Two Names for Two Brothers

Translation and commentary by Moshe-Yaakov Wisnefsky,
for "The Chumash of the Lubavitcher Rebbe


"Aaron and Moses...Moses and Aaron." (from Rashi on Ex. 6:26: This was the Aaron and Moses...)

Kabbala teaches that Moses and Aaron personify the two divine names Havayah and Elo-him, respectively. The name Havayah signifies G-d's transcendence, while the name Elo-him signifies His immanence within Creation. The allusion to these two names in both orders refers to the experience of the union of these two names, i.e. the consciousness that G-d's transcendence informs His immanence.

There are two ways we can experience this consciousness: as a gift from G-d, or as a result of our own efforts. The former experience is more transcendent, but the latter permeates our consciousness more thoroughly and permanently. Both are therefore necessary and would form a part of the giving of the Torah.

The phrase "Aaron and Moses" (referring to their order of birth) alludes to the way G-d confers this consciousness upon us, descending "naturally". The phrase "Moses and Aaron" (referring to their spiritual makeup) alludes to the permanence of divine consciousness we attain when we achieve it on our own.

"Moses made a mark on the wall where the sun had cast a shadow"
(Rashi on 9:18: Behold, at this time tomorrow I shall rain a very heavy hail...)

The uniqueness of the plague of hail was its blend of divine mercy and judgment. Allegorically, the sun alludes to the name Havayah and the wall to the name Elo-him. This plague was thus triggered by the unification of G-d's attributes of mercy and severe judgment, which are signified by these two names respectively. Similarly, although this was a particularly severe plague, as indicated in the harsh warning preceding it, this very warning included merciful instructions how to avert it. Also, the hail itself comprised both water and fire, which correlate to the divine attributes of mercy and judgment.

[Finally, the name Havayah transcends time, while the name Elo-him signifies G-d's presence contracted into nature, including time. So, inasmuch as this plague, like all the plagues, manifested the name Havayah, the fact that it was timed precisely further indicates that it embodied the union of the names Havayah and Elo-him. Ed.]


Copyright 2001 chabad of california / www.lachumash.org

Rabbi Moshe Yaakov Wisnefsky is a scholar, writer, editor and anthologist. Originally from Los Angeles, he moved to Israel in 1977, and currently lives in Jerusalem. While living in Tsfat, he was one of the three founders of ASCENT in 1983.


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