Weekly Scripture Commentary

Shabbat Va'eira

This Parashah reveals two aspects of the relation between God and humanity. The first aspect is how God revealed Himself to mankind, and the second, is about man’s free choice.

God’s various “Names” represent the different ways, or by which attribute, He revealed Himself to a specific person or generation:
— EL SHADDAI - God Almighty; God Who-is-All-Sufficient
— EL OLAM - Everlasting God
— EL CHAI - The Living God
— EL ELYON - God Most High
— ELOHIM - God
— ADON / ADONAI - Lord
— ADONAY TZEVAOTH - Lord of Hosts
— YHVH - The tetragrammaton name of God of which the exact pronunciation has been lost. Some Hebrew scholars render it as Yehovah. Not wanting to be wrong, some simply substitute the tetragrammaton with HaShem (The Name), or Adoshem, or LORD (all upper case letters). Two “YODS” - is a common abbreviation for this Name of God.
— KEDOSH YISRAEL - Holy One Of Israel
— MELECH - King
— TZUR YISRAEL - Rock of Israel
— AVINU SHEBA-SHAMAYIM - Our Father Who is in Heaven
— HA-KADOSH, BARUCH HU - The Holy One, Praised Be He

The names used at the beginning of this Parashah give us an understanding on how God revealed Himself differently to the Patriarchs and to Moshe. “And God (ELOHIM) spoke further to Moshe, and said to him, “I am Yehovah (YHVH); and I appeared to Avraham, to Ytzhak, and to Ya’akov, as God Almighty (EL SHADDAI), but by My Name, Yehovah (YHVH), I was not known to them” Shemot 6:2-3.

Even though we know from Bereishit 15:7 that God told Avraham who He was, namely, Yehovah, he never revealed Himself to the Patriarch as other than God Who-is-All-Sufficient, EL SHADDAI. This name derives from a Hebrew word that denotes God as the One Who sets limits on Creation by establishing the laws of nature, the limitations within which the universe functions. EL SHADDAI describes God when He performs miracles that do not openly disrupt these laws of nature. This was the way the Patriarchs perceived and knew God when He assured their survival in times of famine, made them victorious over physically superior enemies, and gave them extraordinary success in material wealth. Though miraculous, none of these openly violated the laws of nature. Moshe, however, would soon witness miracles contrary to these laws of nature and of a magnitude that dwarfed anything the Patriarchs had ever seen.

Moshe had the revelation of Yehovah (YHVH), God’s highest manifestation. Moshe had the degree of prophesy that enabled him to comprehend the significance of God’s actions to the highest degree possible to man, and yet, he, in numerous occasions, questioned God's ways, revealing the closeness that Moshe had to God. In contrast, the Patriarchs, having only God's revelation as El SHADDAI, never questioned His's ways.

But God, in His desire to connect with mankind on a more accessible level, also revealed Himself in the form of a man. He appeared as a man for a brief moment in various occasions to Adam, to Avraham, to Moshe, and to others of the ancient times. Centuries later though, He appeared to the Jewish people for a longer period of time in an extraordinary event as the promised Messiah through a man called Yeshua. Many Jewish people believed in Yeshua’s divinity based on the words written down in the Tanakh by those people of the ancient times. Yeshua made it clear who He was — God incarnate in human flesh — by making Himself equal and calling Himself by the Name of God which depicts His highest manifestation, Yehovah - YHVH.

Some people did not believe though, but, even though they did not believe who He was, they fully understood who He said He was because they tried to stone Him for this perceived blasphemy. “'I said (Yeshua speaking), therefore, to you, that you will die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins...' 'Surely you are not greater than Avraham Avinu, who died? Who do You make Yourself to be?' In reply, Yeshua said, 'If I glorify Myself, My glory is nothing. It is My Father who is giving Me glory, whom you say, He is ELOHIM. And you have not come to know Him. But I know Him. Avraham your father rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and had simcha.' Therefore those of Yehudah said to Him, 'You are not yet fifty years and You have seen Avraham Avinu?' Yeshua said to them, 'Omein, omein, I say to you, before Avraham came into being, I am.' Then they took up stones that they might stone Him...” Yohanan 8:24-28, 53-59.

The Scripture tells us that this was the last manifestation of God to mankind, thus God closed the prophetic revelations by establishing the Bible as the full and complete revelation: "God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world." (Hebrews 1:1-2) There would be no other revelation of God to mankind. Only through the Bible - both Tanakh and Brit Chadashah - mankind can come to the knowledge of God and to His plan of re-establishing the fellowship between Himself and men; fellowship that was broken by the sin of Adam and Eve.

The second subject of this Parashah is the free will with which God created men, but which some perceive as mere predestination. This is illustrated through Pharaoh being presented with ten chances - nine of which are described in this Parashah - to believe in the God of the Hebrews, repent of his sins, and let the Jewish people leave Egypt and be free. But the Scripture prefaces these chances with a statement from God: “And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt. And Pharaoh shall not listen to you, that I may lay My hand upon Egypt, and bring forth My armies, and My people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great judgments. And the Egyptians shall know that I am Yehovah, when I stretch forth My hand upon Egypt, and bring out the people of Israel from among them” Shemot 7:3-4.

Thus this text seemingly presents the problem with man’s freedom of choice. If God hardened Pharaoh’s heart why would God inflict a multitude of punishments upon Egypt? How could Pharaoh be punished for not releasing the Jewish people when it was God who prevented him from doing so? How could the just God who created man with freedom of choice – and who desires repentance, not death – prevent Pharaoh from repenting?

In rabbinic thought there are two lines of reasoning responding to this issue.

First, they say that God punished Egypt only for what it deserved, only for the enslavement and the intense persecution, such as killing the male Hebrew children, which took place before Pharaoh was coerced; those were sins that Pharaoh and his people committed of their own free will.

Second, according to the biblical text, is that God did not harden Pharaoh’s heart. God gave him six chances to release the Hebrew slaves and repent of their treatment, and after every one of those chances the Scripture says that Pharaoh’s heart was hardened (implying, on its own), or that Pharaoh hardened his own heart (please read chapter 7 v.13, 22; chapter 8 v.15, 19, 32; chapter 9 v.7). Only after the sixth pestilence (chapter 9 v.12) God Himself hardened Pharaoh’s heart. Therefore, Pharaoh’s heart began to harden on its own and God just completed the inevitable process. Only then God closed the door of repentance in order to punish him for having sinned against the Hebrews.

Therefore, if anyone thinks that we are created without free will, predestined to be like puppets without the possibility of making any decision on our own, then, if that would be true, that person needs to understand that he/she will not be able to even think about the issue of free will since he/she would not be able to reason on his/her own. But since the question of free will is raised, it proves and it is a manifestation of that free will.

Therefore, Pharaoh had free will and he chose to disobey.

But why would Pharaoh, witnessing those miracles, be so stubborn and harden his heart? God through the plagues, was destroying one by one the Egyptian's gods and Pharaoh could just not let go of his ancestor’s religion just as many of us today hold on to the religion, or religiosity, to the traditions passed down to us in spite of the truth that God puts before us.

We may not understand the many things that God does in our lives, but one thing is clear, God can see our lives from beginning to end, because He is outside of our time constraints, but that does not mean that He is destining our lives to be a certain way. He may intervene at times (through prayer), but not predestine. Therefore, we have free choice and having free choice means that must be the existence of evil. God lets us choose. He desires that all of us do good things and that we would choose life and not perish. In the end it is up to us to believe in Him, that He sent His Son as the promised Messiah, that this Son is equal in essence with Yehovah - YHVH, so we would not die in our sins - as Yeshua is entreating the Jewish people in the above mentioned passage from the Gospel of Yohanan. He desires for us to do good works that He prepared for us from eternity past, but He is not forcing us to do them. “For we are His workmanship, created in Messiah Yeshua for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” Ephesians 2:10.

He prepares the paths, yes, but gives us free choice and He leaves it up to us to believe and walk in them.

Sisterhood

Coming up this Shabbat at Ben David

January 13 - Message by Robb Schwartz:

Title:

“Jews Don't Believe in a Divine Messiah.”

Robb winds up his three part series on whether or not the Jews are expecting a divine Messiah. He will examine the man born with a demon preventing him from speaking. Does this event fit the model of the three messianic miracles? Come join us to learn this and much more.

Simchat Torah

October 14 - Simchat Torahtorah
The Joy of the Torah - Morning Service
Concluding the annual Torah reading and beginning anew.
Join us celebrating God's word.

Rosh HaShanah

Wednesday, September 20 - Erev Rosh HaShanah Messianic Service at 7:00pm.rosh
Rosh HaShanah, also known as the Jewish New Year, is called in the Bible, The Feast of Trumpets, or, in Hebrew, Zicharon Teruah, the Day of Memorial of Blowing.
Rosh HaShanan (literally, Head of the Year) occurs on the first day of the Jewish month of Tishrei, this year, on Thursday, September 21.
Please join us for the evening service on Wednesday, September 20, at 7:00pm and celebrate this Biblical Holy Day and its Messianic significance.

Yom Kippur

September 30 - Yom Kippur Messianic Serviceykippur
Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement, occurs on the tenth of Tishrei, Saturday, September 30 this year.
Join us for this Messianic Service at 10:30am.

Sukkot

October 7 - Sukkot Service at 10:30am:sukkot
join us for a Sukkot celebration.
- Morning Service and Oneg in the Sukkah.

Sisterhood Event Oct-21

October 21 - Sisterhood Eventtorah
Has the Lord been good to you? Have you experienced His grace and blessings in your life? Psalm 105:1-3 Instructs us to:
“Give thanks to the Lord! Proclaim His Name; Make known His deeds among the people. Sing to Him, sing psalms to Him; Talk of all His wondrous works. Glory in His Holy Name; Let the hearts of those rejoice who see the Lord.”
If you answered “yes” to the questions above, then we hope that you will join us as we gather to say Toda Adonai in worship and fellowship. Let us proclaim His great Name and declare His wondrous works in our lives.
Join us after the morning service at 12:30pm for a giving thanks luncheon. Lunch donation: $5.

Hanukkah Celebration

December 16 - Hanukkah Celebration at 4:00pm
Come, celebrate Hanukkah with us.
- Menorah Lighhting
- Dancing
- Children’s Activities
- Dreidel Playing
- Traditional Foods
- Latkes & Sufganiyot

PLEASE NOTE: There will be no morning service.

Coming up at Ben David

December 30 - Message by Shmuel Oppenheim:

Title:

“Hineni: Here I Am!”

Rabbi Oppenheim will address the subject of what God asked of Abraham, what God was willing to do, and what He did.

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