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At first glance, there’s a “disconnect” between our Torah portion (Vaera) and the previous parsha (Shemot), even though they relate the same episode. At the end of last week’s parsha, Moshe went to Pharoah, king of Egypt and demanded to let his people go. Pharoah, unimpressed, responded that from now on, the Jews would have to work harder, not only making bricks for Pharoah’s cities, but also gathering the raw materials. Moses became a bit exasperated and asked G-d, “Why have you made things worse for this nation?” (Ex. 5:22). The answer to this question comes at the beginning of our parsha, where G-d says to Moshe, “I am G-d; I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as El Shada-i, without making myself known to them with my true essential name - Havaya. I established my covenant with you…and I will remember my promise. Therefore, tell the Jews that I am the Lord, and I will take you out of the misery of Egypt, and rescue you…and redeem you” (Ex. 6:2-6).

The obvious question is, where is the answer to Moses’ question? How does the mention of the forefathers and G-d’s relationship with them provide an answer to Moses’ question? Rashi explains that G-d promised to fulfill his pledge to the forefathers to settle the Jews to settle them in the land of Israel, and for that purpose He invoked His essential name, rather than the name that He used while communicating with the forefathers. But, the question remains; why choose to seemingly minimize the relationship between G-d and the forefathers exactly at this point in the narration? Why is that pertinent to the story of the exodus? Moreover, what do we learn from this that can we use for our own purposes in serving G-d?

Looking into the language of G-d’s reply to Moses, we could ask a couple of other questions. Why does the verse take care to mention all of the forefathers by name? Why not just refer to them generically; “I am G-d; I appeared to the forefathers asŔ? And if for some reason it was necessary to name all of them, why use the preposition “to” in front of each one? Why not just say, “I am G-d; I appeared to Abraham, Isaac and JacobŔ

It is well known that the Torah speaks to us on at least four levels; the simple textual meaning (pshat), the interpretive dimension (drosh), the level of allusion (remez) and the secret, kaballistic level (sod). We saw an example of the simple level of our verse above, in Rashi’s explanation (that G-d came to fulfill his promise to the forefathers). On the kabalistic level, we know that the name El Shada-i corresponds to the sephira, or G-dly attribute of yesod, with which G-d supplies the creation with all that it needs, and more. The sages said that with this name, G-d said to the world “Dai” – enough! This means that through the G-dly attribute of yesod, using the name El Shada-i, G-d gives to the world everything that it needs both physically and spiritually. This was the level on which the forefathers related to G-d. Although the attribute of yesod provides all that the world needs to become satiated, it does not provide a conduit to transcend and reach beyond creation. That only comes from G-d’s essential name, the name Havaya, meaning “is, was and will be.” That was the name that was introduced to the world through Moses, in order to take the Jews out of Egypt and receive the Torah.

There is a fifth level of Torah understanding that includes and transcends the others, revealing the secrets of the Torah in the soul as well as in the world at large. This is the level revealed by Chassidut. In the Chassidic work, Torah Ohr, the Alter Rebbe, founder of the Chabad Chassidic movement, tells us that in G-d’s answer to Moses, we find not only a promise (that G-d will bring the Jews to Israel as pledged to the forefathers), but also an answer to Moses question; “why have You made things worse for this nation?” The Alter Rebbe says that in order for the Jews to merit to the higher revelation of the name Havaya (transcendence – “is, was and always will be”), it was necessary for them to go through the slavery in Egypt. Even though on the surface, the slavery was a decline and worsening of their physical situation, it polished and elevated the collective Jewish soul to enable it to merit to revelation of the most sublime, essential level of G-dliness. This was a level that even the forefathers, as great as they were, did not merit, because it was necessary for the Jews to first go through the Egyptian bondage in order to rise to that level.

Armed with this understanding, it becomes clear that G-d’s answer to Moses was far more than a re-iteration of a promise made generations earlier to the forefathers. It was the announcement of a whole new revelation of G-dliness in the world. G-d’s answer made it clear that the exodus was far more than the physical emancipation of the Jews from the back-breaking slavery of Egypt. It was the dawn of a new age in which the Jews would serve Havaya – “When I take you out of the land of Egypt, you will serve G-d on this mountain [Mt. Sinai]” (Ex. 3:12) out of free choice, from the essence of their souls. It was a spiritual emancipation at least as much as it was a physical redemption from slavery.

And that is why the verse singles out each of the forefathers, as if to imply that as great as their individual contributions were, they did not rise to the level of serving Havaya – G-d in His transcendent manifestation – “is, was and always will be.” If the intent of the verse were to minimize G-d’s relationship with the forefathers, it would have referred to them generically – the “forefathers,” without mentioning their names. And if the verse wanted to recognize their great level of avoda without emphasizing them as individuals, it could have simply mentioned each of their names in passing. But, the preposition “to” in front of each of their names serves to indicate that each of the forefathers made his own contribution to avodat HaShem – each forged a path that paved the way for the Jewish people in the future. For that, they were recognized from Above as the forefathers of the Jewish nation. And yet, they did not achieve the revelation of Havaya – transcendent G-dliness. And since they did not merit that revelation of G-d’s essential name, they did not achieve complete, inner redemption. That was left to the generation that experienced the slavery in Egypt and was redeemed by Moses.

The word for “Egypt” in Hebrew – mitzrayim – also means “limitations.” Aside from the obvious physical limitations of the land of Egypt, we all have our inner limitations, as well. Even within the realm of inner holiness, there are limitations. As much as we might strive for true spiritual freedom, we are physical beings, souls clad in bodies. The state of true spiritual freedom is defined by complete and total self-nullification to G-d, and that is not something we can achieve on our own. Rather, it has to come by way of revelation from Above. As the Chassidic text (Torah Ohr) reads, “he doesn’t experience himself at all…he has no significance in his own eyes.” This level of nullification is unreachable by human efforts, since “the prisoner cannot free himself.” It necessitates a mighty revelation from Above, that is so powerful that it nullifies the person completely, lifting him out of his limitations, even those associated with holiness.

How would we know if we reached such a level? Theoretically it should be possible to learn Torah all day long, to actively seek ways of helping others, and to constantly pray with fervor. In so doing, one might experience great levels of holiness and think that he had already achieved person redemption, that he already burst out of his limitations and experienced personal freedom. To that, the verse answers, “in my essential manifestation as Havaya, I didn’t make myself known to them.” One may achieve a very high spiritual level, may even be a conduit (merkava) for the expression of G-dliness in the world, as were the forefathers. And yet, until one is illuminated by the essential name of G-d – Havaya – he has not attained redemption. How does one know if this has happened? As Rashi explains, “I didn’t make myself known to them in my true manifestation, with which I am called Havaya.” Rashi explains that the lack of revelation to the forefathers was a lack of true revelation. Havaya is true revelation, and the defining characteristic of truth is that it is unchanging. As the name Havaya implies – is, was and always will be. As high as his avoda is, if the person still goes through ups and downs, still experiences moments of inspiration and lack thereof, it is a sign that the name Havaya has not yet illuminated his soul. As the Ba’al Shem Tov says on the verse Shiviti HaShem lenegdi tamid (Psalms 16:8) – “I put G-d’s ineffable name in front of me at all times” – a person must strive for hishtavut – equanimity. Only when all things are equal to him, there are no “good times and bad times,” no closeness followed by spiritual distance, is there room to think that one may have achieved revelation of G-d’s essential name, Havaya. When this takes place, nothing disturbs his connection with the One above – he is able to serve G-d under all circumstances, no matter how adverse. If not, it is a sign that the person has more work to do on himself before he emerges from his personal limitations into the realm of personal redemption.

The redemption of the future, during which the meshiach (Jewish messiah) will take the Jews out of exile, lead them to Israel and build the holy Temple, is patterned after the redemption from Egypt. Just as the exodus from Egypt was not only a physical redemption, but first and foremost a spiritual redemption from limitations, so will the future redemption be more than physical – it will be a very high spiritual redemption as well. And just as the Egyptian redemption entailed revelation of the essential, ineffable name of G-d – Havaya – so will the future redemption entail revelation. That is why when the Rambam wrote about the future redemption at the end of his magnum opus – the Mishneh Torah – he openly mentioned the essential name of G-d. While in the opening of his work, the Rambam only alluded to G-d, calling him the “prime Entity,” and hiding his name in the letters of the first four words, in the conclusion of his work he mentions G-d’s name openly. He quotes a verse from the prophets (11:9), “the earth will be full of knowledge of G-d,” because in the future redemption the Jews will receive full revelation of the essential name of G-d – Havaya – on the highest level. They will be totally nullified to G-d, and serve Him unswervingly, “like the waters cover the ocean bed” – maintaining their own personal identities and yet being one with G-d.

From Likutei Sichot of the Lubavitcher Rebbe ztz’l, vol. 31, pp. 23-27 Rabbi David Sterne, Jerusalem Connection in the old city of Jerusalem