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What Does It Mean To Be Chosen?
Video 4 of 8
Vaydaber Elokim el-Moshe vayomer elav ani Hashem, God spoke to Moshe and said, “I am Hashem”; yud key and vav key, the special name that we don’t often pronounce of God. But, vaera el-Avraham el-Yitzchak v’el-Yaakov beKel Shakai, “I’d appeared previously to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in a different name as El but ushmi Hashem, this new name Hashem, lo nodati lahem, I hadn’t actually made that known to them.” Now, what is God talking about over here?
First of all, it’s not like this is the first time this special name appears, it appears all the way throughout Genesis. So, how come God is saying there is this special new name here and how come God is so concerned with his name? Before I used to be ‘El’ now I’m ‘Hashem’, like what exactly does this mean? Plus, it seems kind of contradictory, because earlier in the story, back at the burning bush in the Chapter 3, there too, interestingly, God sorts of make a big deal about his names, but we get a different view of God’s names. Let’s take a quick view of that.
So Moshe has question for God. He says “ I am going to go to the Jews and I am going to say that the God of their fathers come to me, v’amru li mah shemo, they are going to want to know what your name is right? So, mah amar alehem, what should I tell them your name is?”
Okay. So this is the great opportunity right to say “oh well, I am glad you asked,you know . I just want to let everybody know that my name is yud and hey and vav and hey, right? I mean this is the way to do it. But strangely, that is not what God says vayomer Elokim el-Moshe. Instead he says, eheyeh asher eheyeh, which literally means “I am that which I am” or “I will be that which I will be”. Vayomer ko tomar livnei Yisrael eheyeh shelachani aleichem, and say to the Jews, and then God seems to change his mind again. Vayomer od Elokim el-Moshe, God says “you know what, forget that whole business of eheyeh, just tell them Hashem Elokei avotechem Elokei Avraham Elokei Yitzchak v’Elokei Yaakov, instead tell them “the God of their forefathers of Abraham, of Isaac, of Jacob; he is the one that sent me to you. This is my name, zeh shemi leolam v’zeh zichri ledor dor, this is how I always want to be remembered.”
So what is this like eheyeh asher eheyeh and then switches to something else and what happens about yud key and vav key? In the whole business, it’s just very, very difficult to understand. But, I think that this is really a key to figuring out what’s going on. In the revelations of these names lies, I think, kind of a hidden agenda that makes sense of what’s going on in the Exodus. It all comes together in these names of God. So what I want to do with you next, is actually go through these names and just try to figure out what they mean. In order to do that, I want to ask you; what does a name mean when it’s not a name of God? That will give us a clue to the particular nuances of these names are when they are the names of God and I think we’ll begin to see something really fascinating emerge.
Okay. So let’s go back to this text that we started looking at and kind of take it apart. God says to Moshe just before the plagues, he says “look, before we begin the fire and light show over here, there is one thing that we need to get straight and that is ani Hashem, I am yud key vav key.” And the question is whether these are names of God. So in minute we’re going to talk about these names, yud and key and vav and key. Before we do that, I want to talk about the name that God says that he is not going to be called by anymore.
He says previously vaera el-Avraham el-Yitzchak v’el-Yaakov beKel Shakai, I have been known as Kel Shakai. Turns out that this word ‘El’ has another meaning in the Torah other than God; and what ‘El’ can mean actually is power. When we say it in the second Commandment lo yiheyeh lecha elohim acherim al-panai, it sounds like a very strange thing to say - you shall not have any other gods before me. How can you even call other things like the Sun and the Moon gods? The answer is elohim acherim doesn’t really mean other gods; it means other powers. Judges are called elohim; Judges are powerful, they hold in their hands the ability to decide between life and death. So, what ‘El’ really means is power. So, God seems to be saying then “before I’ve been known as Kel Shakai, I have been known as this very powerful being. But now I am making myself known as yud and hey and vav and hey. What is the implications for that?
So, we can’t really turn to the Hebrew language for guidance like what we did with the word El; because the word yud and hey and vav and hey does not mean anything other than God. Well, what do you do when you don’t have any other reference point, any other time that this word appears? All you can do is just kind of etymologically take apart the word. And the interesting thing about looking at this word is if you take the Hebrew words for : ‘was, is and will be’ and overlay them on top of each other, you actually get yud and hey and vav and hey - the Hebrew word for ‘was’ hayah, the Hebrew word for ‘is’ hoveh. If you put hoveh on top of hayah then add on top of that the Hebrew word for ‘will be’ - to exist in the future yiheyeh, you can see right here yiheyeh becomes yud and hey and vav and hey. So what does that mean?
Sometimes you get translations of yud and hey and vav and hey as God is eternal; that he was,is and will be. Except that’s not really the implications of the word yud and hey and vav and hey because remember, there is no state of existence in Hebrew that can be described by yud and hey and vav and hey . There is hayah, and there is hoveh, and there is yiheyeh, but there is none of that altogether and it implies that God exists with that all jumbled together. That’s different than eternal. You see, if I exist eternally, then I am still travelling through, so to speak, the ‘tunnel of time’.
The idea of yud and hey and vav and hey seems to be a simultaneous experience of past, present and future; that’s the kind of existence which is fundamentally different than ours. God is outside of time. Now, why would God be outside of time? Because he is actually the creator of time. To give you an analogy.
Imagine a discussion between little Hat and little Shoe going around the monopoly board. So Hat says “ do you believe in parker?” So little Shoe says “What do you mean parker?” So little Hat goes “ you know, over here on the side of the board, it says ‘made by Parker brothers’. Do you believe in Parker?” He says “ well yes, what do you mean?” He said ‘Look, I have been on this board a long time.I have passed ‘Go’, I collect my $200 and I just never seen Parker. I just never bumped into him. I don’t believe in Parker.” So you know, what would you say to little shoe? You’d say “look, you idiot! Parker made the board, he is not going to be on the board!” We are within this world called space and time, God is outside of space and time, He is the Creator.
Now, if you come with me back to the burning bush, the other time God’s name occupies front and center in the Exodus, I think this is what’s going on there too; just in a different kind of way. Moses had wanted to know “what shall I tell them your name is?” So the response by God is eheyeh asher eheyeh, “I am that which I am” . What do you mean “I am that which I am?”
The first rule of definition says that to define something in terms other than itself. But God says “ No. I am that which I am.” God is really saying that“ I am not definable. There is nothing in your world that can give you an approximation of that which I am.” Now, the problem of course is, is that the more you think of God as separate from who we are, the less you feel you can sort of relate to him. You know, like I can’t touch him, I can’t feel him, is he really there? Which accounts for God’s next thing that he says. Vayomer od Elokim el-Moshe. And God then says to Moshe, ko tomar el-beni Yisrael, you know what you should tell them though? Just tell them, look Hashem Elokei avotechem shelachani aleichem - I am the God of your forefathers, Elokei Avraham Elokei Yitzchak v’Elokei Yaakov zeh shemi leolam v’zeh zichri ledor dor, this should be my name for generations.
Look, I had a relationship with your dad, so we can have a relationship with each other. That’s how you should remember me. But fundamentally, I am very different. God is the Creator and God is making himself known in the Exodus. He says : before people could have thought about me, that I was just ‘El’, I was a Power, like any other power. What God is trying to say now is He is the one Power; He is the monotheistic source of it all and he is going to reveal that by virtue of the Exodus. How and why God is doing this is now something that we need to discuss.
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