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  • Writer's pictureRabbi Skorka

Vaera - The Names of God

God is referred to in the Bible by several different names. Elo-him is the one that first appears when the creation of the Cosmos is described in Genesis 1. It connotes, in the Biblical Hebrew, the idea of strength, of power (Genesis 31:29, Micah 2: 1). Adon-ai, which is the second name, refers to His lordship and mercy (Exodus 34: 6, Deuteronomy 4:31).

Moses asked God to know his name, and his answer was: “I will be the one whom I will be,” or according to other translations: “I am who I am (Exodus 3:14).” The verb to be (HYH), which designates existence, is the basis for another of the names of the Creator, the Tetragrammaton, the one held most sacred in the Jewish tradition and that was only pronounced in the Temple of Jerusalem.

This parashah begins by God telling Moses that He will reveal to him His name in a more meaningful way than He did to the patriarchs. God was revealed to them only by the name of Shaddai, the Almighty (according to Ibn Ezra´s exegesis to 6:3) because He gave them promises of things that He did not fulfill in their lifetimes. But to Moses God reveals many names because He is going to fulfill in Moses’ lifetime what He had promised to the patriarchs (according to Rashi's exegesis of 6:3).

Moses led the Children of Israel, as a people, to Mount Sinai, and from there to the land of Canaan. All that was only a promise for Abraham, Isaac and Jacob now becomes reality in the time of Moses. Therefore God revealed all the divine names, that of His power, His lordship and mercy, and of His existence. Moses and his people experienced these qualities of God, which was only a matter of faith for the patriarchs who only partially experienced them.

There were moments in history, such as during the Shoah, when our people saw attempts to erase the name of God from the face of the earth. However, there were those who preserved the flame of the revelations to the people and Moses, so that the knowledge of God’s names and qualities continues to endure forever.

Shabbat Shalom!


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