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Parashat Va’era 5780 — 01/25/2020

Parashat Va’era 5780 — 01/25/2020

Shemot 6:2 – 9:35

Moshe returned to Hashem and said, ‘My Lord, why have you done ill to this people, and why have you sent me now?’ (5:22)
Gd spoke to Moshe and He said to him, I am Hashem. (6:2)

The commentators criticize Moshe’s lack of faith in Gd, or his questioning of Gd’s ways. This criticism is muted to some extent because Moshe’s complaint was not motivated by any personal agenda, but rather out of the pain of the Jewish people, which Moshe felt so acutely. Our verse starts out with Gd speaking to Moshe (using the word vay’daber, which connotes harsh speech), implying a rebuke for Moshe’s improper speech. In addition, it uses the Name Elokim, which represents the Divine Attribute of Strict Justice. What Gd, in His nature as Judge, speaks to Moshe is not recorded, perhaps out of concern for Moshe’s honor. The second clause has Gd saying to Moshe (using the word vayomer, which connotes softer speech), that Gd is Hashem, which represents the Divine Attribute of Mercy. Gd is thus identifying His essence, as it were, with the Attribute of Mercy. This second clause is not only for Moshe’s information, but also meant to be conveyed to the Jews.

Or haChaim indicates that Hashem took Moshe Rabbeinu to task for implying that evil could emanate from Gd at all:

How can you attribute a deficient character trait to [Hashem], Heaven spare us, by saying to Me: Why have You harmed this people? Am I not “Hashem” [Divine Name that expresses Mercy] and My primary Attribute is the Attribute of Kindness and Mercy, and I am good to all?!

[Artscroll interjects: Although bad things happen in the world, and people can come to harm, Or HaChaim explains that these events cannot be described as direct actions of Hashem. Rather, the immediate cause of these events is the sins that brought them about. In contrast, Hashem is described as the direct cause of all the good that occurs in the world. Or HaChaim begins his discussion by explaining the meaning of the verse (Eichah/Lam 3:38): From the decree of the Most High evils and good do not emanate.]

This is just as the Prophet Yirmiyah stated [Eichah 3:38]: From the decree of the Most High evils … do not emanate, but only good events do.

This that it also states, and good, this refers to one specific aspect of good, that is, a person’s development as a righteous person. This is the one thing that Hashem does not decree; rather, it is in the hands of each person to choose good. Thus, the verse refers to this particular good when it states that it is not a direct decree from Hashem.

The idea that evil does not emanate from Hashem is well-founded, for you will find that every time that Hashem mentions in Tanach the idea of repaying evil to those who do evil, He is precise in saying that it is actually the sin that causes the evil, such as … (Iyov 8:4): He delivered them into the hands of their own transgressions, meaning that it is the transgressions themselves, as it were, that had the power over them to bring harm to them; Hashem merely allowed this to happen.

Or haChaim appears to be echoing here the famous teaching on the verse, And Gd saw everything that He had made and behold! it was very good (Gen 1:30) – “What is very good? It is the evil inclination!”  What is so good about the evil inclination?! It is the existence of the evil inclination that gives human beings free choice, without which there would be no moral agency in the world; everything would run autonomously, like a piece of clockwork. This is, apparently, not what Gd wants. Automatons simply are, they don’t have consciousness or spirituality in any meaningful sense, because there is no possibility for an automaton to make a choice. It is our ability to make moral choices that separates us, puts us into opposition, as it were, to the automatic workings of nature.

It is clear that we have to make some kind of argument like this, specifically in order to avoid ascribing any negativity to an all-good Gd. Gd does only good, including the greatest good of giving humans free will. The purpose of this gift is that human beings train themselves to align their will with Gd’s Will, which is all good. If we were all able to do this, then on the outside it would look like we were automata, following strictly Gd’s laws for us. Nevertheless, we would still be free beings, just so averse to sin that it would be virtually impossible to commit one, in the same way that it is virtually impossible for us to put out hand in a fire.

I’d like to consider the whole problem from another angle. We have been assuming that we are separate from Gd, and are able to judge the difference between “good” and “bad.” Modern physics, on the other hand, has demonstrated that there is one, unified basis to all of physical reality, the Unified Field. All particles and their interactions are nothing other than patterns of vibration of the underlying Unified Field. There is nothing “outside” the Unified Field, and the Unified Field does not act, nor is it acted upon. It is completely detached from action, transcendental to the field of action, because it alone exists.

Similarly, although on a much higher level, Gd alone exists, transcendental to the entire field of activity. From our level of consciousness, Gd is the creator, the worker of miracles. We exist on the basis of Gd’s act of creation. From Gd’s perspective, all action is nothing other than Gd, expressing Himself, to Himself, within Himself. Our mission is to establish perception of this reality within our own consciousness, not as a mood but as a lived reality. When we do that, we too are detached from the field of action. Our individuality acts, anchored in Gd’s ultimate reality and always in accord with Gd’s Will.


Commentary by Steve Sufian

Parshah Va’eira

“Va’eira” means “appeared.”  Gd answers Moses’ complaint that Pharaoh has not listened to his message from Gd: let my people go. Gd tells Moses that He is appearing to Moses in Full Strength to deliver the promise He made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that He will make them a great nation.

Exodus 6:2: “Gd spoke to Moses and He said to him, “I Am the Lrd.”
Exodus 6:3: I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob with [the Name] Almighty Gd but [with] My name YHWH, I did not become known to them.”

As “Elohim” Gd speaks to Moses. He tells him He is “YudHeWawHe.”  He then tells Moses that he appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as “EL ShaDaI but as “YudHeWawHe” He did not become known by them (Rashi’s commentary).

Assuming this is so, we’ll tentatively look at YHWH as describing four different levels through which Gd, Totality, Appears within HimSelf, within Gd. These levels range from Maximum Abstraction to Maximum Concreteness – the four worlds of Kabbalah: Beriyah, Atzilut, Yetzirah and Asiyah; from this point of view Gd is telling Moses that He is giving him the whole range (manifest, at least) of existence and this should give Moses confidence that although Pharaoh and the Children of Israel have not listened to Moses so far, they WILL listen because now Gd is giving him Total Support so Moses should do as Gd commands – tell Pharoah to free Gd’s people.

There seems to be a hierarchy through which Gd is recognized by humans and it seems that neither Abraham, Isaac nor Jacob recognized the Full Wholeness within which the Hierarchy exists – they did not experience complete Oneness, despite Torah telling us that Abraham was “given every blessing.”  Something seems to have been left out of their awareness but that seems to be given to Moses – at least, Gd is presenting Gd to Moses from all levels of Hierachy, and from the Wholeness within which they are increasingly “manifest” expressions.

In the rest of the Parshah, Gd tells Moses that He will bring about 10 plagues through Moses and Aaron, hardening Pharoah’s heart each time so that Pharaoh, who has denied Gd as One, will come to recognize that Gd is One, within whom all the Egyptian deities are but small expressions. These plagues occur and Pharaoh says He will let the Israelites go but Gd hardens his heart and he changes his mind.

We might look at the physiological symbolism of Gd, Moses, Pharoah, Egypt and Promised Land from many angles. Dr.Tony Nader, whose books on Human Physiology and Ramayan in Human Physiology are familiar to many Beth Shalom congregants, presents a model which we might adapt to Torah for those people, places, things and events for which I have as yet found no Kabbalistic physiological representation.

For example, Gd would be the Total Physiology but also at every level of physiology He would be the Totality but especially the Central Governing Aspect. Canaan, the Promised Land, would correspond to a healthy physiology; Egypt would correspond to a stressed physiology. Pharaoh particularly would correspond to a stressor of the whole physiology.

Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburg in his book “Body, Mind and Soul”: Kabbalah on Human Physiology, Disease and Healing says that all disease results from a lack of gratitude. From this angle, the slavery in Egypt resulted from our ancestors’ losing the ability to be aware of Gd as the Source of All Goodness. The return to freedom results from returning to recognition of Gd as the Source of All and from increasingly living their lives with a desire to attune to Him in gratitude – not as a mood but as the natural reality which occurs as we respect others, are kind to them, grateful to them, and through our respect for them, respect Gd, Gd’s Kindness and are grateful to Gd. Our gratitude rises to the level where we “Love Gd with all our heart, all our soul, all our might.”

In present times and in any time, our return to freedom occurs the same way.

Torah study – listening, reciting, thinking about and acting in accord with is a good tool to bring us into alignment with Gd and naturally to good health, good relations with others.

Prayer, especially the prayers of our siddur which generally do not ask Gd for help but praise Gd for His Qualities, beyond our ability to know intellectually as an Object of our awareness: He is only Known to Himself and only be rising to the Level of Oneness with Gd can we experience our individual human self as an Expression of Gd and thus bring Full Knowing into our awareness which has become Awareness.

I continue to be very encouraged with the great friendliness, love and joy that I experience in so many of our Fairfield residents and very strongly in our Beth Shalom Congregation. I am very confident that the spiritual exile, the illness of our planet, the enslavement in the restrictions of limited awareness, is ending and that we are participating in ending it and I am confident that many of us are coming very close to Gd and will return to Oneness, beyond the duality of Gd and creation – no plagues needed!

Baruch HaShem!