘Elokim’ is used when Hashem allows Nature to operate on its own. Until now, Hashem has allowed the Bnei Yisrael to be enslaved, abused, and tormented by the Egyptians. But from now on, He will be operating under the name of ‘Hashem’, indicating that the World will be proceeding directly according to what Hashem desires, regardless of any previous actions or conditions. With this decree, explains Rav Hirsch, a new world order emerged, one not dependent on any of the previous events going back to the time of Creation.
In order to better understand this concept, we must first ask a couple of questions. First, we see in Pasuk 3, “וָֽאֵרָ֗א אֶל־אַבְרָהָ֛ם אֶל־יִצְחָ֥ק וְאֶל־יַֽעֲקֹ֖ב בְּאֵ֣ל שַׁדָּ֑י וּשְׁמִ֣י יְהֹוָ֔ה לֹ֥א נוֹדַ֖עְתִּי לָהֶֽם” “And I (God) appeared to Avraham, to Yitzchak and to Yaakov with Almighty God, but with My name Hashem, I did not become known to them.” What exactly is meant by this statement, the name ‘Hashem’ is written many times throughout Sefer Bereishis? Secondly, why was it necessary for Hashem to wait until the Bnei Yisrael were thoroughly demeaned before taking over like this? There must be more to this than what the pesukim are telling us.
If you look at the lives of the Avos, they were not at all easy. Avraham waited until 100 years old to have Yitzchak, Yitzchak had to choose between Yaakov and Esav, Yaakov had to work for Lavan for both of his wives; these are just a few examples of the hardships our forefathers faced. Why is it that specifically the men who were most representing Hashem in this world were faced with such hardships? Hashem could have just as easily let Avraham have a full and happy family by the time he was 70, have him be successful and never have to leave Eretz Yisrael, and let his descendants expand and fill the land, all while continuing to serve Hashem at the highest level! But then, he would have been just like everyone else.
The purpose of Hashem establishing a nation to represent Him in this world was not just about them learning Torah and performing mitzvos, it’s also about us allowing Hashem to represent Himself in this world. We had to show the world the power of ‘Hashem’; we were the example to the rest of the world that all power in the world ultimately rests with Hashem. A 100 year old man shouldn’t have children, and a nation that has been enslaved for 210 years shouldn’t be able to develop into a functioning nation and just walk out of the most powerful country in the world. According to nature, the Bnei Yisrael should have at the very least assimilated into Egyptian culture, if not be totally eradicated under the harsh pressure of slavery. Any normal person observing this and other nation in this same situation would have long given up hope by this point. And that’s when Hashem steps in with the Name ‘Hashem’ and shows the rest of the world what He and his nation are all about.
The truth is, the Name ‘Hashem’ was always used by Hashem, it’s written any times in the Torah before this point, but He never showed its’ meaning to the Avos or anyone else. When the name ‘Hashem’ is used by the Avos, while they might have spoken to Hashem with that name, they didn’t understand the full impact of that Name, that every event throughout history and the future will be through His will and by His plan. How could they! Its full impact won’t be understood until the end of time and all of history is complete. But the first understanding of Hashem’s ultimate plan, of the plan for His nation that would accept the Torah, happened here in Parshas Vaeira.
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