The CEO of a big company called an employee at home about a very urgent computer problem. He was greeted with a child’s whispered, “Hello?”
Feeling the inconvenience of having to talk to a youngster the boss asked,
“Is your Daddy home?”
“Yes”, whispered Little Johnny. May I talk with him?” the man asked.
To the surprise of the boss, Little Johnny whispered, “No.”
Wanting to talk with an adult, the boss asked, “Is your Mommy there?”
“Yes”, came the answer. “May I talk with her?”
Again Little Johnny whispered, “No.”
“Is there any one there besides you to leave a message?” the boss asked the child.
“Yes”, whispered Little Johnny, “A policeman.”
Wondering what a cop would be doing at his employee’s home, the boss asked, “May I speak with the policeman?”
“No, he’s busy”, whispered Little Johnny.
“Busy doing what?” asked the boss.
“Talking to Daddy and Mommy and the Fireman”, came the whispered answer.
Growing concerned and even worried as he heard what sounded like a helicopter through the ear piece on the phone the boss asked, “What is that noise?”
“A hello-copper”, answered the whispering Little Johnny. “The search team just landed the hello-copper!”
Alarmed, concerned and more than just a little frustrated the boss asked, “Why are they there?”
Still whispering, Little Johnny replied along with a muffled giggle, “They’re looking for me!”
In this week’s Torah portion, Shemot, G-d told Moses of his mission to redeem the Jewish people from Egypt. Moses replied, “Behold, I will come to the Children of Israel and say, “The G-d of your fathers has sent me to you.’ And they will say to me, ‘What is His Name?’ What shall I tell them?”
Why did Moses think that they would ask him this? Surely the Jews were familiar with the “G-d of Abraham”; certainly their forefathers had told them. And why wouldn’t Moses know what to answer?
Our Sages explain that G-d has many Names according to His actions. Each Name symbolizes a different way in which He interacts with creation, for ex. Elokim connotes G-d’s attribute of justice, the Yud-hey-vov-hey connotes His attribute of mercy.
Thus the question “What is His Name?” really asks “In which way will the redemption from Egypt come about?” Will it be through G-d’s attribute of justice or through His attribute of mercy?
But what difference would it make how the redemption happened? Isn’t the main thing that their suffering would end? Besides, isn’t it self-evident that the redemption would be derived from G-d’s attribute of mercy?
In truth, the question “What is His Name” is a very difficult one to answer. The Jewish people wanted to know how it was possible for G-d to have allowed them to suffer so terribly in Egypt. They wanted to know with which “Name” G-d had chosen to act, i.e., how it was possible for the redemption to come only after such a lengthy period of exile.
“What shall I tell them?” Moses asked. Even Moses was perplexed and did not know how to answer.
Replied G-d: “I Will Be What I Will Be.” Rashi explains that this means “I will be with them throughout their travail.” G-d was telling Moses that He accompanies the Jews in exile and suffers together with them, as it were. The Jews are not abandoned in Egypt, G-d forbid, nor would He ignore their pain. Not only would G-d be with them in Egypt, but He would share in their anguish and distress.
G-d said, “This is My Name forever - le’olam.” In this verse, le’olam is spelled without the letter vav, alluding to the word helem - concealment. In exile, G-d’s attribute of mercy is hidden. Surely G-d accompanies the Jewish people into exile, but His attribute of mercy is in a state of concealment, only to be revealed when the time for redemption has arrived.
But knowledge that He is right there next to me, gives us the hope and inspiration to overcome the concealment and live a life of redemption and revelation that the Torah lays out for us. Have a good Shabbos.
Rabbi Shraga Sherman
Adapted from Likutei Sichot, Volume 26, lchaimweekly.org