|Parashat Va’eira 5770|
by Howard Silverman
"What's in a name? That which we call a rose
This line from Romeo and Juliet conveys the idea that it is not a person's proper name that is important but rather the essence of the person behind the name. While this may be generally true for people, however, it is not so with God. For there is no other name under heaven than the name of the God of Israel. His name is so holy that it is unpronounceable! In the Bible, the name of the Lord reveals his essence. In this week's Torah portion we read that ... God spoke further to Moses and said to him, "I am the Lord; and I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as God Almighty, but by my name, Lord, I did not make myself known to them.
What does the text mean when it says that God did not reveal himself as the Lord, Hashem or YHVH? Certainly we read the name YHVH in numerous places in B'reisheet. When the Lord first spoke to Abraham he is identified as YHVH (Gen. 12:1). When God promised him a son, God identifies himself as YHVH (Gen. 15-18). When Isaac is spared on Mt. Moriah, God is identified as YHVH. Throughout the life of Isaac and Jacob as well, God is identified as YHVH. What then does it mean that God did not make himself known as YHVH?
God is saying that to the patriarchs he was known as the sovereign creator who is God Almighty. To Moses and the Israelite slaves he will make himself known as YHVH-the merciful one who keeps his covenant promises. This is elaborated in Exodus 6 where God says that he will take the Jewish people out of Egypt and bring them to the promised land. He also says that he will be their God and they will be his people (see vs. 5-8).
The Exodus from Egypt was the beginning of a process that ultimately will result in the consummation of all of the promises of God. Yeshua came to inaugurate the process of the final redemption. His death and resurrection are the firstfruits of the final resurrection. Every time someone comes to be a follower of Yeshua the process continues. As the remnant of Israel, we are called to convey this good news to our people. The prophet Isaiah wrote, "Therefore my people shall know my name; therefore in that day I am the one who is speaking, ‘Here I am'" (Isaiah 52:6). In the passage, "that day" refers to the day when his name will be fully revealed - the days of Messiah. The passage continues,
How lovely on the mountains
Are the feet of him who brings good news,
Who announces peace
And brings good news of happiness,
Who announces salvation,
And says to Zion, "Your God reigns!"
Our calling is to bring to our people this good news that the Messiah has come - and is coming. It is our calling to manifest the name of the Lord by our words and deeds and how we conduct our lives. It began at the Exodus, continued with the coming of Yeshua and continues today and will one day be completed. May we as a messianic Jewish community be a good testimony of the fragrance of Yeshua; of New Covenant realities; of the Name of the Lord.