To Speak in His Name

By Nachman Kahana

A. Three Questions
Were a single parasha of the Torah to contain a full accounting of the past, together with an informative explanation of the present and a definitive projection for the future, it would be deemed a most remarkable source of wisdom. How more so when the past, present and future are encapsulated in a mere two words!

I will return to this. But first, several questions regarding this week's Torah reading:

1) Moses is bitter at the results of his meeting with Pharaoh. He exhibits his feelings by protesting to G-d for the disappointing refusal of Pharaoh to permit the Jews to stop working for three days in order to sacrifice to G-d. How odd! Did not G-d forewarn Moses that Pharaoh would not be receptive to Moses' request?

2) Why was Pharaoh so obstinate? Didn't he realize that even slaves cannot work 24/7 and produce satisfactory results?
And more. After being warned by Moses of the approaching locust plague, Pharaoh's own advisors said to him: (Ex. 10:7) "Egypt is lost," and yet Pharaoh refused to give in and allow them 'vacation.'

3) G-d informed Moses that He would "harden Pharaoh's heart". But is not freedom of choice a basic tenet In G-d's relationship with all human beings?

B. Two Words
In the verse relating to Moses' complaint to G-d: (Ex. 5:23) From the time I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has brought trouble on this people, and You have not rescued Your people," there are two critical words (five in English) in Moses' statement.

Moses did not just say: "From the time I came to Pharaoh to speak... he has brought trouble on this people, and You have not rescued Your people."
Rather he said: From the time I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has brought trouble on this people, and You have not rescued Your people."

Had Moses come before Pharaoh as a labor representative requesting a rest day or three for the workers, Pharaoh might have considered the request. However, Moses immediately raised the issue to a theological level, claiming that he was the messenger of the Almighty G-d of Israel. Pharaoh, as Egypt's most eminent religious authority, could never acquiesce to a request brought forward in the name of a foreign deity.

His stubbornness turned into a matter of principle, and principles are guarded and not compromised. Instead, Pharaoh's reaction was to increase the burden on the Jewish slaves by not supplying them with raw material as a way of displaying his disregard for the God in whose name Moses appeared.

In this situation, G-d did not harden Pharaoh's heart by denying him freedom of decision -- it was unnecessary. Pharaoh's ideological and religious compulsions did not permit him even a symbolic compromise with the defiant Moses and Aaron.

Herein lies our past, present and future.

In the past, our slave experience was based on Pharaoh's unwillingness to recognize the Jewish God.

In the present, the official elected government of Israel refuses to state that the authentic claim of the Jewish People upon the land is G-d's promise to our forefathers that this land belongs solely to the Jewish nation forever. The majority of our ministers and members of Knesset have a positive feeling towards Torah Judaism; yet they oppose every piece of legislation that could be interpreted as being pro-religious. In their minds, if the State of Israel is perceived to have a religious orientation by basing our presence here on a theological premise, there could no longer be a chance for a peace settlement. By maintaining the conflict as a political, as opposed to a theological one, there could be a chance of everlasting utopian peace in the Holy Land.

The motivations of the past and present are indeed embedded in the two Hebrew words:
L'daber b'shmecha--to speak in Your name….

And so too are the secrets of the future.

The prophet Ezekiel and others prophesied that in the future the descendants of Esau (today's Christian Europeans and their derivatives) will join with the descendants of Ishmael (the Moslems and their derivatives) in the final military conflict to destroy the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, here in The Land of Israel. And both enemies will be destroyed by the "out-stretched hand" of the Almighty.

What a bizarre prophecy! What could ever bring these two dissonant gentile peoples to agree upon anything, much less a coordinated military expedition?
The answer again lies in the two words L'daber b'shmecha -- to speak in Your name.

Political Israel will have no choice but to admit that our only claim to the Holy Land is G-d's promise to our forefathers as cited in the Torah. And when we declare in the great international halls of the world that we are indeed God's chosen people and we come in His name, it will serve as a call to arms to the gentile religions to unite against the God of Israel.

So here we have the whole story of mankind encapsulated in those few words of the Torah: "to speak in your name".

C. Moses and Aaron in Pharaoh's Palace
Did you ever wonder why Pharaoh never tried to do away with Moses and Aaron? It appears from the Torah that Moses and Aaron had the "run of the palace"; that they would come and go at will with never being touched or even threatened.

At a time and place where human life had no value, the two holy men not only accused, threatened and imperiled the entire Egyptian nation, they even proved time and again that their threats were real as they turned into the horrible realities of Egyptian life. Yet they walked without fear in situations where lesser crimes were punished by death.

I believe that in the year when Moses and Aaron were appearing before Pharaoh, they were besieged with dire threats to their lives every time they approached the palace gates and were hounded day and night by Pharaoh's KGB and Gestapo. But G-d created conditions that protected them, although the Torah does not relate this aspect of the episode.

Why should I think so? Because this was always the way of G-d.

The Midrash relates that Nimrod threw Abraham into a fiery furnace, but Abraham emerged unscathed.
Jacob escaped from the evil designs of Laban.
David was saved from the hands of Achish King of Gat. (Samuel 21)
Chanania, Mishael and Azariah were thrown into a fiery furnace by Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, and they walked around as if they were sunning themselves.
Daniel emerged from the lion's den unscathed.

D. Here and Now

But you might be surprised to learn that the greatest miracles of all are happening right now, before our very eyes, in our Holy Land.

How long were Abraham, Chananya, Mishael and Azariahh in their respective crises? Five minutes? an hour? -- not more.
David was in the town of Gat for a few days.
Daniel was with the ferocious lions for one night.
Moses and Aaron were under siege for one year.

However, the Jewish communities in the Holy Land have been in the lion's den for over 100 years and the State has\been in the fiery furnace for the last 62 years [written in 2010 - Ed.]. But not only do we survive, we thrive in today's world where the greatest nations are in downhill spirals.

Just to mention one. Several months ago we were notified of substantial gas and oil finds; however, yesterday the estimates reached legendary proportions, with the natural gas finds described as the largest in the world in the last decade.

I have often written in these weekly messages that, based on the words of the prophets, we here in Israel, are destined to be materially the wealthiest nation in the world, to be followed by a return to the Torah of the entire Jewish people.

The gifts of G-d will free us from our dependence on gentile "friends" and from the good will of Jewish communities in the Diaspora exile. Indeed, the latter will be sending their "shnorrers" here for financial assistance!

In next week's portion, G-d tells Moses: (Ex. 6:6-8) 'I am the G-D, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment...And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am G-D.
It has come to pass in our days. G-d has handpicked everyone who merits to be here in our Land to turn the dream into reality. How fortunate we are!

Rabbi Nachman Kehana is the author of the famed "Mei Menucha" series of books explaining the difficult Tosfot commentary in the Talmud, and Rabbi of the "Young Israel of East Jerusalem" synagogue, smack in the middle of the teeming Arab marketplace. He is a veteran resident of Jerusalem's Old City Jewish Quarter.



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