וירא אלקים את בני ישראל וידע אלקים     ב:כה

The pasuk says two things: a) Hashem saw, b) Hashem knew.  The Beis Ha’Levi brings a Medrash that says there was a kitrug against Klal Yisrael of halalu ovdei avodah zarah v’halalu ovdei avodah zarah – why is Ha’Kadosh Baruch Hu showing preference to the Jews if they were doing avodah zarah like the Mitzrim?  The answer that Hashem gave to that charge is that, unlike the Mitzrim, the Jews were only doing avodah zarah as a result of the slavery and resultant madness (tiruf ha’daas) with which they were stricken.  That is what the pasuk, according to this Medrash, is saying: Hashem saw the situation, and He knew that it was only as a result of the impossible circumstances that they slipped into avodah zarah.

The Beis Ha’Levi says that from this we see a definition of ohnes (something done out of coercion).  Only if the person would not have done it otherwise, does the exemption of ohnes apply.  The fact that the Beis Ha’Levi pins this idea on this particular Medrash apparently seems to be drush, but it is nonetheless a fundamental, very-practical concept.

Regarding shogeig (an aveirah done accidentally), as well, we find numerous times in Shas that it is only considered shogeig if the individual would not have done it had he known all the pertinent details.  Therefore, someone who has accustomed himself to ignoring the prohibition of eating forbidden fats (cheilev), for example, cannot bring a korban chatas even if he one time ate cheilev by accident.  Even though, at that current moment, he thought that he was eating shuman (permitted fats) and that is what he was intending to do, he still cannot bring a korban chatas, because even had he known it was cheilev, he would have no qualms eating it.  The Gemara, based on darshening the pasuk, calls this someone who is not shav mi’yediaso – proper knowledge of the situation would not have stopped him from doing what he did.

It is not merely a gezeiras ha’kasuv that someone who is not a shav mi’yediaso cannot bring a korban chatas.  It is that this teaches us the definition of shogeig.  One is only a shogeig if the lack of awareness is what caused him to do the aveirah.

Likewise when it comes to ohnes.  In every action, there are two components: the physical action itself, and the intention behind the action (daas).  When someone holds a gun to a Jew’s head and demands he eat a treif sandwich, why is that considered an ohnes?  It is not as if the man stuffed the treif food down his throat.  If someone grabbed his hand on Shabbos and forcibly hit the light switch with it, that is readily understandable as an ohnes, because the very action was completely coerced.  The Beis Ha’Levi is not talking about that type of ohnes. [Ed. note of elaboration: In other words, even someone who is a mumar to be mechaleil Shabbos would in fact still benefit from the exemption of ohnes if the actual physical action was coerced upon him, as in the case of someone grabbing his hand and pushing it against the light switch.]

But why is it that, when a Jew eats a treif sandwhich because he very much wants to save his life, it is considered an ohnes?  The answer is that he is coerced as far as the intent is concerned.  The decision to eat was forced upon him.  If you think about it, you will see that most of the ohnsim in Shas are coercion vis a vis the daas component.

The fact that someone who knowingly did an aveirah is granted an exemption of ohnes when his decision was coerced upon him (whether by force, as in the above example, or by justifiable error in judgment) even though the action itself was not, is a chalos din.  It is a particular status of exemption that the Torah assigns him.  And someone who would have done the aveirah regardless of that ohnes is not given the benefit of that exemption.

A practical example of this would be in a situation of pikuach nefesh on Shabbos, and there are two Jewish ambulance drivers available: one frum and one who is a mechaleil Shabbos.  One might have thought, “take the non-frum driver since he anyway is going to be mechalel Shabbos.”  But the truth is just the opposite.  The frum driver has an exemption of ohnes.  The mitzvah of va’chai bahem mandates that he do melacha to save another Jew’s life.  However, the non-frum driver does not have that.  Since he would anyway do melacha, his chilul Shabbos – even in a case that would generally constitute an ohnes, such as pikuach nefesh – does not carry that exemption.  It remains chilul Shabbos with all the severity thereof.  Therefore, one must opt to take the frum driver.

Of course, if there is only a non-frum driver, one must go with him.  Even though his chilul Shabbos R”l remains full fledged chilul Shabbos, even that is pushed aside because of va’chai bahem.


זה שמי לעלם וזה זכרי לדר דר   ג:טו

Chazal explain that this pasuk teaches us that, other than in the Beis Ha’Mikdash, we do not say the sheim Havayah as it is written, rather we read it as if it was written alef-dalet-nun-yud.

The Rambam writes that all names of Hashem are sheim ha’peulos, descriptions, whereas the sheim Havayah is the sheim ha’etzem.  In a sense, a proper noun.

The Seifer Ha’Pardeis, which is from the Beis Ha’Medrash of Rashi, has a fascinating shitah: that the sheim Havayah is not Lashon Ha’Kodesh, but Aramaic, and that is why we do not say it as it is written.  The Ramah says that Lashon Ha’Kodesh and Aramaic are closely related, almost the same.  Nevertheless, according to the Seifer Ha’Pardeis, the sheim Havayah is not Lashon Ha’Kodesh.  The Seifer Ha’Pardeis continues, that is why we say yehei shemei rabah in Aramaic.

Tosafos in Brachos brings a Machzor Vitri – also from the Beis Ha’Medrash of Rashi – that says the words yehei shemei rabah is an independent thought.  Namely, that the name yud-kay (shemei = sheim yud-kay), should be rabah, should become complete, into the full yud-kay-vav-kay (based on the pasuk in Beshalach 17:16 that so long as Amaleik is still around the sheim Hashem is in an incomplete state of just yud-kay).  Mevarach l’alam etc. is a second bakasha.  Tosafos argues and holds that it is only one bakasha, that shemei rabah, Hashem’s great name, should be blessed forever and ever.

The Seifer Ha’Pardeis is going like the Machzor Vitri. [Ed. note of elaboration: Perhaps because according to the Machzor Vitri, yehei shemei rabah is referring specifically to the sheim Havayah, whereas according to Tosafos, shemei rabah could perhaps just be a general way of referring to Hashem – Reb Meshulam Twersky – ].

The Tur and Shulchan Aruch pasken like Rabbeinu Yonah that when saying the sheim Havayah, the proper kavanah is hayah, hoveh, v’yihiyeh (was, is, will be).  The Gra, however, argues, and says that it is sufficient to have the kavanah of adon ha’kol (master of everything).  Since, explains the Gra, we read the sheim Havayah as alef-dalet-nun-yud, it suffices to have the kavanah thereof which is adon ha’kol.  Furthermore, says the Gra, if there would be a requirement to have the kavanah of the meaning of how it is written, the correct kavanah would not be hayah, hoveh, v’yihiyeh, rather hoveh tamid (constantly existent), which is the way the Rashbam explains it.

The Nefesh Ha’Chaim puts forth a third meaning of the sheim Havayah: mehaveh es ha’kol, the cause of all existence.

Paranthetically, the Gra agrees that when it comes to the first pasuk of Krias Shema, it is not enough to have kavanah of adon ha’kol, one must also have the kavanah of the meaning of the kesiv (how it’s written) as well.  The reason for this is that it is a necessary part of kabalas ol malchus Shamayim and yichud ha’Sheim (“Hashem Elokeinu” is kabalas ol malchus Shamayim, and “Hashem Echad” is yichud Hashem).

Ekyeh is one of the shivah sheimos she’einam nimchakim (seven names of Hashem that may not be erased once written, see Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deiah 276:9).  We almost never use it in our liturgy.  The only time we do is on Yamim Noraim: In the piyut of v’chol maaminim, whose source goes way back – according to some, from the time of the Amoraim.  The second time it appears in the teffilah of the shaliach tzibur.  The source for that teffilah I am not sure of.

In Hilchos Avodah Zarah (perek 2), the Rambam brings a shitah that says a megadeif (blasphemer) is only chayav skilah if he used the sheim ha’meyuchad (i.e. the sheim Havayah), but the Rambam himself says that if he uses the sheim of alef-dalet-nun-yud, that is also full fledged giduf to be chayav skilah.

The Brisker Rav explains the machlokes as follows:

Everyone agrees that a megadeif is only chayav skilah if he is nokeiv sheim Hashem, which means to say his giduf, R”l, with the sheim ha’meforash, which is the sheim Havayah.  Now, the Torah assigned a kesiv (= way it is written) and a kri (= the way it is said) for the sheim ha’meforash.

The fact that the Torah assigns the sound alef-dalet-nun-yud as the way to read the sheim ha’meforash means that it is not a substitute, but a proper reading of the word.  In contrast, when the word yishgalenah appears written in the Torah, but the mesorah teaches us to read it as yishkavenah, it is not an assignment of an alternate reading to the original word; rather, it is telling us to substitute a different word when we read.  The limud of zeh zichri, though, is teaching us not a substitution, but how the original word should be read.

So that is the pshat in the Rambam. Alef-dalet-nun-yud is also the sheim ha’meforash because that is the right way to enunciate the sheim ha’meforash.

The other shitah, though, essentially agrees with this point; just that he holds that that is only if someone is reading or saying a pasuk that has a sheim Havayah in it, and in that context enunciates alef-dalet-nun-yud.  Then, and only then, the other shitah holds, do we say that the enunciation of alef-dalet-nun-yud is the actual reading of the sheim ha’meforash.  However, if a person is megadeif with the sheim of alef-dalet-nun-yud, since there is no pasuk context of sheim Havayah, it is not defined as an expression of the sheim ha’meforash, but as a separate sheim of alef-dalet-nun-yud.

Interestingly enough, the Chasam Sofer (Choshen Mishpat 192) puts forth an idea that comes out exactly the opposite of this Brisker Rav.  He brings the Gemara in Brachos (7b) that says Avraham Avinu was the first person who ever called Ha’Kadosh Baruch Hu by the name alef-dalet-yud-nun.  On the other hand, there is a Medrash that says that Adam Ha’Rishon called Hashem by this name?

The Chasam Sofer says that the name alef-dalet-nun-yud, which means adon ha’kol master of everything, has two facets to it.  A) Hashem is the master of everything because He created everything.  B) Hashem is master of everything because He is constantly guiding and watching over every aspect of creation.  Adam Ha’Rishon called Hashem alef-dalet-nun-yud with the kavanah that Hashem is the master of everything because He created everything, whereas Avraham Avinu was the first person to call Hashem alef-dalet-nun-yud with the kavanah of Hashem as master over the universe by dint of His constant hashgacha and hanhagah of the universe.

Elaborating on this dichotomy, the Chasam Sofer adds that alef-dalet-nun-yud in the sense of Hashem as master over everything because He created everything is the kri of the sheim ha’meforash.  When the Torah tells us to read the sheim ha’meforash with the enunciation of alef-dalet-nun-yud, it means in the sense of Hashem being master over everything because He created everything.  The sheim Havayah means hayah hoveh v’yihiyeh and mehaveh es ha’kol, that Hashem is absolute Being and thus the source and cause of all existence; so the enunciation of alef-dalet-nun-yud is a kinuy, a substitute for that.  However, when alef-dalet-nun-yud is functioning as its own sheim, not as the kri for the sheim Havayah, then it means master over everything in the sense of guiding and directing everything, and has the status of a sheim ha’meforash.

The Chasam Sofer thus comes out exactly the opposite of the Brisker Rav. [Ed. note of elaboration: because according to the Brisker Rav, it is only insofar as alef-dalet-nun-yud is the enunciation and expression of sheim Havayah that it has a status of sheim ha’meforash, but as its own sheim does not have that status; whereas according to the Chasam Sofer, it is just the opposite – only when alef-dalet-nun-yud is said as its own sheim does it have the status of sheim ha’meforash, but when said as the enunciation of sheim Havayah it is only a kinuy).


The Gemara says that, at a certain point, due to the rise of those who wished to use the sheim ha’meforash for their own purposes, the kohanim stopped using the sheim ha’meforash en-mass. Only a select few kohanim were taught to say it, and the other kohanim would sing a tune so that the masses would not hear it when the Kohein Gadol would say it (mavlio b’neimos echav ha’kohanim, see Yerushalmi Yoma 3:7 and Teshuvos Ha’Geonim siman 115).

Rav Twersky suggested that this is the source of the tune used on Yom Kippur during the paragraph that describes the Kohen Gadol’s enunciation of the sheim ha’meforash. In many kehillos this tune involves repeated singing on the part of the tzibur, while the chazan recites the words. Although we certainly do not use the sheim ourselves – as doing so outside of the Beis Ha’Mikdash is a severe prohibition – the tune is perhaps a zeicher of how the Kohein Gadol would say it in the manner of mavlio b’neimos echav ha’kohanim.

In the same shiur, Rav Twersky mentioned that there is an inyan to not enunciate the names of malachim other than the ones who are mentioned in Tanach. Rav Twersky emphatically stressed that this was an altogether different issue than the prohibition against saying the name of Hashem l’vatalah, and one should not confuse the two issues.

Rav Twersky then said that the three malachim that are mentioned in Tanach, and whose names may be used, are Michael, Gavriel, and Refael. Someone then asked (I think it was R’ Naftali Greenberg) what to do about krias shema al ha’mita, in which we recite “B’Sheim Hashem Elokei Yisrael” which includes the name of a fourth malach. Rav Twersky looked up with a big smile and said, “I don’t know what to do about it. I’ve had this question for a long time.” He appeared ready to go on, but then he looked up again and said, “But don’t stop saying it.”

(From Reb Ephraim Weiss)


ויאמר אלקים אל משה אקיה אשר אקיה  ג:יד

Hashem revealed Himself to Moshe Rabbeinu at the burning bush. He instructed Moshe to return to Mitzrayim because the time had come for the Jewish people to leave Mitzrayim. Moshe asked Hashem, “How should I answer Klal Yisrael when they ask me what is your name?” Hashem responds by saying, “Ekyeh Asher Ekyeh, I shall be as I shall be”.

The mefarshim are bothered as to the meaning of the question as well as the meaning of Hashem”s response.

The Ramban brings various interpretations. The Ramban himself explains that Klal Yisrael believed in Hashem and were not asking about the very existence of Hashem, rather they were inquiring as to which middah (attribute) Hashem will employ to take them out of Mitzrayim. Will Hashem act primarily with middas harachamim (mercy) or middas ha’din (strict justice)? Will the redemption come about through hidden miracles (like Hashem related to the Avos) or through open miracles? Hashem answers that He will act with great mercy and open miracles.

Ekyeh is in essence the same shem (name of Hahem) as yud-kay-vav-kay. They both refer to hanahagas Hashem (a manner in which Hashem acts) which is merciful and with open miracles. The difference is that Ekyeh means there will be Havayah (the name of Hashem that connotes open revelation) in the future. The Gemara in Brachos 9b says that Hashem said I will be with Klal Yisrael in this galus (exile) and I will be with them in future galus, and, ultimately, I will redeem them.

Hashem’s message was that He is with Klal Yisrael not only in the redemption, but also in the galus itself. The relationship of galus (exile) and geulah(redemption) is not simply that redemption is what will extract us from galus, rather that galus is a necessary part of the redemption process whereby Hashem is guiding the Jewish people every step of the way with complete hashgacha pratis (Divine supervision). One of the functions of galus is to purify and perfect the Jewish people through their search of Hashem, and loyalty towards Him even when His presence is not so obvious.

Ekyeh means there is a light at the end of the dark tunnel. Yet it is also a promise that Hashem will be with us in that dark tunnel. We should not think that Hashem has abandoned us until the geulah arrives. Hashem is with us in the darkness. Ekyeh teaches us to appreciate the process, because the process also has kirvas Elokim (closeness to Hashem). The process itself is also important. We must feel and express appreciation to Hashem not only for the geulah but also for the galus. There is a hint to this in the gematria(numerical value) of the word Ekyeh. The Sefas Emes points out that the gematria of Ekyeh is 21 which is the same numerical value as hodaah (to express appreciation).

The process of galus and geulah is not only our collective, national roadmap, but it is a paradigm that can and should be integrated into each individual’s life. We all have goals; whether it be in learning, davening, or raising a family based on Torah values. It is not only the accomplishments that we should embrace with simchah, but the very endeavor and process to get to reaching these goals should be done with great simcha and patience borne of the realization that Hashem is with us every step of the way. (From the notes of Reb Chaim Rosen)


Quotables       “The biggest chessed that one can do for a friend is to daven for him.”


Vignettes       I was in Rav Twersky’s shiur during a leap year in which winter zman is an extra month long. At the mesibah at his house on Chanukah, Rav Twersky mentioned that, often, the excitement of the new zman lasts until Chanukah, which provides an additional boost. However, as the inspiration of Chanukah begins to fade, the “Teves doldrums” can start to set in, as bachurim often feel overwhelmed by the prospect of the long winter zman ahead. “What is the eitzah (solution) to combat this?” Rav Twersky asked. “We have a Shabbos every seven days! One has to live from Shabbos to Shabbos.”(Ephraim Weiss)


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