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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Va'era

The Master Chef At Work

Rabbi Stewart WeissTevet 25 5776
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Do not think that the time-honored Jewish custom of complaining ("What?! Such bad food - & such small portions, too!") is a new phenomenon. Moshe was also a complainer; at the end of last week’s Sedra, he grouses to G-d: "Why did You send me? Why do You do evil to Your people? It’s only gotten worse since I went to Paro!"

And G-d answers Moshe in Vaera, most mysteriously: "I am Hashem (Y-H-V-H). I appeared to Avraham, Yitzchak & Yakov, but not as Hashem; only as Kel Shadai."

Question time:

-How does this reply satisfy Moshe’s concerns?
- What is the difference what G-d calls Himself?
- And why does G-d proceed to identify Himself 4 times in the space of just 8 p’sukim as, "Ani Hashem?!"

So let us try to make some sense of this.

The name "Shadai" hearkens back to the beginning of time, when G-d meticulously created the world in exactly the right measure. Like a master chef who puts in just the right amount of seasoning; who cooks it for just the right amount of time at just the right temperature, so G-d prepared the world, perfectly setting in motion the waters, the heavens, the earth; & then said: Dai-Enough!

One of G-d’s favorite "dishes" was that of Redemption for Am Yisrael, & our entrance into our one & only Land. But this dish needed an awful lot of intensive preparation, & though the Avot were continually promised that one day it would indeed be ready for serving, that day was long in coming, & the Avot did not live to see it. That cataclysmic moment was reserved for Moshe.

And here is where the name "Hashem – Y-H-V-H" - comes into play. For that specific name of G-d represents Past, Present & Future. That is, the moment when it all comes together, when all the parts mesh perfectly with one another, when all the ingredients are finally assembled & ready to bring to the table. That is what G-d tells Moshe, who - as a supreme defender of Bnei Yisrael and fighter for justice - is anxious for the suffering & slavery to end, & for the Geula to begin.

"Now," says G-d, "Shadai will recede into the background & Hashem will take center-stage." In rapid succession, we will be freed from slavery, leave Egypt, receive the Torah, build the Mishkan, and go on to eventually enter Eretz Yisrael. The B'rachot, the blessings, flow like a waterfall from the B'recha, the pool, of Divine kindness.

Times are tough for Jews right now; In Israel, & in the Galut. But we don’t despair. We know that Shadai is meticulously preparing a feast, with all the ingredients – the terror attacks, the global anti-Semitism, the chaos in the Middle East, the refugee crisis – as part of the mix. But when Hashem finally serves it up, it will be one truly amazing banquet.
Rabbi Stewart Weiss
Was ordained at the Hebrew Theological College in Skokie, Illinois, and led congregations in Chicago and Dallas prior to making Aliyah in 1992. He directs the Jewish Outreach Center in Ra'anana, helping to facilitate the spiritual absorption of new olim.
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