"Eh-yeh Sent Me to You"

  • Rav Binyamin Tabory
The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash

Student Summaries of Sichot of the Roshei Yeshiva
Yeshivat Har Etzion


PARASHAT SHEMOT

GUEST SICHA BY HARAV BINYAMIN TABORY SHLIT"A

 

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Dedicated in loving memory of
Shmuel Nachamu ben Shlomo Moshe HaKohen (whose yahrtzeit falls on 10 Tevet),

Chaya bat Yitzchak Dovid (whose yahrtzeit falls on 15 Tevet),

and Shimon ben Moshe (whose yahrtzeit falls on 16 Tevet).

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"Eh-yeh Sent Me to You"

Summarized by Shaul Barth

Translated by Kaeren Fish

 

 

Early in the dialogue between God and Moshe at the burning bush, Moshe asks: "When they say to me, What is His Name? – what shall I say to them?" (Shemot 3:13). God answers: "He said: Eh-yeh asher Eh-yeh. And He said: Thus shall you say to Bnei Yisrael: Eh-yeh sent me to you" (3:14).

 

Rashi (based on Berakhot 9b) discusses the difference between "Eh-yeh asher Eh-yeh" (literally, "I shall be what I shall be") and "Eh-yeh sent me to you," explaining that at first God was telling Moshe to tell Bnei Yisrael that His essence was "Eh-yeh (I shall be) with you in this distress; I will also be with you in other distresses." Then Moshe asked why it was necessary to allude to future distress, and God agreed with him, and told him to tell Bnei Yisrael only that "Eh-yeh sent me to you."

 

One of the things that a person has to know at all times is that God is with us, and that even in dark and difficult times He helps us. A deeper understanding of the words tells us that God is "with us in suffering," meaning that He, too, suffers: "Even when I walk through the valley of shadow of death, I shall fear no evil, for You are with me" (Tehillim 23:4). The fact that God is with us and that He, too, is suffering, provides a certain measure of comfort to Bnei Yisrael in exile.

 

Rabbi Chayim of Volozhin taught that a person who prays for Israel to be saved from their troubles and suffering should intend, first and foremost, to pray for the redemption of God Himself, as it were, and not only the redemption of Israel. There have been non-Jewish religious philosophers who have questioned why a sick person should pray to be healed. After all, if one is sick, is that not God's will? Rabbi Chayim declares that prayer is not for oneself but rather for God; He too suffers, as it were, from one's illness. This is the meaning of "Eh-yeh (I shall be) with them in this trouble."

 

A reading of the works of Rabbi Soloveitchik shows that he truly feels that God is with him in every crisis, and this is what helps him get through it. In the parashot of the weeks gone by we read, "God, Who has watched over me (ha-ro'eh oti) from the beginning until this day" (Bereishit 48:15). There are some commentators (e.g. Ramban) who understand the expression, "ro'eh oti" as being derived from the word "re'a," meaning fellow or friend. We know that the commandment "You shall love your fellow as yourself" (Vayikra 19:18) is a great principle in the Torah (Yerushalmi Nedarim 9:4), but what is meant by the commandment "You shall love the Lord your God" (Devarim 6:5)? If we think of God as a person's fellow, as it were, then the question is solved. The Kuzari teaches that God accompanies a person at all times, and we must believe in God because He accompanied our forefathers at all times, and all those Jews who came before me believed in Him.

 

Ramban (3:13) explains that "Eh-yeh" is God's name, equivalent to the more familiar Tetragrammaton, and he connects it to divine wisdom. The dispute between Ramban and Rashi is a fundamental one pertaining to the connection between man and God. It is a simple connection based on the fact that a person senses God, or is it a faith that must be based on profound thought and philosophical study? The dispute between Rashi and Ramban parallels that between the Kuzari and the Rambam.

 

There is no doubt that Torah scholars should combine some of each element. Scholars, who tend toward the intellectual, must realize that faith is not attained merely through philosophical study; there must be some personal bond, some sense of God's presence. A German Jewish scholar once wrote a book about man's relation to God. He showed his book to a rabbi. The rabbi read his book and finally commented: "It's a wonderful book – but where is God?" In other words, this scholar had attained great insights, but somewhere along the way he had lost the simple faith in God and His Torah.

 

On the other hand, simply maintaining one's simple faith, and remaining at the spiritual level of a child throughout one's life, is not a worthy option either. We need to know that there are two ways of understanding the verse: "This is my God (E-li) and I shall praise Him, the God (Elokei) of my fathers – and I shall exalt Him" (Shemot 15:2). The verse embodies two fundamental approaches to the idea of closeness to God. On one hand, God is "E-li" – my God, with Whom I have developed a profound bond. On the other hand, He is "Elokei avi" – the God in Whom I have faith by virtue of my forefathers and our tradition.

 

(This sicha was delivered on Shabbat parashat Shemot 5763 [2002].)