(Pastor Ursula Sieg, who translates my Quick Comments into German, felt that—even with my self-imposed 300-word limit—that I could do more with my commentary than my previous entry. So I revisited and revised it.)
Quick Comment, Parashat Vaera (Exodus 6:2-9:35)
One of the early superstars of the current “cooking show” TV craze, Emeril Lagasse called adding a new spice to a dish: “Kicking it up a notch.”
At the beginning of this week’s portion the Eternal one tells Moses’ that he will perceive God by a new name YHVH (Exodus 6:3).
Wait! We have already seen this “new” name more than 200 times in the Bible.
But there is no doubt that with Moses, God is “kicking it up a notch.” Their relationship is unique.
Only with Moses does God partner in freeing the slaves and bringing the Children of Israel out of Egypt (Exodus 6:6). This verse heralds God’s pervasive concern with the underdogs of society characterized by the widow (mentioned 55 times in the Hebrew Bible) and the orphan (mentioned 42 times).
Commenting on a later passage (Exodus 22:21-23) Abraham Ibn Ezra (1089-1167) noted: “Even if only one individual adds to the suffering of widows and orphans the entire community incurred divine wrath if it did not rise up to protect the victims.”
In addition it is only with Moses that God communes at Sinai to concretize the covenantal generalities spoken to Abraham into specific commandments. Also it is only because of Moses entreaties that God decides not to destroy the Children of Israel after they made the golden calf (Exodus 32:10; Deuteronomy 9:14) and after the spies urged the people to return to slavery in Egypt (Numbers 14:12).
Yes, Moses’ relation to God was unique. That is why the Torah concludes: “There has never again arisen a prophet in Israel like Moses that knew God so directly (Deuteronomy 34:10).”
Yes, it is the same God, but with Moses, the Eternal One has unquestionably, “kicked it up a notch.”