God spoke to Moses and said to him, “I am HASHEM [YHVH]. I appeared [va-eira] to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob as El Shaddai, but with My Name HASHEM I did not make myself known [nodha’ti] to them.
—Shemot/Exodus 6:2-3 (Stone translation*)
The Holy Name of Being
Rabbi Shefa Gold writes:
THE BLESSING OF VA-EYRA comes to us as God’s self-revelation. “I am YHVH – I am Being itself. And yes I am the same one that your ancestors perceived as El Shaddai, the very same One. All the names you have called Me are aspects of the One, and now you are ready to receive a glimpse of the Whole, that Unnameable One. [Exodus 6:2]
“You will see Me and know Me through the process of liberation that you are about to experience… Freedom is the key to knowing Me… Through this process I will bring you to fulfillment, to a state where you can receive the divine inheritance, which is the knowledge of the divine spark at your core. I am YHVH. I am Being itself.” [Exodus 6:6-8]
In receiving the blessing of Va-eyra, I place my journey in the context of cosmic process. I know that every tragedy I suffer and every delight I enjoy moves me towards the fulfillment of the divine promise. As each face of God appears to me, I can see it in the greater context of the One. Each day in my prayers I can remember (with the Sh’ma3 ) that all conceptions of God (Eloheynu) are aspects of YHVH, which is Being itself.
— Torah Journey for Va-eira
Sacred Therapy is not a Torah commentary. It is intended for those actively pursuing emotional healing for themselves or others — and thoroughly recommended. (Frankel is a psychotherapist, and therapists can earn CEUs for reading this book.) However, Chapter 5, “The Myth of Exodus: Birthing the Self,” is also useful to read more generally in the context of ExodusShemot and/or in preparing for Passover:
The first step toward healing and redemption in the myth of Exodus involves learning the mystery of the divine name, YHVH. In the very first stage of the liberation journey, God teaches Moses the mystery of the divine name in hopes that by learning God’s true name and essence, the Israelites may come to remember their own true names. In Exodus 6:2 God tells Moses, “I am YHVH. And I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob by means of the name El Shadai, but my name YHVH was not made known to them.”
What’s in a name? The revelation of the name YHVH reflects the emergence of a new spiritual consciousness in which divinity is perceived as the force of freedom, healing, and transformation that lies at the heart of all creation. The awakening of this new awareness of the divine was in fact the intended outcome of the Exodus. How does the name YHVH invoke or touch freedom?
In Jewish mysticism YHVH is understood to be a meditation on infinite beingness. Known as the shem havayah, the holy name of “being,” YHVH is a composite of the three Hebrew words haya (was), hoveh (is), and yihiyeh (will be). YHVH, then, represents the experience of the eternal now, wherein the linear time-space continuum is suspended….
The Ba’al Shem Tov once said that our biggest slave driver or pharaoh is all our “yesterdays.” When we allow our past to define and limit us, we become slaves to a fixed self-image, and idol of sorts. Who we have been is who we think we will always be. To be a slave in mitzrayim is to become so entrenched in one’s known, limited identity that one loses touch with the mystery of becoming….
–Estelle Frankel, Sacred Therapy, pp.107-108
Sacred Therapy: Jewish Spiritual Teachings on Emotional Healing and Inner Wholeness. Boston, MA: Shambhala, 2003.
See Great Sources for a more text-oriented look at Exodus 6:2-3 and ‘knowing’ God’s name(s).
*For complete Chumash and commentary citations, please see Source Materials.
Click on the “WeeklyTorah” tag for more resources on the weekly portion throughout the year, or on a portion name for parashah-specific notes. (The series began with Numbers; posts for Genesis, Exodus and Leviticus are being drafted, week-by-week.) You can also zero-in on particular types of “Opening the Book” posts by clicking Language and Translation, Something to Notice, a Path to Follow, or Great Source in the tag cloud.
The “Opening the Book” series is presented in cooperation with the independent, cross-community Jewish Study Center and with Kol Isha, an open group pursuing spirituality from a woman’s perspective at Temple Micah (Reform). “A Song Every Day” is an independent blog, however, and all views, mistakes, etc. are the author’s.