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Torah Talk for Parashat Vaera

January 2, 2019 by Jake Singer-Beilin (Faculty and Staff)

In this parasha, God commands Moshe and Aharon to bring B’nei Yisrael out of Egypt and deliver them from slavery. They receive the message that God will free them, and yet, their spirits still remain heavy. In the middle of the narrative, we find a genealogy of Reuven, Shimon, and Levi, which also includes the family origin of Moshe and Aharon. Moshe and Aharon approach Paro (Pharaoh) with their demand that he let B’nei Yirael go worship God in the wilderness, and they perform a miracle of turning a staff into a serpent. We then read about the first seven plagues to hit Egypt, as well as Paro’s heart being hardened against B’nei Yisrael.

Toward the beginning of this parasha, God tells Moshe and Aharon that they should reveal God’s name to B’nei Yisrael – a name that was not revealed to Avraham, Yitzchak, or Ya’akov. According to this text, the avot (forefathers) knew God by another name, but God’s true name, The Name (Ha-Shem) is reserved for the nation of B’nei Yisrael. This signifies that God’s relationship with the avot is of a different nature from the relationship that God will form with this nation of slaves turned a free people. But why does God relate differently to this nation than God related to Avraham, Yitzchak, and Ya’akov, and what are the differences in those relationships?

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