Introducing the Eternal God
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein | January 23, 2017
“I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as God Almighty, but by my name the LORD I did not make myself fully known to them.” — Exodus 6:3
This Torah portion for this week is Va’eira, which means “and I appeared,” from Exodus 6:2–9:35, and the Haftorah is from Ezekiel 28:25–29:21.
This week’s Torah portion is called Va’eira, meaning “and I appeared.” But it isn’t a reference to something happening in this week’s portion; it is speaking about God appearing in the past – to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It’s as if God were saying to Moses, “In the past I appeared to the forefathers in one way, but you will have a completely different experience. To the patriarchs I was ‘God Almighty,’ but to you, I am ‘the LORD.'”
What was God trying to tell Moses?
The Jewish sages explain that every name of God – and there are many of them – has a different meaning. Each name describes a different way in which we can experience God. The name revealed to Moses, “the LORD,” is the four-letter name, YHVH, which comes from these three terms: He was, He is, and He will be. This implies that any promise that God has made in the past is remembered in the present and will be fulfilled in the future.
In the past, God had made promises to the patriarchs – He promised to bring their descendants down to Egypt and then to bring them out as a great nation. But they never saw this promise fulfilled. Still, they had faith in “God Almighty,” knowing that God was all-powerful and would faithfully fulfill His promise in the future.
Moses was the first to see the promises of the past unfold in the present and come to fruition in the imminent future. He was the first to know God as YHVH – the God of the past, present, and future – all in one moment. As God said to Moses earlier, “Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh . . .” (Exodus 6:1). Moses was about to witness firsthand the fulfillment of ancient promises.
In the rest of the Torah portion, we see those promises coming true as the first steps were taken to redeem the children of Israel and the first seven miraculous plagues were unleashed against Egypt. God appeared to Moses as the eternal God who fulfills ancient prophecies. This was a source of great strength for Moses.
Today, we are experiencing God in the same way that Moses did three millennia earlier. Like Moses, we are witnessing the unfolding of prophecies before our very eyes. The prophets foretold events that seemed unlikely to occur: the ingathering of the exiles, the re-birth of the nation of Israel, the blooming of the desolate land, the resurrection of the Hebrew language, and many more. Like Moses, we also are strengthened in faith as we see these promises fulfilled.
Just as God has fulfilled these promises, He will fulfill all promises, until the world reaches its state of perfection.