week I’m excited to dive into this portion because this is the portion
that coincides with my birthday. At the age of 13 I was expected to be
able to read and sing part of this portion in Hebrew and also give a
“drash—short exposition” on this section of text. I am rather partial to
this portion (because it relates to me), but since I am starting with
this topic, I want to encourage all of you to find out what Torah
portion coincides with your birthday. You can find out your Hebrew
birthday and matching Torah portion at Chabad.org. It’s an awesome feeling to study a portion of Torah, when you know that it relates to your existence in some small sense.
Before I start, I want to explain the Names of G-d I will be using in this observation. Maybe sometime in the near future I can do an observation dealing solely with the specifics concerning G-d’s Names, but for this portion I have some other “tunes I want to unload.”
For this portion there are 3 Hebrew names, which refer to G-d that need to be understood. The first of those names is “Kel Shakkai.” It is the name G-d uses when He says in this portion “I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as G-d Almighty”
For many of you, this Name is probably familiar from the song sung by Amy Grant, Michael Card, or even Lecrae/Cam. “Kel Shakai” literally means “G-d Almighty” and represents G-d working within His creation.
The next name of G-d is “Elokim” which is generally translated as “G-d” and is understood in Judaism to represent G-d’s attribute of Justice in the world.
The last name of G-d that I want use in this observation is the name “Hashem.” Translated as “L-rd” from Hebrew, the name Hashem literally means “The Name,” and is used to represent G-d’s Divine 4-Letter Name found in the Torah. This name represents G-d’s divine attribute of mercy that is displayed in creation.
“Kel Shakai” = G-d Almighty = G-d working in creation.
“Elokim” = G-d = Attribute of Justice.
“Hashem” = L-rd = G-d’s Divine 4-Letter Name representing the attribute of mercy.
This portion starts from the very beginning with G-d’s introduction to Moses, saying, “I am the L-rd. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as G-d Almighty, but by My name L-rd I was not known to them.” Many people think this verse means that G-d had not revealed his Divine 4-Letter Name “L-rd” to the Patriarchs. But yet, we find that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob all had experiences with Hashem—with the L-rd. It seems all three of the Patriarchs knew G-d by His name Hashem, or L-rd. (See Genesis 12:7, Genesis 26:24 & Genesis 28:13) What does G-d mean when He says “…by My name L-rd I was not known to them.”
There are 2 ways we can reconcile these verses…The first way to understand this verse it to say, “the Patriachs knew G-d’s name as Hashem, but they only saw Him expressed as Kel Shakkai.” Meaning, they only saw Him expressed as “working within the framework of creation.”
It wasn’t until the time of Moses that we actually see, the fully realized attribute of G-d’s Mercy revealed, as the He is the One who “heard the groaning of the children of Israel whom the Egyptians ke[pt] in bondage.” It was in Moses’ era that G-d was going to reveal Himself as Hashem/The L-rd of Mercy to the world.
The second understanding that I came across was one I read in Moshe Kempinski’s article for this week’s Torah portion. If the first reason wasn’t enough to answer the question “Why does G-d say the Patriachs didn’t know His name as Hashem when we read that they did?” then hopefully this explanation will help clarify things even more!
Let’s go back to verse 2 of Exodus 6, the first verse of this portion and read, “I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as G-d Almighty, but by My name L-rd I was not known to them.” The Hebrew for the words “…I was not known to them…” is “Lo No’dati L’hem.” The word we’re interested in, is the middle word “Nodati,” which can be understood to mean “I was known to.” And it is here Moshe Kempinski brings up an interesting point, “…NODATI…is more accurately translated as ‘I did not make myself known (No-Daati) through them…’” G-d did not reveal Himself “through” the Patriarchs the same way that He was about to reveal Himself in the “Yetziat Mitzrayim—The Exodus from Egypt.” Moshe K. goes on to write, “Hashem revealed Himself to the world through His redemption of the Israelites…”
In the Exodus from Egypt story, something was being revealed about G-d that even the Patriarchs hadn’t grasped or understood. G-d was Kel Shakai, but He was also Hashem; not just in name, but in action. His attribute of mercy was about to be revealed to the world, through His people Israel. What hadn’t been revealed through the Patriarchs was about to be revealed through, and to, the entire nation of the people of Israel. The world was about to experience who Hashem was in real-time!
This is where I want to bring in the name “Elokim.” Remember, Elokim is the name of G-d that represents His attribute of Justice. In Exodus 5, we read of Moses and Aaron’s first encounter with Pharaoh. Here is the exchange that took place, “Moses and Aaron…told Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the L-rd G-d of Israel: ‘Let My people go, that they may hold a feast to Me in the wilderness.’’ And Pharaoh said, ‘Who is the L-rd…I do not know the L-rd…’” Key words in this verse are when Moses and Aaron say “L-rd G-d of Israel” and when Pharaoh responds “Who is the L-rd?” The Hebrew used here for Moses and Aaron is “Hashem Elokei Yisrael.” Notice that they use both of G-d’s names. Hashem = G-d’s name for mercy and Elokei, related to Elokim which is G-d’s name for Justice. Yet, in Pharaoh’s reply he doesn’t ask “Mi Hashem Elokei Yisrael?—Who is the L-rd G-of Israel?” He only asks “Mi Hashem-Who is the L-rd?”
Pharaoh didn’t have to ask who “Elokim” was…He already knew what a G-d of justice looked like. Pharaoh, believed himself to be a god and he operated as one of the elokim, or, as a god of justice.
What Pharaoh didn’t understand was the name “Hashem—L-rd.” Pharaoh couldn’t comprehend a G-d of mercy. It wasn’t an attribute of any god he knew.
The Patriarchs had experienced a G-d who only worked within creation “Kel Shakkai,” and Pharaoh only understood G-d or the gods as concerned about justice. “Elokim.”
But the G-d who displayed Himself in the Exodus story showed himself to be a G-d who worked outside of creation (in the miraculous) to deliver a nation from out of the bondage of Egypt into the glorious freedom of His mercy. “Hashem.”
G-d was showing Himself to truly be “Ekye-Asher-Ekye—I will be who I will be,” as His name is stated in Exodus 3:14. He was showing that you don’t need numerous gods. You only need one G-d. The one who will be what He will be. The G-d whose justice is wrapped up in mercy, as it states in James 2, “Mercy triumphs over judgment.”
Interestingly enough, in Gematria, the numerical value of the name “Ekye-Asher-Ekye—I will be who I will be” (543) has the inverse numerical value of the name “Kel Shakai—G-d Almighty.” (345) This shows even more so that the G-d who works within creation is the same G-d who works outside of creation. The G-d whose justice upholds the world is the same G-d whose mercies overflow our cups. It is the same G-d revealing Himself in different ways to His creation. The Bible is full of hints that should continually point us toward the character and nature of G-d.
Moses came before Pharaoh, before all the court of Egypt, before the leaders of Israel and before the slaves who were in bondage and declared the Merciful name of Hashem, but no one understood it, as it says in John 1 “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness [could] not comprehend it.” Everyone was trying to understand, what G-d, Moses was referring to. Who had ever heard of a G-d of mercy? The gods didn’t give mercy; they demanded judgment…yet G-d, our G-d, sent a deliverer to rescue His people in mercy.
Remember, last week I brought up the idea from the Midrash Rabbah where it said, “the last redeemer will be just as the first.” The “first redeemer,” Moses, was a shadow, a forerunner for the last Redeemer. As we continue reading in John 1, “For the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Yeshua Messiah.” Moses was G-d’s representative who carried
G-d’s name of mercy right into the courts of Pharaoh and brought the children of Israel into freedom. Yeshua also carried the name of G-d into the world, and though He was “despised, rejected and acquainted with grief” He brought and still brings, all those who follow Him into freedom. Moses brought the “wisdom—chochmah” of G-d into the world through the Torah. This is why we call it “The Torah of Moses.” But it is said when the Messiah comes He will bring the “hidden wisdom—chochmah nistara” into the world. As it is written in Isaiah the Prophet, “The Spirit of the L-rd shall rest upon Him, The Spirit of wisdom—chochmah…” When you take the first letters from the 2 words “chochmah nistara—hidden wisdom,” you get the word “Chen” which means grace. What does John 1 tell us? “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”
Do you know what “Chen” can also mean? Merciful. Yeshua came full of Hashem, full of the Spirit of the L-rd and full of “Chen—Mercy.” Do you know who went before Yeshua before he came? Yochanan Hamatbil. John the Immerser. What does Yochanan mean? It means “Hashem/the L-rd is gracious/merciful.” And if I were to turn the letters to the word “Chen” around, it would spell the Name “Noach—Noah.” Noah means rest. Noah was also a type of Messiah and shadow of the coming redeemer. The picture that G-d is painting is continually pointing to Him! As He says throughout the Bible, “Return to Me, and I will return to you.” He has revealed Himself as the G-d of mercy. It is His nature, His name, His character and His essence. As it says in 2 Timothy, “If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself.” As I wrote before,“Mercy triumphs over judgment.” G-d upholds the world in Justice, but He strengthens His children in mercy.
May we be the modern day John the Baptists of today’s world, calling out “Make straight the way of the Lord…” and who declare “G-d is gracious! His mercy endures forever!”