Here we are in the second week of shovavim, the chapters that deal with the exodus from Egypt. Last week’s Parshah ended with Moshe asking Hashem, “Why have you done evil to this people”. It seemed that things had only gone from tragic to unbearable since Moshe came back to Egypt to set them free. Wouldn’t you feel betrayed? Moshe didn’t, but he did have a question.
How many times have you heard people ask the same question Moshe did, either in the same words or in different ones? “Where was G-d when…?” is a great beginning for a sentence that by its nature is a statement, not a real question in which you have an authentic desire for an answer. It’s a statement born of anger. “Why are things the way that they are, and not the way that I think they must be?” is the feeling (and often the thought) that lies below the surface.
G-d’s answer to Moshe wasn’t a litany of self-justifications (which in this case would mean blaming the Egyptians, the Jews, or both). Instead, Hashem begins a process in which He lets Moshe enter a different world, one in which Hashem is more knowable than He is when you only look for Him on the surface level of reality.
This process actually began generations earlier when Hashem promised Avraham that he would have a child, and that his child would ultimately emerge as a great nation. Avraham didn’t know how his future children could definitely be counted upon to do this mission. All humans have free choice, what would happen if they decided to reject being a “great nation”. What if they prefer to be a smaller, less dramatic nation, one whose footsteps are not so easily seen in the sand. Hashem’s answer was (according to the Talmud) that His commitment to the nascent Jewish People would remain unchanging. They won’t be allowed to disappear, or choose out. They will discover who they are by suffering everything that exile has to offer. He then showed Avraham the entire spectrum of Jewish experience in exile. Torquemada, Hitler, Stalin, and the many forgotten men of evil who etched horror onto the ongoing mural of human experience. He saw the little children holding on to their parents who already knew that they were all doomed. He saw the acts of terror. He was then given a choice; is this what you want for your children, or do you want them to face up to who they are and what they could have been through the purification of gehinnom in Olam Haba. He chose this world, the world in which real change is possible, and the world in which one hour of tshuvah and good deeds gets you more than anything you can gain in Olam Haba, even though the raw pleasure of one moment in Olam Haba is greater than anything this world has to offer. The real question isn’t “Where was G-d when..?”, but, how can I find Him when I am living through the hard and painful moments. How can I use them to come back to being the person I was born to be? To answer that question, Hashem revealed something of a clue by revealing some of His Names to Moshe.
The function of a name separates a thing or a person from everything else. I am Tziporah Heller. That tells you that I am not a box of oatmeal or President Trump. It doesn’t tell you who I am, just who I am not. Unlike our names, The Names that Hashem give you insight to the One who made you.
1 - The Name ‘Ekya’ (which when praying or studying Torah would be pronounced with a hey rather than a kuf) which appears last Parshah. Its literal meaning is “I shall be”, which in context means that I shall be with you, guiding you through this moment and through everything the future offers. The number value of this Name is 21. If you time it by itself (21x21) the result is 441, which is the number value of the word emes which means truth. Truth by definition is the entire picture. You and I are stuck on page 769 in a book that began way before we were here, and will go on far beyond any time line that you or I can imagine. Hashem is with you when you opened your eyes and saw a world full of color, adventure, and people. He is there with you at this moment of incomprehensible challenge, and He will be with you at the end of your story when there is genuine resolution.
2 - The Name ‘Shakai’ means the One who is sufficient. The word sufficiency means, “enough” not less, but also not more. He made the oceans. The average depth of the ocean is 12,100 feet. The deepest part of the ocean is called Challenger Deep, and is located beneath the western Pacific Ocean, in the southern end of the Marianna Trench which runs several hundred kilometers southward of the U.S. territorial island of Guam. The One who made this, is also the One who lets the ocean hit the beach so gently that you can sit on the edge of the shore and build tunnels with your local three-year-old. One of the ways that this translates is by the occurrence of what Ramban calls “hidden miracles”, meaning events in which the components of concealment and revelation are just about equal, so that you can attribute the event to nature (whose mother is Mother Nature anyway?) or you can choose to see Hashem’s hidden hand. When you look back at your own lives, ask yourselves a few questions:
If you are in Bnos Avigail: How did your great-grandparent’s lives lead to your parents meeting, marrying, and having you as there child. Where were they from? What was the fate of other family members? Could they have predicted your learning Torah in English in Yerushalaim?
If you are in Neve: Could YOU or your parents have pictured you in Neve five years before you got here?
If you are just a friend, how likely is it that we would know each other, and find each other exchanging ideas using a computer? Could you have imagined this when you were a child?
Getting to know Hashem is a process. The next Name, is the one that we don’t pronounce as it is written. It gives you a distant glimpse into not just what Hashem does, but into what He is, and what He wants to share of Himself with us.
Can you really really know anything of Hashem’s essence?
Even when you think about your friends, and people who have been in your life for a long time, if you were to strip away their deeds and every word they ever said, would you know them? What that tells you is that their souls, which are a dimension of Hashem Himself are hidden from us. How deeply do we really know ourselves? Hashem revealed something of His essential self to Moshe at this point, so that he could begin the long, difficult and sometimes overwhelming task of teaching us who we are, and who Hashem is to us.
More on this next letter, but in the meantime, THINK. Go deep inside so that when you hear about the miracles of the plagues, you will know more about what they tell you about G-d, His relationship to us and to His world, and even something of yourself. The main thing is to never stop looking, or seeing the beauty together with the challenges and to accept the reality that you have the strength to go beyond living in the world of doubt and blame.