Thoughts on Va’eira

Erev ShabbatThis week’s parasha is Va’eira, (“I appeared…”) Exodus 6.2 – 9.35.[i] The purpose of this “appearance” was not only to verify who was speaking, the One who had appeared to the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but also to take His revelation to the next step. He appeared to the patriarchs as אֵל שַׁדָּי (El Shaddai; 6.3), which is usually translated God Almighty or God All Powerful. The translation of El Shaddai as the “Almighty” is rooted in the LXX and Jerome. A better translation is Sovereign, as almighty denotes power while sovereign implies not only power, but authority, ability and intent. However His revelatory name was understood by the patriarchs, Moshe and the rest of Bnei Yisrael knew him by the new revelation of YHWH, pronounced by circumlocutions such as ADONAI, HaShem, the LORD or Havaya,[ii] meaning the ever present One. This is not a change of name or character rather Bnei Yisrael’s further understanding of their God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Not only is He Israel’s Sovereign, but He is a Sovereign who is always present with them to assist, support, deliver, heal and save, as well as to direct and even discipline when needed.

After affirming that Bnei Yisrael would be the recipients of the inheritance promised to the patriarchs, HaShem goes on to tell the people exactly what He is going to do

“…I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. I will deliver you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. I will take you to Myself as a people, and I will be your God.” (6.6-7)

HaShem’s plan of redemption for Israel is expressed in four stages, using four different verbs (“bring out,” “deliver,” “redeem,” and “take you”). The Jerusalem Talmud (Pesahim 10.1) cites these four verbs as the reason for drinking four cups of wine during the Pesach Seder, the time in which the story of the Exodus is remembered and re-enacted.[iii]  Yeshua’s last command to His disciples as recorded in Matthew also includes four steps or stages.

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, immersing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Ruach ha-Kodesh, teaching them to observe all I have commanded you. And remember! I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (28.19-20)

First, Yeshua affirms His sovereignty, (all authority … has been given to Me). Then He commands the disciples to go and make disciples of all nations – not to convert them but to train them, bringing them out of their enslavement to the world and their natural inclinations and into a submission to Him. Next, the new disciples were to be immersed. Just as Israel’s passing through the Dead Sea was seen as a mikveh (ritual immersion; Ezekiel 16:8-9), the first step the new disciples were to take was to be washed with water (mikveh=immersion; baptism) and set apart as redeemed individuals. And finally, the teaching – educating the new Yeshua-followers in the ways they should live. In closing He affirms not only His sovereignty but the fact that He will be ever-present with them and us today as we journey to our promised destination.

The Haftarah is found in Ezekiel 28.25 – 29.21 and begins with the promise of another future redemption,

Thus says Adonai Elohim: “When I have gathered the house of Israel from the people among whom they are scattered and show my holiness through them in the eyes of the nations, then they will live in their own land which I gave to My servant Jacob. They will live safely there, and they will build houses and plant vineyards. They will live securely when I have executed judgments on all those around them that treated them with contempt. So they will know that I am ADONAI their God.” (28.25-26)

There was early fulfillment of this with the return from Babylonian captivity in c. 538 BCE. There was a more modern fulfillment with the restoration of the State of Israel in 1948 CE. In neither of these past returns has this passage been fully realized. Furthermore, the “living in safety” has always been an issue. So as the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews suggests, “…there remains a Shabbat rest for the people of God” (4.9). Both Israel and we as Yeshua believers are on a journey to that rest, and one day we all will enter in to that rest.

The reading from the Besorah[iv] this week is found in Luke 6.17-38, often described as Yeshua’s Sermon on the Plain. This passage is similar to the “Beatitudes” and additional teaching in Matthew 5 and 6. I end this study with a challenge from Yeshua to all of us from the final verses of this passage.

Be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate to you. Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Pardon, and you will be pardoned. … For whatever measure you measure out will be measured back to you.” (6.36-37, & 38b).

Shabbat Shalom

[i] Unless otherwise noted, all Scriptures are from the Tree of Life (TLV) Translation of the Bible. Copyright © 2015 by The Messianic Jewish Family Bible Society.

[ii] Bick, Ezra. In His Mercy: Understanding the Thirteen Midot, Koren Publishers Jerusalem. English Edition, 2011. Kindle Edition. Kindle Location 410.

[iii] Peli, Pinchas H., Torah Today: A Renewed Encounter with Scripture, Washington DC: B’nai B’rith Books, 1987, p 61.

[iv] According to Chayyei Yeshua Three-Year Besora Reading Cycle,

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