January 25, 2020 - Tevet 28, 5780
Va’era: "And I Appeared"
Torah: Exodus 6:2-9:35
Haftarah: Ezekiel 28:25-29:21
Brit Chadashah (New Testament): Romans 9:14-33
Two Different Responses to the L-rd’s Call
This Torah portion is called Va-eh-rah, which means “and I appeared,” (Ex. 6:2). The L-rd is reminding Moses and Israel of His special covenant relationship with them. He introduces Himself with a new name—YHWH, which we often pronounce as Jehovah. If we study the different names of the L-rd, they convey different aspects of the L-rd—who He is, His character, etc. This name in Torah is associated with the love and grace of the L-rd, especially as spelled out in Exodus 34:6-7.
The L-rd is in effect making Israel a proposal: “I will take you as My people, and I will be your G-d,” (6:7). Israel’s response? Flat rejection. Why did the people of Israel refuse to accept the L-rd’s offer? Scripture tells us that it was because of “cruel bondage and discouragement,” (literally, “shortness of spirit”). In light of the oppressive situation they were in, their response is understandable—Pharaoh and his taskmasters forced them to build cities and monuments for him. It is hard to cultivate faith under these conditions.
Yet, if we look at Israel’s response later on, we notice that it was often no different. As the L-rd demonstrated His faithfulness through the ten plagues and other miracles, the people of Israel often fell back into unbelief. So, we wonder whether the real issue was not the oppressive circumstances, but their attitude towards the L-rd. The point is that circumstances in our lives change—sometimes they are favorable, other times they are difficult. If we have developed a strong, deeply-rooted relationship with the L-rd, we will remain strong through them.
Moses is a good role model for us here. His own relationship with the L-rd is developing and not mature at this point. Yet, we see Moses taking a serious leap of faith. The L-rd sent him to challenge Pharaoh and as a preliminary step, he goes to speak to his own people. Can you imagine how Moses felt when even his own people refused to listen? How much worse would Pharaoh’s response be? Yet, Moses takes the plunge...
Let us imitate Moses’ example here, not that of the people of Israel. Faith does not come naturally—we have to exercise it. If we cultivate an attitude of trust during good times, we will be much more inclined to continue trusting the L-rd through the difficult times.