Parashat Vaeira 5778

Rabbi Aaron Goldstein – 12 January 2018

There is a difference between what our commercialised society calls, ‘instant or immediate gratification and a sense of immediacy: a here-and-now moment and the opportunity of You-Me talk. Such moments help us to orient our lives and to make sense of relationships. When we resist the call of commercialism and electrical entertainment, we might experience more intimate moments like that when we were in the comfort of our homes, with just our families or closest friends.

Let us not make light of immediacy – it may have negative consequences. A Moses stood in front of Pharaoh might have been how we make ourselves vulnerable, take a risk, perhaps even ‘getting it wrong.’ Immediacy in the Biblical parlance is saying, ‘Hineini:’ ‘Here I am’ with all my being, no distractions, just You and Me. It takes time to experience immediacy and to be able to say with full attention and integrity, ‘Hineini:’ ‘Here I am.’ Depending on whether you view the scene at the Burning Bush with dramatic intensity or with comic affect, God calling, ‘Moses, Moses,’ might contain a pause between the two calls of varying lengths and then before Moses responds, ‘Hineini:’ ‘Here I am.’

The pause symbolises an awakening of senses: A moment that we have been waiting, longing for, or an extended pause whilst we analyse risk, of relationships, trust, boundaries, perhaps how to broach differences. So too in our sidrah of Va-eira, there are pauses that suggest immediacy, You-Me relationships, being able to place one’s whole self in the moment is not the same as instant gratification, certainly is not a quick fix.

Firstly, in the opening verses, at least three names of God are introduced:

Elohim, spoke to Moses and said to him, “I am Adonai. I appeared to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as El Shaddai, but I did not make Myself known to them by My name, Y-H-V-H.” (Ex 6:2-3).

There is an unfurling of the relationship of our ancient ancestors with God. Different names are used, perhaps as our people developed or their awareness understanding and acceptance of God matured. It was not and should never be static for it is a growth through an individual life and that of a whole People. The ancient Rabbis developed their own names for God and we too need to develop our own nomenclature in every generation lest our secular and religious sophistication diverge.

Even though the Israelites descent into degradation is described in a matter of verses, our Sidrah suggests this happened over a more realistic timescale. The use of the preposition, ‘V’gam’, ‘And also’ slows the pace of the narrative.

“And also I established My covenant with them” (Ex 6:4)

“And also I heard the groaning of the Israelites because the Egyptians are holding them in bondage” (Ex 6:5)

“And I will take you to be My People” (Ex 6:7)

“And I will bring you to the Land” (Ex 6:8)

Our lives do not unfurl all at once. Many are the obstacles for us to overcome and at the same time, our lives are marked with moments of immediacy, of the manifestation, the realization that we have moved forward, we have climbed, one step, one rung at a time.

Finally, before the Torah narrative suddenly speeds through the first six plagues to afflict Pharaoh and the Egyptians, we take a genealogical intermission. As ever, the lineage described is full of purpose and clearly retrospective in its inclusion and exclusion. The Levites as a tribe are placed centre stage: Moses is less important than Aaron in the future and the names selected for mention provide both the Priestly and Davidic lines, the ecclesiastical and secular leadership of later Israel (Lekach Tov).

The immediacy of our relationships, their true nature is always understood in retrospect. We do not have the advantage of crafting a Torah to write back in what we would have done, what we should have said. Yet at moments, we have the opportunity to re-sensitise ourselves, to acknowledge our motives for past behavior and demand of ourselves, that the story of our lives when complete, will be as we would be proud for it to be told.

As with our Sidrah, our stories are defined by our relationships, how we take the opportunities presented to us to say ‘Hineini – Here I Am,’ with all my being, for our families and our friends and the part in the unfurling of our People’s history, through our Community and the legacy we leave for wider society. We have the opportunities throughout our lives but days such as these remind us of their importance. And we have the opportunities to define our lives by an occasion such as this, marking a moment in a life, celebrating with family, friends and community; and we have opportunities to define our relationship with God, seeking to redefine our relationship perhaps in the way that we address the Divine Presence in our lives – paths that rewarded by intimacy not instant gratification.

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