The Tightest Bond
Va'eira (Exodus 6:2-9:35 )
“And the Almighty spoke to Moshe, and He said to him ‘I am Hashem. And I appeared to Avraham, to Yitzchak, and to Yaakov with [the name] Keil Shakay, and [with] My name [of] Hashem (the name YKVK, the sheim havayah) I was not known to them (6:2,3).”
This verse begs explanation, for we indeed find that Hashem spoke to the Avos with the name YKVK1.
The resolution to this difficulty begins with the understanding of what we mean when we speak about names of Hashem.
Our tradition teaches that in essence it is completely inappropriate to ascribe any name to the Creator – even the sheim havayah – because He is absolutely infinite and limitless2. A name is a way of describing the subject to which it is assigned3, and the Infinite One is absolutely beyond any description whatsoever. As such, we must understand that names of Hashem are really a reference to the way Hashem runs the universe, not a definition of His essential Being.
We cannot perceive Hashem with any of our physical senses, and we cannot even conceptually grasp His essential Being; so how do we come to know Him? By observing His actions in the universe, we come to know Him. For example, when Hashem split the Red Sea for us and simultaneously drowned our enemies, we perceived how much He cares for us and how He administers justice to perpetrators of evil.
Rashi explains that in the context of the pasuk at hand, the name Keil Shakay is referring to the fact that Hashem made promises to the Forefathers (e.g. that their descendants would inherit the Land, etc.) and the sheim havayah is a reference to the God’s trait of fulfilling promises.
Even though the Forefathers were promised many great things, they did not see the materialization of these promises during their lifetimes. Nevertheless, they had complete trust in Hashem that He would ultimately uphold all of His promises.
Rashi explains that this is in contrast to Moshe’s entreaty to Hashem in last week’s parsha. Last week we read about how Pharaoh toughened the slavery of the Jewish People in response to Moshe’s demand that Pharaoh let them go. Carrying out the role of a leader who deeply cares for his people, Moshe boldly addresses Hashem as to why He has not yet saved the Jewish People – “And from the time I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has done evil to this nation, and You have not saved Your nation (5:23).”
Hashem criticizes Moshe for not trusting in Him completely the way the Forefathers did. Whereas the Forefathers had complete trust in Hashem that He would indeed bring to fruition every promise that He made to them, down to the finest details; Moshe – in his passionate feelings for the suffering of his People – was lacking in some small, subtle way in the degree of trust in Hashem expected of someone of his caliber4.
Everyone experiences ups and downs in life. Of course, during the ups of life, it is relatively easy for one to feel joyous and grateful towards Hashem for all the goodness that He bestows upon the person5. During the more difficult periods of life, though, it can be quite challenging to maintain a pure feeling of conviction and trust in Hashem that all that happens is under His direct guidance and is ultimately leading up to something good.
Nevertheless, what we see from here is that we should try to develop powerful feelings of conviction and trust in the Creator just as our Forefathers did so that even when faced with the vicissitudes of life we will be able to remain steadfast throughout. As our Sages put it, in everything that happens to us we must accustom ourselves to saying “this is also for the good.” Even when things seem grim, we must try our best to arouse within ourselves genuine feelings of trust in the Almighty that He is indeed watching over us, guiding our lives, and directing everything that happens to us for the ultimate good.
What, though, is the secret to obtaining this great level of trust in Hashem?
On first thought, one could suggest that humility is the fundamental ingredient. One who is humble enough to realize that we are merely flesh and blood, and that we cannot fathom the profound ways of Hashem, will easily be able to accept that whatever happens is for the good, even though one does not necessarily understand it. Perhaps, then, we could posit that if Moshe had possessed this degree of humility (required for his incredibly lofty level) he would not have questioned Hashem’s conduct.
However, upon further reflection this approach does not seem to be valid at all, at least not in respect to Moshe Rabbeinu, because the Torah states clearly that Moshe Rabbeinu was the most humble man to ever walk the face of the earth6. Whereas Avraham said ‘I am as dust and ashes (Breishis 18:27)’, Moshe said ‘what are we (Shmos 16:7)’ – in other words, absolutely nothing. Moshe did not even feel himself worthy of being considered something at all – even if that something is as insignificant as dust and ashes. So, we see that Moshe’s degree of humility exceeded even that of the Forefathers 7.
It would seem then, that there is yet a deeper aspect of trust that needs to be uncovered.
Let us analyze two relationships in which trust plays a critical role: children with their parents, and spouses with one another.
When parents raise their children with love and discipline in appropriate measure – when there exists the emotional and psychological health born of harmony and wholesomeness prevalent in the home – children will naturally have great trust in their parents. It would seem that the key factor in this trust is an inborn awareness within the child that “Daddy and Mommy want the best for me, and they indeed know what is best for me. So, even when I don’t understand why they make me do certain things or why they don’t let me do certain things, I do what they say because they are my parents.” This seems to parallel the aforementioned concept of humility – the awareness that they know better, and they want what is best for me, even if I don’t understand how that is so. There can be no question that this plays a great role in our trust in Hashem. The Torah explicitly refers to the Jewish People as the children of Hashem8. In fact, Hashem sent Moshe to Pharaoh with the cry, “My son, My firstborn – Yisrael!9”
However, Rabi Akiva revealed to us that whereas “all the Writings of Tanach are Kodesh [holy], Shir Ha’Shirim, the Song of Songs is Kodesh Kodashim10.” In Shir Ha’Shirim, the relationship between Hashem and the Jewish People is depicted as that of husband and wife. The closeness of husband and wife is greater than any other relationship11. The only relationship that fully expresses the profound love-bond between Hashem and the Jewish People is that of husband and wife.
Hashem refers to Avraham as – My beloved12.
Avraham Avinu, and after him Yitzchak and Yaakov, forged a great path in awareness and worship of the one Creator and Master of the universe. At a time when the entire world was steeped in paganism, when everyone was just fabricating any idea or image that happened to tickle their fancy and call it god; at a time when the one, true God was so far from everyone’s hearts, Avraham Avinu fought with all his might to come close to Him. Avraham refused to indulge in the worthless fantasies of the world around him. He realized that there is truth and that one must work hard to discover and embrace it. With all of his strength – indeed, he was prepared to sacrifice his very life for it – Avraham Avinu brought himself close to Hashem, and tried with all his might to bring this awareness to the rest of the world. About such a person does the Almighty exclaim, "My beloved".
Trust is vitally important in the husband-wife relationship. It is their complete and unwavering trust in one another that enables them to fully strive and work together to accomplish their shared life goals; and it is their deep trust in one another that binds them together as they weather through the difficulties of life.
What is the root of this profound trust between husband and wife?
“My beloved” is the root and source of the deep trust that husband and wife have for one another. When you are so close, you trust. It is the powerful bonds of love and closeness that create this unfaltering trust that a husband has for his wife and that a wife has for her husband.
"Ani l’dodi v’dodi li, I am for my beloved and my beloved is for me13."
A husband and wife know that they can fully trust one another because their love for one another runs so deep that the thought of one betraying the other's trust is simply unfathomable14.
Because the Avos had to battle so hard to forge the path of worshipping the one, true God; the love that existed between them and Hashem was so profound.
The harder we work to come close to Hashem, the more love and trust we will have in Him.
If we overcome our natural shortcomings to do the right thing, if we smile at a friend even when we are feeling sour or restrain an urge to do a transgression, if we learn and teach Torah with diligence and intense application, if we work hard to carry out every mitzvah with attention to all the myriad details, we will thereby be following in the footsteps of the Forefathers. We will be binding ourselves to the Almighty with the most powerful bonds of love, and that will bring us to trust in Him completely.
- For example, see Breishis 12:1,7 13:14, 15:1,4,7 17:1 18:1,13,17,26 26:2 28:13
- Nefesh Hachaim Chapter 2
- Indeed, Chazal reveal that parents are provided with a certain measure of Divine inspiration when naming their child in order that their child’s name should not merely be a coincidental way of identifying him or her; rather their name expresses something essential about the person. (See Brachos 7)
- Of course, this is on a level that we cannot even begin to comprehend. Moshe Rabbeinu was an individual who achieved the highest possible level of direct communication with Hashem, and he was in the midst of conversing with Him! There is no question that we do not begin to understand the amazing subtlety of the lack of 100% trust in Hashem that Moshe Rabbeinu displayed. Nonetheless, we can and should derive lessons from such passages and apply the principles that come to light therefrom to our own lives on our level.
- Although there still exists the powerful test of whether one will forget about Hashem under such circumstances.
- Bamidbar 12:3.
- Chulin, 89a Although one could theoretically argue that Moshe only attained this degree of humility later on (perhaps as a result of the lesson he learned in last week’s parsha about not having the degree of trust in Hashem required for his lofty level); nevertheless, it would not seem that humility was the issue. See the conversation in Shmos chapter 3 and 4 wherein Moshe is clearly expressing a phenomenal degree of humility.
- Devarim 14:1
- Shmos 4:22
- Yadaim, 3:5
- Breishis 2:24 with Ramban, Brachos 56a
- Isaiah 41:8
- Shir Ha’Shirim 6:3
- Of course, one needs to facilitate and foster the development of this trust by acting in a manner that reflects this reality (e.g., ALWAYS taking the other’s side in the presence of other people), but it is the depth and power of their mutual love that generates and fuels that trust.