Parashah #14: Va’era (I appeared) Sh’mot (Exodus) 6:2-9:35

           Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue

Parashah # 14: Va’era (I appeared) Sh’mot (Exodus) 6:2-9:35

Haftarah: Yechezk’el (Ezekiel) 28:25-29:21

B’rit Chadashah: Romans 9:14-17 

The first sentence in this parashah tells us that G-d’s Name is YHVH (not YHWH used by some believers. There is no “W” in Hebrew. G-d also explains how He is NOT a trinity, rather Echad a complex unity, who can manifest himself in different forms to accomplish His specific purpose. This validates the use of the Hebrew word Echad encompassing the concept of one Person; many roles and a “need to know basis.” G-d explains that he appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as El Shaddai (the Nurturer, the breasted One) stating unequivocally “I did not make myself known to them by my name, Yud-Heh-Vav-Heh.”

YHVH tells Moshe He is about to manifest Himself in another of His roles; this time as Adonai executing judgments on Pharaoh and all he represents. I want to digress for a moment and try to explain why understanding the roles G-d takes and the names associated with them are so important. His very Name indicates He is law (Y-H) and grace (V-H). Just as humans, He can manifest himself in several roles using the Name associated with that particular role.

The name Elo-him means All Powerful, or Almighty. It is the aspect of G-d which is connected with creation, and it implies dominance over nature. (Genesis 1:1)

The Kabbalists point out that the numerical value of Elohim equals hateva, which means nature, or the natural world. This name is indicative of one particular relationship which G-d has with man, but it does not describe the essence of G-d on His terms. This is how the patriarchs must have related to G-d; as Creator. Not until this parashah, does G-d reveal another aspect of Himself.

The name Y/H/V/H, has a different meaning. It implies the transcendental — the aspect of G-d which is, by definition, beyond human understanding. It incorporates male and female characteristics, and when translated letter for letter translates a “hand behold nail behold.” Yahshua is G-d!

Let’s use the burning bush to clarify: And Moses was a shepherd of the flock of his father in law … and he came to the mountain of Elo-him in Horev. [Exodus 3:1] Moshe is seeking the G-d of his forefathers, Elo-him.

An Angel of God Y/H/V/H appeared to him from the midst of the fire from within the bush. And the bush was burning but it was not being consumed. And Moses said, ‘I will turn and look at this great sight, why is the bush not being burnt?’ And Y/H/V/H saw that Moses turned to look, Elo-him called to him from within the tree and said, ‘Moses! Moses! And he said, ‘Here I am.’ [Exodus 3:2-4]

While Moses was seeking the God of his forefathers, the ineffable, transcendent aspect of G-d was revealed to him (Yahshua) as Messianic believers understand, but Moses did not seem to understand the significance of the revelation.

The tradition which he possessed, passed down from the Patriarchs, concerned the aspect of G-d which we call Elo-him, the G-d of Nature. But the Burning Bush is a contradiction of nature — something which is burning but not being consumed. It is a symbol of eternity, a statement of infinity.

Moses turns to see but does not grasp the meaning, and at that point Elo-him calls out to Moses. Moses is then told that the land upon which he stands is holy, and is instructed to remove his shoes. This is the first time in the Torah that we are told of the holy land. What does that mean?

According to the Sages, holiness is synonymous with separateness. That would imply that the Land is separate or different from other lands. The only other such case in the Torah is the Garden of Eden. We are told, after Adam and Eve are banished from Paradise, that ethereal beings armed with fiery swords now guard the entry to the Garden and its Tree of Life. This poses the question of a possible connection between Gan Edan (The Garden of Eden) and this passage. The Garden and the Burning Bush are both places where God’s transcendence is felt:

And they heard the voice of God, the Lord, walking in the breeze of the day. [Genesis 3:8]

Standing at the Burning Bush, Moses is clearly told that he will return to this same place in order to worship G-d.

When you have brought the people out of Egypt you shall worship Elohim on this mountain.   [Exodus 3:12]

The purpose of leaving Egypt, then, will not be merely political. The culmination of the Exodus will take place on this same mountain where the Torah will be given. The Sages see the connection on another level as well: Rabbi Eliezer Hamodai said, From the day that heaven and earth were created, the name of the mountain was Horev. At the time that G-d revealed Himself from the midst of the Sneh (Burning Bush) … the mountain was named Sinai. It is actually the same place as Horev. How do we know that the Children of Israel received the Torah at Horev, as it says (in Deuteronomy 4:10): The day you stood in front of G-d at Horev. [Pirki D’ Rebbi Eliezer 40]

The connection between the Burning Bush and Sinai, the place of the giving of the Torah, is established. However, the parallels run even deeper. The image of the Burning Bush is replicated at the giving of the Torah, where we are told that G-d reveals Himself from the midst of the fire: And the mountain was burning in fire to the very heart of heaven.   [Deuteronomy 4:11] We can now appreciate that the Burning Bush is, in a sense, a microcosm of the Revelation at Sinai. An interesting but often overlooked teaching is found in analyzing why G-d chose to reveal Himself in a burning bush.

The symbolism of a tree is obvious — The Tree of Life from the Garden of Eden. And we are taught in Proverbs that the Tree of Life is Torah:

My son forget not my Torah … She is a Tree of Life to those who hold her.  [Proverbs 3:1,18]

In Genesis man failed and was expelled from the Garden. Man never ate from the Tree of Life — Torah — rather, erroneously, man ate from the Tree of Good and Evil, often called the Tree of Knowledge. Once we recognize that the other tree, the Tree of Life, was the tree of Torah, we are forced to reevaluate our understanding of the Tree of Knowledge, the Tree of Good and Evil, called in Hebrew Etz Ha’Daat.

Immediately following the episode of the expulsion from Eden we are told that Adam yada, knew, his wife. The word yada implies an experience. Similarly, Etz Ha’Daat, the Tree of Knowledge, was a tree of experience. If Adam had not been disobedient and had not given in to his emotions, he would have partaken of the Torah (Tree of Life) first. But, animal instincts, often overrule our better judgment and we choose wrongly. Resh Lakish taught, the (evil) inclination of a person attacks him every day and attempts to kill him. [Sukka 52a]. This is the daily battle against evil spoken of by Sha’ul in the B’rit Chadashah. Yes, we are new creatures, but we must learn what is expected of us, for we still have the evil inclination within us. The Sages teach us that the Angel of Death, Satan, and the evil inclination are all one force. [See Baba Batra 16a.] This is the force that the snake represents. The antidote for this force is the Torah.

The Book of Exodus provides a new beginning as the people are taken out of Egypt eventually, representing forgiveness of past sins and a fresh start provided through the sacrifice of the Pascal Lamb; the first being an animal as a foreshadow of Yahshua; the second Yahshua Himself. Moses stands in front of the Burning Bush, a tree which represents Sinai. God’s transcendence stares him right in the face, yet Moses is still unsure of the significance of the revelation. Again, it is Yahshua addressing Moshe, unbeknownst to him and to our Orthodox Jewish brethren.

Moshe is shown that G-d has given him the power to control the snake which represents the evil inclination and the Adversary described in Genesis. Evil can be countered. When one connects with the Transcendent G-d, via Torah, evil can have no hold. Now we can better appreciate the opening declaration of this Torah portion, when G-d reveals Himself (again) to Moses. Immediately preceding this, Moses had posed a serious question to G-d:

And Moses returned to God (Y/H/V/H), and said, ‘Master, why have You caused evil to this people? Why have You sent me? From the time I came to speak in your Name, evil has befallen this people.’ [Exodus 5:22-23]

Having come to understand the idea of an infinite, compassionate G-d who will redeem His people, Moses now questions the suffering of the Israelites. Why does evil still prosper? His understanding led him to believe that all evil should be eradicated as soon as G-d makes himself known in Egypt, just as the Jews thought Yahshua would exert His role as Conquering King when He first appeared as human. This is why G-d must return to the lesson in the beginning of this week’s Torah portion. All promises will be fulfilled, the Jews will leave Egypt, they will enter their own land.

But for evil to be destroyed, something else must take place — the Torah must be received, and its commandments adhered to. We must learn what sin is before we can learn and choose to avoid it. This is our ammunition, our armor against evil. Ayts chayim he it is a Tree of Life to those who take hold of it, and those who support it are praiseworthy. Its ways are ways of pleasantness, and all its paths are peace.

G-d tells Moshe that He will guide Israel with justice and mercy (Ex. 6:7) true to the full meaning of His Name Y-H-V-H, contrary to Christian teaching that the G-d of Israel was ALL justice and that Jesus taught and practiced ALL love. Many people wonder why G-d was about to demonstrate such signs at the expense of Pharaoh and Egypt in general. We find the answer in Exodus 6:2-5. G-d tells Moshe that He had not made his name known to the Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as YHVH; they had lived as foreigners, and now the Israelites were enslaved physically by Pharaoh, and spiritually as they were part of the world (Egyptian) way of life.  Indeed, all humans would still be slaves to sin and the original death indictment as a result of the original fall of man but for the redeeming work of Yahshua that all men MIGHT be saved.

 In chapter 6:7 we learn of our first and foremost purpose for living and for being chosen as true believers. In Exodus 6:6-8 we discover in a single paragraph G-d’s plan for Israel in the context of all true believers described by Yahshua in the book of Revelation. In this passage G-d is speaking of Israel in the context of the biological nation of Israelites. However, in the prophetic application of this scripture, Israel is spoken of in the context of the single stick described in Ezekiel 37. All Israel will include all true believers, Jew and Gentile; Judah Israel and Ephraim Israel. This is what G-d is saying when He promises that “All Israel will be saved (Rom. 11:26). “ I will take you as my people, and I will be your G-d. Then you will know that I am Adonai…” Before we complete the sentence, let’s break it down into two pieces. The first section speaks of G-d in the role of the ultimate Creator who chooses the Israelites as His people regardless of their sins. This part of the sentence set the stage, so to speak for the future of Israel and all true believers (Ex. 12:49). G-d has the right to choose whomever he will for whatever reason (Ex. 33:19; Rom. 9:18). Rom. 9:18 speaks of G-d’s sovereignty in the form of hardening whom He will also. The interpretation of hardening is in the context of allowing an individual to harden his or her heart against G-d as G-d allowed Pharaoh to do. G-d did not harden Pharaoh’s heart against his will as some Christian Clergy teach to support the idea that the G-d of the Old Testament was “mean” and Jesus is a G-d of love only. To teach such a concept does not even make sense. G-d gave man free will to choose between right and wrong. He does not take that away and make us robots. The second part of Ex. 6:6 states “… who freed you from the forced labor of the Egyptians.” With our previous knowledge that Egypt in the Bible represents the epitome of a sinful lifestyle, G-d is prophetically speaking of His future manifestation as both G-d and Yahshua with the purpose of freeing or delivering the people from sin. A proof text is found in Ex: 13:21; “Adonai went ahead of them in a column of cloud during the daytime to lead them on their way, and at night in a column of fire to give them light…22 Neither the column of cloud by day nor the column of fire by night went away from in front of the people.” The word Ha’ish means “fire. This verse also supports the fact that Yahshua executes judgment and is not all love.

Exodus 6:8 continues the history and future of true believers (Israel); “I will bring you into the land which I swore to give to Avraham, Yitz’chak and Ya’akov- I will give it to you as an inheritance. I am Adonai.” What an awesome, humbling, and beautiful promise! Deductive reasoning and hermeneutics allows us to apply the events described by G-d in our parashah to the continued “race to win the prize” described by Paul (Acts 17:11, Phil. 3:14, 1 Cor. 9:24), the end times described in Matthew 24, and the wedding of Israel to Yahshua in Revelation. The Land will be Israel, the borders of which have never been occupied by the Israelites in total as defined in Num. 34:1-13.This area is quite different than today’s Israel that is about the size of Rhode Island.

But… IF…. There must always be an interchange, an interaction between two of anything for a relationship to exist. The Torah is filled with the requirement to obey/observe the commands, mandates, and statutes of G-d. A few references for your consideration are Lev. 26:6; Ex. 34:37; Lev. 20:26; Lev. 33; John 14:15; John 15:10. G-d required such a relationship with Pharaoh. Unfortunately, Pharaoh defiantly refused to acknowledge the G-d of Israel. G-d as Adonai tells Pharaoh through Moshe to let the Israelites go and worship him (G-d) or else… G-d tells those who would be considered true believers the same thing (Ex. 15:25-6), and Yahshua in John Chapter 14. In the natural universe for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. However, in the spiritual realm there are no limits. G-d’s blessings and curses are more than we can imagine in the natural world. Furthermore, we know that YHVH/Yahshua has done and does more for us than we can ever do for Him; he needs nothing from us. What we do for Him is a reasonable service and an ongoing system of checks and balances designed for our spiritual growth (Rom. 12:1-2), presenting our bodies, better translated as ourselves, a living sacrifice, set apart for YHVH/Yahshua includes everything we think, say, and do (Deut. 6:4). G-d, seeing the people he is about to separate unto Himself, begins the process of removing all threats from her by way of dealing with Pharaoh (Egypt). Yet, the process still provides an opportunity for the aggressor to repent before experiencing each consequence metered out for each act of rebellion willingly chosen by Pharaoh. Pharaoh’s responses foretell the stubbornness we observe in our own lives in certain areas and society. In the future people will curse G-d even as they are burned by intense heat when the fourth bowl is poured out (Rev. 16:9). We must read our parashah carefully. Pharaoh chose his destiny. The statement that “YHVH hardened the heart of Pharaoh is a Hebrew idiom in which an action verb is used to express not the doing of something, but permission to do it. G-d allowed Pharaoh to choose his destiny. G-d responds to our freewill choices (Jer. 18:8, 10) as mentioned in the beginning of this teaching. This truth stands in direct contrast to those who hold Pharaoh innocent and blame G-d and state that we have no free will (Jer. 18:12); a point also reflected in 2 Tim 2:20-21. Using the parashah as an example once again, a giant, great plague would not have convinced the Egyptians as thoroughly of G-ds existence as several smaller ones. If Egypt had been wiped out at the first moment of refusal, they never would have been afforded the opportunity of teshuvah, repentance. After each plague, Pharaoh and the Egyptians had an interval in which they had time to think about their errors and repent.  Similarly, G-d is allowing more frequently occurring “natural” disasters to occur around the world, each time allowing people to look up for their help and deliverance. Yet, as a global community, we still ascribe such calamities to global warming, government conspiracies, etc. G-d is patient and long suffering. There will come a time when the line will be drawn (already known by G-d) and opportunities for repentance will be lost. One reason for G-d affecting disaster upon the Nile was that Pharaoh proclaimed himself god of the Nile. Another was that the Nile was the life of Egypt. The Egyptians never looked to the heavens for the Source of water. The opposite is true for the Israelite farmer who always looks up in hope, expectation and faith. Although rain also comes from below (Gen 2:6), G-d did not create us to be passive recipients of his chesed (unmerited kindness). We are designed to ask, seek, and knock continually as we seek to ascend in our relationship to Him (Matt. 7:7).

Haftarah: Yechezk’el (Ezekiel) 28:25-29:21

This week’s haftarah starts with the ingathering of the exiles, reflecting back on G-d’s promise in our parashah “I will take you out of the suffering of Egypt.” Ezekiel discusses the decimation of Pharaoh and Egypt, also reflecting the devastation wrought upon Egypt described in the parashah and that described many times eschatologically by Yahshua, the prophets, and the disciples. in the future. Studying these books will help us understand why the punishments and blessings that were given back then, and will occur again in the future. May we remain separate from the world and stay close in G-d/s Torah!

Ezekiel tells us what will occur during the ingathering of the exiles. “When I gather in the house of Israel from the peoples among whom they have been scattered, and I have been sanctified through them in the eyes of the nations, then they shall swell on their land that I gave to My servant, to Jacob. And they shall dwell upon it securely…”

Ezekiel proceeds to convey a prophecy regarding Pharaoh and Egypt, foretelling the fall of the Egyptian empire. Egypt was punished for two reasons. First, they reneged on their promise to assist Israel against the attacking Babylonians. Second, they had incredible arrogance, considering themselves totally self-reliant on the bounty of the Nile instead of G-d. The Nile was their G-d. Therefore, Ezekiel warns them: “And the land of Egypt shall be desolate and in ruins, and they shall know that I am the L-rd!” Because he [pharaoh] said, ‘The river is mine, and I have made it.” G-d warns that the land of Egypt will be empty and desolate for forty years, after which G-d will return the people to the land to re-inhabit it, but it will no longer be an important nation to be reckoned with. Could this statement foretell the future of the United States? Only time will tell. It would seem that the prophecies of Obadiah specifically address this probability.

The haftarah ends with another prophecy where G-d tells Ezekiel that Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, will be the one to conquer Egypt and take its riches. This was a reward given him by G-d because he was accomplishing G-d’s purpose by defeating the nation of Tyre.

B’rit Chadashah: Romans 9:14-17

Let’s look at the relationship between Ex. 9:16 to Rom. 9:17. In this passage (Rom 8:26-9:29), Paul compares G-d’s promise to believers with his promise to Israel. We know that Israel as the bride of Yahshua is in fact defined as true believers. Therefore this relationship should come as no surprise. Romans 8:29-30 literally translates from the Aramaic: “And from beforehand he knew them and marked them with the likeness of the image of his Son that he might be the firstborn of many brothers. And those which beforehand he marked, he called and those whom he called he justified and those whom he justified he glorified.”

 The Aramaic does not address predestination, but with foreknowledge. The text compares G-d’s promise to believers with his promise to Israel (believers=Israel) in Rom. 9:1-4).  Paul tells us that G-d selected/elected/chose Israel (Rom. 9:11). He quotes passages from the Tanakh to support his statement (Rom. 9:12= Gen. 25:23); Rom 9:13=Mal.1:2-3). Take note that G-d hated Esau for giving up his inheritance of his own free will (Gen. 25:24-34).

Paul then quotes the Torah: “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. (Ex. 33; 19=Rom 9:15). This highlights G-d’s sovereign right to choose Israel.

Paul refers to our parashah (Rom. 9:17= Ex. 9:16), then presents the parable of the potter and the clay (Rom. 9:19-21). A parable common in Jewish literature (Isaiah 29:16; 45:9; Jer. 18:1-10). In this parable the potter is G-d and man is the clay. The point is that G-d is sovereign over man, just as the potter is over the clay. Paul uses this illustration to justify G-d choosing Israel as his elect while “hating” Esau and allowing Pharaoh to continue in his rebellion toward G-d. Paul’s point in Rom. 9 is not to promote the Greek philosophy of fatalism, or to indicate that men have no free will. Rather, his point is to defend G-d’s sovereign right to choose Israel. Furthermore, we can see in this week’s parashah that Pharaoh is not stripped of his free will, but it does express G-d’s sovereign right to create Pharaoh for His purpose. May we submit to G-d’s just and merciful hands as the clay allows the potter to form a perfect vessel.

Shabbat Shalom,                      

Rabbi Tamah Davis