Knowing before Whom We Stand, פרשת פסח, Parashat Pesach, Bits of Torah Truths


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While studying the Torah and the Apostolic Writings, we learn how the greater meaning of the Tabernacle is found in the idea that man is to sanctify the Lord God of Israel in his heart each day. When the Lord God Almighty declared His Name to Moshe, he said the phrase ehyeh asher ehyeh (אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה, translated as “I AM THAT I AM”). This is derived from the Qal imperfect first-person form of the verb hayah which means “I will be.” What this reveals to us, there is a connection between the Name of God (YHVH) and the nature of existence itself (the realization of all life being created and existing in Him). This is a powerful revelation from God in His nature in the sense that all of life, all that we know is contingent upon Him, and His existence! There are a great many reasons why we should seek the Creator God, the One who made us. When we study the Name of God throughout the Torah, there is an interesting theme that arises, and the Rabbis point this out in their commentaries stating the YHVH expresses the mercy and love of the Almighty God. This is described in the following way according to Midrash Rabbah on Shemot / Exodus.

Midrash Rabbah Shemot / Exodus Parashat 3 Part 6
וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים אֶל משֶׁה, אָמַר רַבִּי אַבָּא בַּר מַמָּל, אָמַר לֵיהּ הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא לְמשֶׁה, שְׁמִי אַתָּה מְבַקֵּשׁ לֵידַע, לְפִי מַעֲשַׂי אֲנִי נִקְרָא, פְּעָמִים שֶׁאֲנִי נִקְרָא בְּאֵל שַׁדַּי, בִּצְבָאוֹת, בֵּאלֹהִים, בַּה’: כְּשֶׁאֲנִי דָּן אֶת הַבְּרִיּוֹת, אֲנִי נִקְרָא: אֱלֹהִים, וּכְשֶׁאֲנִי עוֹשֶׂה מִלְחָמָה בָּרְשָׁעִים, אֲנִי נִקְרָא: צְבָאוֹת, וּכְשֶׁאֲנִי תּוֹלֶה עַל חַטָּאָיו שֶׁל אָדָם, אֲנִי נִקְרָא: אֵל שַׁדַּי, וּכְשֶׁאֲנִי מְרַחֵם עַל עוֹלָמִי, אֲנִי נִקְרָא ה’, שֶׁאֵין ה’ אֶלָּא מִדַּת רַחֲמִים, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (שמות לד, ו): ה’ ה’ אֵל רַחוּם וְחַנּוּן, הֱוֵי: אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה, אֲנִי נִקְרָא לְפִי מַעֲשָׂי. רַבִּי יִצְחָק אוֹמֵר אָמַר לוֹ הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא לְמשֶׁה, אֱמֹר לָהֶם אֲנִי שֶׁהָיִיתִי וַאֲנִי הוּא עַכְשָׁו וַאֲנִי הוּא לֶעָתִיד לָבֹא, לְכָךְ כְּתִיב אֶהְיֶה שָׁלשׁ פְּעָמִים. דָּבָר אַחֵר, אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה, רַבִּי יַעֲקֹב בֶּן רַבִּי אֲבִינָא בְּשֵׁם רַבִּי הוּנָא דְּצִיפּוֹרִין אָמַר, אָמַר הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא לְמשֶׁה אֱמֹר לָהֶם בְּשִׁעְבּוּד זֶה אֶהְיֶה עִמָּם, וּבְשִׁעְבּוּד הֵן הוֹלְכִין וְאֶהְיֶה עִמָּם, אָמַר לְפָנָיו וְכָךְ אוֹמֵר אֲנִי לָהֶם דַּיָּה לַצָּרָה בְּשַׁעְתָּהּ, אָמַר לוֹ לָאו, כֹּה תֹאמַר לִבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶהְיֶה שְׁלָחַנִי אֲלֵיכֶם, לְךָ אֲנִי מוֹדִיעַ, לָהֶם אֵינִי מוֹדִיעַ. דָּבָר אַחֵר, אֶהְיֶה, רַבִּי יִצְחָק בְּשֵׁם רַבִּי אַמֵּי אָמַר בְּטִיט וּבִלְבֵנִים הֵן עוֹמְדִים, וּלְטִיט וּלְבֵנִים הֵן הוֹלְכִים, וְכֵן בְּדָנִיֵּאל (דניאל ח, כז): וַאֲנִי דָנִיֵּאל נִהְיֵיתִי וְנֶחֱלֵיתִי, אָמַר לְפָנָיו וְכָךְ אֲנִי אוֹמֵר לָהֶן, אָמַר לוֹ לָאו, אֶלָא אֶהְיֶה שְׁלָחַנִי אֲלֵיכֶם, אָמַר רַבִּי יוֹחָנָן אֶהְיֶה לַאֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה בִּיחִידִים אֲבָל בִּמְרֻבִּים עַל כָּרְחָם שֶׁלֹא בְּטוֹבָתָם כְּשֶׁהֵן מְשֻׁבָּרוֹת שִׁנֵּיהֶן מוֹלֵךְ אֲנִי עֲלֵיהֶם, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (יחזקאל כ, לג): חַי אָנִי נְאֻם ה’ אֱלֹהִים אִם לֹא בְּיָד חֲזָקָה וּבִזְרוֹעַ נְטוּיָה וּבְחֵמָה שְׁפוּכָה אֶמְלוֹךְ עֲלֵיכֶם. דָּבָר אַחֵר, דְּאָמַר רַבִּי עֲנָנִיאֵל בֶּן רַבִּי שָׂשׂוֹן אָמַר הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא לִכְשֶׁאֲנִי מְבַקֵּשׁ אֶחָד מִן הַמַּלְאָכִים שֶׁהוּא אֶחָד מִשְּׁלִישׁוֹ שֶׁל עוֹלָם, פּוֹשֵׁט יָדוֹ מִן הַשָּׁמַיִם וּמַגַּעַת לָאָרֶץ, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (יחזקאל ח, ג): וַיִּשְׁלַח תַּבְנִית יָד וַיִּקָּחֵנִי בְּצִיצִת רֹאשִׁי. וּכְשֶׁבִּקַּשְׁתִּי שְׁלשָׁה מֵהֶן עֲשִׂיתִים יוֹשְׁבִים תַּחַת הָאִילָן, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (בראשית יח, ד): וְהִשָּׁעֲנוּ תַּחַת הָעֵץ, וּכְשֶׁאֲנִי מְבַקֵּשׁ כְּבוֹדוֹ מָלֵא כָל הָעוֹלָם, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ירמיה כג, כד): הֲלוֹא אֶת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֶת הָאָרֶץ אֲנִי מָלֵא נְאֻם ה’. וּכְשֶׁבִּקַּשְׁתִּי דִּבַּרְתִּי עִם אִיּוֹב מִן הַסְּעָרָה, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (איוב לח, א): וַיַּעַן ה’ אֶת אִיּוֹב מִן הַסְּעָרָה. וְכַאֲשֶׁר אֲנִי מְבַקֵּשׁ, מִתּוֹךְ הַסְּנֶה.
6. And God said to Moses. R. Abba b. Mammel said: God said to Moses: ‘You wish to know My name; I am called according to My deeds. Sometimes I am called “El Shadday”, “Tzveo’ot”, “Elohim”, “YHVH”. When I judge the creations, I am called “Elohim” [Judge]. When I am waging war against the wicked, I am called “Tzveo’ot” [Lord of Hosts]. When I suspend [punishment] for a man’s sins I am called “El Shadday” (Almighty God). When I am merciful towards My world, I am called “YHVH,”‘ for “YHVH” only refers to the attribute of mercy, as it is said: “The Lord, the Lord (YHVH, YHVH), God, merciful and gracious.” Hence, “ehyeh asher ehyeh” [I am that I am, or I will be that I will be] – I am called according to My deeds. R. Yitzhak said: God said to Moses: ‘ Tell them, that I am who was, that I am now, and that I will be in the future.’ For this reason, the word “eheyeh” is written three times. Another explanation of “ehyeh asher ehyeh”: R. Jacob b. R. Abina in the name of R. Huna of Tzippori: God said to Moses: Tell them, in this servitude I will be with them, and in the continuing servitude I will be with them!’ Moses said to God: ‘I should tell them this? An evil is sufficient in its time [I should just mention the present servitude and not its continuation]?’ God replied: ‘No: Thus, you shall say to the children of Israel: “Ehyeh has sent me to you.” I am [only] revealing this to you, but not to them.’ Another interpretation: “Ehyeh.” R. Yitzhak said in the name of R. Ammi: They are standing in clay and bricks and they will go on to [another servitude of] clay and bricks. So too in the case of Daniel: “And I Daniel fainted and was sick” (Daniel 8:27). Moses said to God: ‘I should tell them this?’ God replied: ‘No, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel: “Ehyeh has sent me to you. “‘ R. Yohanan said: I am that I am to individuals, but regarding the multitude I will rule over them even against their will and desires, even though they break their teeth, as it is said: “As I live, says the Lord God, surely with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm, and with fury poured out, will I be King over you” (Ezekiel 20:33). Another interpretation: R. Ananiel b. R. Sasson said: God said: When I desire, one of the angels who is one third of the world, stretches out his hand from heaven and touches the earth, as it says: “And the form of a hand was sent forth, and I was taken by a lock of my head” (ibid. 8:3). And when I desire three of them, I made them sit beneath a tree, as it is said: “And recline under the tree” (Genesis 18:4). And when I desire, His glory fills the entire world, as it is said: “‘Do I not fill heaven and earth?’ says the Lord (Jeremiah 23:24). And when I wished, I spoke with Job from the whirlwind, as it is said: “Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind” (Job 38:1). And when I wish, [I speak] from a thorn-bush.

The Midrash describes how the Lord God Almighty has revealed Himself to the world in many ways. The Rabbis state that “the Holy One Blessed be He said to Moses: ‘You wish to know My name; I am called according to My deeds … When I am merciful towards My world, I am called ‘YHVH,’’ for ‘YHVH’ only refers to the attribute of mercy, as it is said: ‘The Lord, the Lord (YHVH, YHVH), God, merciful and gracious.’” This is the Jewish expression of God as being merciful taken from the Torah (Parashat Ki Tisa). Notice how the Lord God said to Moshe He is known by his deeds, by His actions. This is a significant point, for we know the truthfulness of a person by their actions, by what they do. (The reason faith is not separate from works, see James 2:14-26). The Lord God Almighty, His Name implies strength, power, and justice (in the word Elohim), and in the YHVH the Lord God is expressed as merciful and closeness to mankind. The evidence for God’s intimacy in the YHVH is found in Bereshit / Genesis 2:7 with YHVH personally breathing into Adam the breath of life! These things describe both the power and graciousness of God. Remember during the revelation at Sinai how the Lord God instructed Moshe to set up a boundary (הגבּלה) around the mountain with the warning to not go up the mountain on the penalty of death (see Shemot / Exodus 19:12). When Moshe met with God at the burning bush, the Lord said something similar, “do not come closer” (אַל־תִּקְרַב הֲלֹם) and “take off your shoes for this is a holy place.” The Rabbis say the reason for these statements was to create a tension that is at the core of our relationship with God. These things teach us how the Lord God Almighty is holy, righteous, and just, He is sacred, set apart, His is infinite, higher than His creation, and beyond our understanding. This also teaches us how the Lord God is all powerful, the sustainer of all creation, and He is present to those who sincerely call upon him. (see Tehillim / Psalms 145:18) This is why the fear of the Lord is said to be the beginning of wisdom (רֵאשִׁית חָכְמָה) because without fear we will walk in darkness and be unable to turn away from evil (see Tehillim / Psalm 111:10, Mishley / Proverbs 1:7 9:10, 10:27, 14:27, 15:33, and 16:6). This is the tension that is described in the Scriptures and is the tension that is also present when we come to the cross of the Messiah as well. We see Yeshua up upon the cross taking the penalty of God’s judgement for sin based upon absolute holiness. There is a complex tension here that expresses both fear and love, of distance and nearness, and of honor and reverence that is followed by obedience, and the power of God as the One whom we bow down to, of whom we humble our lives to, and serve, the One who is also merciful providing a loving way to draw near! These things are what are being revealed to us in this week’s Torah portion, Parashat Pesach!

There is a powerful truth that is revealed to us through the story of the Passover. This wonderful festival cultivates in our hearts the remembering of both the presence of God and of salvation, redemption, and deliverance. This is why the Mishnah (Mishnah Pesachim 10:5) states every generation, each person, is obligated to engage himself with this festival as one who went forth from Egypt. This statement is based on what was said at the beginning of the Haggadah, “had God not taken our ancestors out of Egypt, we, and our children would still be enslaved;” that is, we must say, God took “us” out from there because we are included in all the miracles. Because of these things, it should be a great blessing at this time to give thanks and praise to God during this wonderful occasion. The reason being, it is also at this time, 1400 years after these events of the Passover, we see the incalculable depths of Gods love as he offered His Son in exchange for our condemnation. At the cross Yeshua both suffered and died on our behalf, this is analogized in the blood of the lamb which caused the destroyer to pass over. The sad part about the history of the church today, a large majority of Christians do not feel a need to give thanks and praise unto God in the Passover service specifically because of what the Torah states. In Christian circles, the Passover is more of a novelty as opposed our living a blessing in the commandment. The reason the Passover is given such a significant position in the life of a believer in the Torah and throughout Scripture is because of the message of redemption that God provides for his people. This draws us back to the love, mercy, and deliverance of God in His Name, the YHVH as described according to the Torah. When Yeshua was on earth, Yeshua said “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33) We again ask ourselves “What does it mean to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness?” The kingdom of God describes the rule and reign of the God of Israel in our lives. What does that mean? How is that achieved? The interpretation of Yeshua’s words, he is speaking of prioritization, in which one who is a believer is to place God, His Word, and His Ways above all other things. This is one of the most spectacular points of the festival of Passover, the Lord God working in a powerful way in the lives of His People. Note how Passover makes a distinction between life and death. This boundary (hagbalah) between God and man establishes balance in our relationship with the Lord. The fear of God involves both respect and guards against familiarity in the sense that we do not forget the power, the glory, and the honor of the God of Israel. The Lord God Almighty is not unreachable, we have been given mercy and grace in Yeshua the Messiah, calling upon His name for salvation and deliverance. The Passover provides us with the spiritual expression of remembering what the Lord has done, and the reality of what has been accomplished in Yeshua the Messiah! The Torah and all of Scripture helps us to know before Whom we stand, a powerful, and loving God. Just as Israel was standing before God at the foot of the mountain to receive the revelation of God, we stand at the foot of the cross seeking the mercy and love of God to be forgiven of our sins! These things speak of the promises of God, of the blessings, and of truth, as we draw near to the Lord God Almighty, and His Son Yeshua, in this momentous occasion, the Passover, we humble our lives in awe before the glory and the greatness of God praising His Holy Name for the mercies he shows us each day!