Learning Group–Parshat Va’era
(Haftara: Ezekiel 28:25-29:21)
1. [6:2,3] “I appeared to Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya’akov as “almighty God”, but by my name…” God is saying that the fathers had a different revelation of God than Moshe had. Can one know anything about the essence of God, or are there only different revelations for us? When people relate to each other, do they know anything about the essence of the other, or only about what is revealed about the other?
2. [6:4] “I set up my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan…” It seems that God made a covenant with Avraham because God knew that his descendants would do kindness and justice (Breishit 18:19). Is the giving of Canaan a reward for doing kindness and justice or a necessity for doing kindness and justice on a grander scale?
3. [6:9] “…and they didn’t listen to Moshe because of impatience and hard work”. If the Israelites had not been impatient and hadn’t worked so hard, they also wouldn’t have listened to Moshe, because their lives would have been easier. Under what conditions does an oppressed people listen to someone who wants to free them from their oppression?
4. [7:1] “I will make you like an angel to Pharoah, and Aharon, your brother will be your prophet…” God could have given Moshe the power to talk to Pharoah. What political or dramatic advantage is there in having Aharon speak for Moshe?
5. [29:13, 14] “And I will return the captivity of Egypt…and they will be a lowly kingdom.” Why does God say that He will re-establish the Egyptians as a lowly kingdom? If they are scattered, let them remain scattered and be lost among the nations. Why should they again become a nation with a land?
[6:2] “And I appeared to Avraham to Yitzchak and to Ya’akov…”
On this phrase, Rashi comments, “And I appeared to the Avot (the forefathers…” What is Rashi adding here? We know that these are our forefathers. The Chatam Sofer (Pressburg, 1762-1838) says that Rashi is playing on the word, “avot”, which can also be understood in Hebrew as “those who are willing”. So God is saying, “I appeared to those who wanted to have me appear to them”. The Rambam says something similar in relation to God calling Himself “Ehieh asher ehieh (I will be what I will be)”. The Rambam explains, “I will be with those who want me to be with them”. Similarly the Kotzker Rebbe (Poland, (1787-1859) once asked his students, “Where can God be found?” He answered, “Wherever you let Him in.”
This study page is dedicated to the memory of Sarah Bella bat Yitzchak Kummer, Chaim Yosef Yechiel ben Eliyahu Kummer and Eliyahu and Margaret Kummer