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    Making an appearance – Va’era

    The Torah reading this week commences with God telling the people how He made His Presence perceptible to their ancestors.

    Even though He says (Ex. 6:2) va’era, “I was seen”, He cannot be indicating that He made Himself visible, since He has no material form or shape. Targum Onkelos tells us that He means to say, “I revealed Myself”.

    The term “to perceive” does not necessarily mean “to be seen with the eyes”, but “to perceive with the heart and mind”. The people knew He was there and knew they were in His Presence.

    The Torah says that He made His existence and nature known by means of His name.

    In early times He was known as E-l Shaddai, “the powerful God”. People perceived the majesty of the world and the greatness of its forces and energies, and they knew that there was a powerful Creator.

    Now, with the Hebrew settlement in Egypt and the imposition of bondage by the Egyptians, they were ready to perceive the name which we spell Yod-Hey-Vav-Hey, generally translated “The Lord”. This name derives from a root that means to be. (The Name, as Martin Buber and Franz Rosenzweig say in their German translation of the Bible, literally means “The Existent One”). Tradition says that it denotes God as the source of mercy.

    Knowing this name meant that the people had an assurance that God saw (i.e. perceived) their pain and promised to uphold and support them and bring them out of slavery.

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