Parsha Talk Va’era 2021 – With Rabbis Eliot Malomet, Jeremy Kalmanofsky and Barry Chesler

Parashat Va-era [Exodus 6:2-9:35] opens with a verse that has intrigued modern critical biblical scholars for generations: God tells Moses that He appeared to the patriarchs as El Shaddai, but did not make his name YHVH [the unpronounceable 4-letter name of God] known to them. How much does it matter by which name we call upon God? The parashah also features the first 7 plagues; the phenomenon of the plagues [are they best understood in the aggregate, or perhaps individually; is it phenomena or phenomenon?] which engenders quite a bit of discussion. Are the plagues to show the Egyptians something? or perhaps the Israelites? At the beginning the Egyptian magicians match in some measure the early plagues, but very quickly they move beyond their capabilities. Speaking of capabilities, we find an echo of the verse from last week in which God tells Moses that Aaron will play the prophet to Moses’ God, which suggests that perhaps it is the voice of the prophet who speaks for God, who is mostly silent, or unheard. We had an opportunity to respond in some fashion to questions submitted by e-mail, so please submit them at Shabbat Shalom and a Happy 2022!