Parshas Va'eira: The G-d of Vengeance
וידבר א-להים אל משה ויאמר אליו אני ה' וארא אל אברהם אל יצחק וא-ל יעקב בא-ל שד-י ושמי ה' לא נודעתי להם
Hashem (Elokim) spoke to Moshe and said to him, “I am Hashem (י-ה-ו-ה). I appeared to Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov as “Kel Shakai”, but I did not make Myself known to them by My name (י-ה-ו-ה)
Hashem has many different names that He is known by, each representing a different attribute. For example, we know that the name Elokim is the divine attribute of midas hadin which can refer to harsh and/or exacting judgement. The name Kel refers to chesed/kindness, and the name HaShem (י-ה-ו-ה) refers to rachamim/mercy. As per the gemara in Chagiga, the name Shakai can refer to Hashem’s control of nature.
Depending on the context, different names are appropriate. We know that Hashem was first revealed to Avrohom Avinu due to his questioning the identity of “the builder” of the world. Through nature, he comes to understand that there must be a G-d that created and continues to maintain the world. Conversely, Moshe Rabbeinu’s first encounter with Hashem was at the sneh/ burning bush. There was nothing about that revelation that was natural. It went against all the laws of nature.
Throughout the relationships of our Avos hakedoshim with Hashem, we note that any miracle that occurred was always in a manner that could be explained naturally. On the other hand, Moshe Rabbeinu’s entire tenure began and ended with open miracles. Accordingly, our possuk reads that Hashem appeared to the Avos with the name Shakai, but the name of Hashem, was never revealed to them (only to you Moshe).
Now let us return to the backdrop of this parsha. We find that Hashem told Moshe at least four times that he will be the one to lead the Jewish People out of Mitzrayim. Each time, Moshe would respond with another reason why he was not the right man for the job, to which Hashem would argue that he is indeed the right one. Finally, after a full week of back and forth negotiations, the possuk tells us, ויחר אף ה' במשה- Hashem got angry at Moshe. At this point, Moshe no longer had a choice. Yes, he would accept the job.
Let us think of a scene with a child, student, or employee arguing with a parent, teacher or employer over a certain task. Each time the answer is “no”. Finally, anger is displayed and there is no longer a choice.” I mean if you put it that way, sure I will do it!” What are the chances that the job will be done wholeheartedly with the proper passion necessary? I would assume the answer would be a solid zero. The Kotzker Rebbe zt’l looks at this possuk and wonders how this can be a recipe for success?
Furthermore, there is a possuk that each of us recite daily. וחרה אף ה' בכם- Hashem will get angry at you and there will be no rain etc. So basically, it seems that Hashem forces us to do things, and if not, He gets angry with us and threatens all types of calamities. How are we meant to thrive in such a relationship?
If we can picture for a moment the shir shel yom that was sang in the Beis Hamikdash, we can allow ourselves to imagine the most beautiful philharmonic experience. The orchestra could have easily been over a hundred pieces with an indefinite amount of voices accompanying them as well. The songs they sang were the most joyous. Looking at the song of Yom Revi’i, it begins with the words א-ל נקמות ה' א-ל נקמות הופיע- Hashem is a G-d of vengeance, Hashem of revenge appears. The concluding words are לכו נרננה לה'- come let us sing joyously to Hashem. Can we possibly imagine this song making the "top ten list" for the chevra in Eretz Yisroel dancing on top of their vans in order to bring simcha to everyone? Furthermore, as mentioned earlier, the names of Hashem used in this possuk should have been Elokim as vengeance pertains to something harsh. So why did Dovid Hamelech use Kel and HaShem which pertain to chessed and rachamim?
The Baal Shem Tov once spoke of a great musician playing beautifully in the middle of the town square. Within moments, all present began to sway fervently and dance to the rhythm. At that moment, another person came by and wondered what all these crazy people were doing. The Baal Shem explained that this man was missing a detail. He was deaf so he could not understand what was happening. Two people can witness the same thing but come to different conclusions based on their own awareness.
With this in mind, the Toldos Yaakov Yosef (Parshas Bo) answered with an incredible insight that he heard from the Baal Shem. Dovid Hamelech is teaching us that HaShem is indeed a G-d of vengeance. Yes, He takes נקמה, but He does so through chessed and rachamim. So you will ask, “Ayy, that is not נקמה?” Says Dovid Hamelech, the revenge that HaShem takes is called הופיע- He appears in your life!” But what does this mean? He explains with a further mashul. A simple person had terribly wronged the king. Instead of putting him to death, the king gave him a job. With time, the king raised him higher and higher. At first the person was like “okay, not really sure why he gave me this job, but sure, why not.” But then with time, as the king was nicer and nicer to him, it hit him like a ton of bricks! “Was this the king that I wrong so terribly even though he loves me so much?” The relationship now had finally taken a turn and would be seen from a different angle. What does HaShem do? He takes revenge in the most beautiful way possible. He appears in our lives, letting us know that all along, He was our biggest fan, standing behind our every move, giving us every tool necessary to succeed. Suddenly, He turns on the lights for us and with the missing detail, we now see things differently.
Let us now return to the Kotzker Rebbe’s question. HaShem asked Moshe numerous times to accept the mission, but Moshe declined. So what did HaShem do? ויחר אף ה' במשה- Zogt de Kotzker- don’t translate this as we always have, that HaShem got angry at Moshe, but rather, And HaShem’s anger burned inside Moshe. HaShem gave Moshe His own anger and passion in to work with. HaShem was saying, you are not accepting the mission because you are looking at it with your glasses so it doesn’t bother you the way it should. But here, have a look from My perspective and see what is happening in Mitzrayim. Suddenly, things looked very different for Moshe and he now was able to go on and become Moshe Rabbeinu. Similarly, when one does an aveira, וחרה אף ה' בכם- don’t read this as Hashem will get angry at you, but rather, HaShem will instill His anger within you. If only we would appreciate the damage that a chet does and see things the way HaShem does. So HaShem asks us to see things His way.
With this new vision instilled in Moshe, he didn’t need eloquent words to succeed. The heart now full of passion, would easily broadcast the message loud and clear. Coming back to the opening of our parsha, HaShem reminds Moshe that His relationship is one of chessed and rachamim; the kindness of the HaShem of vengeance called הופיע, meaning that HaShem is assuring Him to be standing with him every step of the way, thus ensuring success.
Good Shabbos, מרדכי אפפעל