Getting to Know You: Vaera 2020

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: Do you have certain nicknames that only certain people are allowed to use? How did those nicknames come to be? What is your criteria for allowing a person to call you by those names?

As God sends Moses to confront Pharaoh once again, Moses is reminded that he can address God in a way the Patriarchs never could:

The Pitch: “I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as El Shaddai, but I did not make Myself known to them by My name YHWH.” – Exodus 6:3

Swing #1: “The element of distinctiveness conveyed through historical reference is necessary for the existence of a nation … [as evidenced by] how God first describes himself to Moses as the ‘God of your father, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob’, and not as the ‘creator of the world.’” – Steven Grosby, Biblical Ideas of Nationality: Ancient & Modern

Swing #2: “The proximity of the revelation of the new name to the first occurrence of the family-establishing formula cannot be fortuitous. The more intimate familiar status that Israel now enjoys with the Lord is dramatically expressed by that new first-name basis that the parties now enjoy.” – Yochanan Muffs, Love & Joy: Law, Language and Religion in Ancient Israel

Swing #3: “‘Yahweh’ was not presented as a name they had never heard of before, but as a name representing a function they had not as yet experienced. The god Yahweh who had made promises of land to their forefather was now ready to function in that implied capacity – he was forming a relationship with the family of Abraham and was electing them as a people to populate the land.” – John H. Walton, Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament: Introducing the Conceptual World of the Hebrew Bible

Late-Inning Questions: How do our commentators understand God’s “new” name as a reflection of a deeper relationship with the Israelites? Why is it essential for the enslaved Israelites to recognize this name? Is changing a name just a symbol of a new status, or is it something more?

On-Deck at Emanu-El: We encourage all of our congregants to vote for the Mercaz (Conservative/Masorti) slate in the upcoming World Zionist Congress elections so that pluralistic voices can be heard loud and clear in Israel. Please visit to learn more.

The Big Inning at the End: Speaking of new names, I find it amusing that when baseball stadiums change their names because a corporation pays the team for naming rights, fans still refer to the park by the old names anyway. For instance, I’ll bet that most White Sox fans still call their stadium “Comiskey” rather than the official moniker, “Guaranteed Rate Field”. At least, that’s what I would do if I were a White Sox fan.

Shabbat Shalom!