Shemot – R’vi’i

Thanks, But No Thanks

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

Moshe worked as a shepherd for his father-in-law, Yisro. On one occasion, he brought his flocks to a particular mountain in Choreiv (Horeb – AKA Mount Sinai; we’ll be seeing more of this particular mountain in a few weeks!) G-d appeared to Moshe from the midst of a thorn bush that was on fire but not consumed by it. (A thorn bush on fire but not consumed by it is unusual, so this got Moshe’s attention.) As Moshe pondered this exception to the known laws of physics, G-d spoke to him and directed him to remove his shoes, as the place he was standing was holy. The voice then identified Himself as the G-d of Moshe’s ancestors. This is pretty intimidating, so Moshe averted his gaze in awe.

G-d continued that He had witnessed the suffering of the Jewish people and He was about to bring about their redemption from Egypt, followed by the inheritance of the land He had promised them. To that end, G-d told Moshe that He was appointing him His representative to speak to Pharaoh and to lead the Jews out of Egypt.

Moshe balked.

Seriously, would YOU be eager to go to the sole dictator of the mightiest empire on Earth – a man who already wants to execute you for killing one of his taskmasters – and tell him to release all his slave labor?

I thought as much.

So Moshe respectfully declined. G-d wasn’t having it, though. G-d told Moshe that He would have his back. Moshe then asked what he should reply when they ask His Name (i.e., in what capacity G-d is acting, as His Names reflect different attributes). G-d replied with His “four-letter” Name (the Tetragrammaton, the Ineffable Name), which reflects the attribute of mercy, as well as His eternal nature, unconstrained by the boundaries of time. G-d sent this Name along with the message that He would be with the Jewish in these troubles and in future troubles. (When Moshe was distressed at the thought of communicating future troubles to the Jews, G-d shortened that message to address only the Egyptian crisis.)

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