The Temple Institute: Temple Talk: Shvat 3, 5767/January 22, 2007

The One G-d

"And G-d spoke unto Moses, and said unto him: 'I am HaShem; and I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, as G-d Almighty, but by My name HaShem I made Me not known to them."
(Exodus 6:2-3)

Moshe (Moses) is unsure at to whether his fellow Hebrews will accept his word that G-d has truly appeared before him and sent him to redeem His people. His ambivalence is not abated, even after G-d has revealed to Moshe His name, and even after He has turned Moshe's staff into a serpent and back again. What is Moshe really uncertain about here? Does he question whether the Israelites will believe that the Creator of the universe has appeared before him? Or is he doubtful that they will believe that the G-d of Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov has appeared before him?

Moshe's question is profound. He is not questioning whether the children of Israel believe that G-d created the universe, and he is not doubting that his brothers believe deeply in the G-d of Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov. He is wondering whether they do, in fact, remember the promise HaShem made to Avraham: the promise of delivery from servitude. And he is questioning whether they remember the words of their father Yaakov described in the midrash: "Here O Israel, HaShem our G-d, HaShem is one." In other words, have the children of Israel maintained, throughout the vicissitudes of servitude, their profound knowledge that the G-d of creation is the very same "personal" G-d of their fathers, Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov, who instructed and guided them?

Pharoah himself believes in a god of creation, and he does not doubt that the god who accompanies Moshe is indeed a deity. He simply refuses to be convinced that both gods are indeed one and the same G-d. And therein lies the conflict - the clash of civilizations that would bring disaster upon the Egyptians and literally split the world in two at the Sea of Reeds.

The ten plagues that are described in the Torah readings of Va'era and Bo are a primer in monotheism, intended by G-d to pull the rug out from under the feet of Pharaoh - the self-proclaimed deity, and at the same time to alert the nations at large that there is a G-d in the world. For the ten plagues served notice to Pharoah that G-d could, and would, undo the very same ten stages of creation with which He brought all existence into being, and return the world back to chaos and darkness, in order to fulfill His promise to Avraham, and redeem His people with "an outstretched arm." (ibid 6:6)

G-d never did share Moshe's doubt as to His people's faith in Him. That faith was implicit in their "cry" to Him. (ibid 2:23) And G-d's faith in Moshe, as His appointed redeemer, is vindicated by His people at the crossing of the Sea of Reeds:

"And Israel saw the great work which HaShem did upon the Egyptians, and the people feared HaShem; and they believed in HaShem, and in His servant Moses." (ibid 14:31)

Join Rabbi Chaim Richman and Yitzchak Reuven on this week's TEMPLE TALK, as they discuss the Torah reading of Va'era, the ten cataclysmic events that shook the earth, and their deep concern about events transpiring in Israel today.

Click to hear:

Part 1
Part 2