Two Minute Torah Podcast
Shalom, my name is Joel
Alter, School Rabbi at JCDS, Boston's Jewish Community Day School.
Welcome to KOACH's Two-Minute Torah; a project of the College Department
of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.
More Americans believe in
God than people of many other countries. Some feel encouraged
by this, others embattled. It's interesting, but misses the point.
Just ask Moses.
In this week's parasha, Vaera,
Moses seems at the end of his rope though he's barely set out on the
road. When Moses brought God's demand to Pharaoh and tried to
rally the Israelites, it was a train wreck. Same brick output;
no straw input. A recipe for death in the hot Egyptian sun.
Moses challenges God:
"Why have you been so wicked toward this people? Why did
you even send me? From the moment I appeared before Pharoah in
your name he's only made the people
more miserable. And as for you saving your people?
You've not saved them."
God says, and goes on. "I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
by the name El Shaddai. I wasn't known by them as Adonai.
But I made a covenant with them."
God goes on: "Listen, I hear the cries of B'nei Yisrael. I get how miserable they are. And I remember the covenant I made.
"Tell B'nei Yisrael
my name is Adonai and that I will relieve them of their suffering.
I'll get them out of this place."
It seems that God is saying
nothing other than Trust Me. Trust Adonai.
And that seems a wholly unsatisfying response.
Rashi explains: El Shaddai,
the God Abraham knew, was the God who makes promises. Abraham enjoyed
the promises but not their fulfillment.
But the Israelites will experience God's help. And then God's name, Yud Heh Vav Heh, an all-tenses-in-one-word version of the verb To Be, will be real. Abraham and Isaac and Jacob could never have truly known God, no matter how much they trusted in him, because they never lived to see the Great Promise fulfilled.
"The Israelites in Egypt? Pharaoh on the throne? Moses, why would they believe you? They haven't seen me do anything yet.
But they will.
Because I will. And when I do, my name
Ð the God who was-is-will-be
Ð Adonai - will be real."
Americans believe in God,
but I'm not sure it matters. Who cares if God is, unless
God does. Put that on the table, and you'll be asking what
God can do. What does
God do? That's a question worth pursuing.
The Israelites got their
answer. What's ours?