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by Jacob Solomon


G-d (Elokim) spoke to Moses and said to him, "I am G-d (Hashem)" (6:2).

This is the answer G-d gave to Moses when he complained that his appearing before Pharaoh caused the conditions of the suffering Israelites to deteriorate rather than improve. Elokim generally refers to G-d's Middat Hadin, but Hashem denotes His Middat Harahamim. G-d's reply continues " I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as K-l Sh-dai, but I did not make myself known to them by My name Hashem" (6:3).

Three questions: firstly, why is there a change from Middat Hadin to Middat Harahamim in same Pasuk? Secondly, when G-d promised Abraham the land of Canaan, He did indeed made himself known to him by the name Hashem "I am Hashem who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land as an inheritance (Bereishit 15:7). Thirdly, G-d's statement I am Hashem above is the only answer He gave to Moses' distressed plea: Why did You bring evil to this people, Why did You send me? The rest of G-d's reply to Moses appears (according to Rashi) to make a negative contrast between Moses and the Avot in the way they reacted to suffering in carrying out His commands.

Abarbanel explains that these verses show how Moses' relationship with G-d was far more intimate than that of the Patriarchs. Moses was the only person who knew G-d face to face (Devarim 34:10). Indeed when G-d spoke to him here, He used the phrase: but I did not make myself known to them by 'My name Hashem' . Ladaat - to know (the root of the word used here) often means to know intimately (see Rashi on Bereishit 18:19). In justifying the deeper relationship the Daat Zekeinim points out that this was earned by Moses' having taken on the enormous responsibilities of the future Torah Nation, which in the time of the Patriarchs was an individual family. Thus when G-d appeared to the Patriarchs as K-l Sh-dai, it means with the 'sufficient' Divine revelation that they needed for their limited tasks. However My name Hashem expresses the unique intimacy that only Moshe Rabbeinu had with G-d.

Thus according to this explanation I am Hashem - conveying that special relationship - implies that Moses should have know enough about G-d's Middot not to have asked Why have you done evil to this people?

Moses spoke before G-d: "Behold the Israelites have not listened to me - how will Pharaoh listen to me? I have sealed lips" (6:12).

Bereishit Rabba (92:7) states that this is one of the ten times where the kal va-homer (a fortiori deduction) appears in the Torah. Why was Moses so sure that Pharaoh would not listen to him?

The Israelites felt they were in a hopeless state - they did not listen to Moses because of shortness of breath and hard labor (6:9). People who endure prolonged suffering often find it impossible to believe that their situation will ever improve. The obvious contrast between the wellbeing of Pharaoh and the enslaved Israelites makes the kal va-homer difficult to understand.

In addition, why didn't Moses give the more obvious reason - that he had been unsuccessful, as G-d had told him, and it was now time for Him to intervene? G-d had told Moses that the Redemption from Egypt would not take place through Moses directly, but through Divine intervention: For I know the King of Egypt will not let you go... I shall set forth My Hand and smite Egypt... and afterwards he will let you go (3:19-20). Moses and Aaron had already pleaded to Pharaoh once, and he responded by intensifying the sufferings of the enslaved Israelites.

One clue may be his claim that he was a poor speaker -'sealed lips'. The first time that he approached Pharaoh, Aaron spoke on his behalf. Moses could have seen this as an explanation for his initial failure. Moses reasoned that was why Pharaoh did not listen. Accordingly Moses' plea was a hint that G-d should cure his speech impediment so that he could make a better impression on Pharaoh by pleading directly instead of through a 'communicator' .

Moreover - and this would explain the kal va-homer - Pharaoh was unlikely to have forgotten that Moses succeeded in escaping from the power of the monarchy when he struck the Egyptian (2:15). The Israelites on the other hand would have been better disposed towards him and therefore they would have been more likely to overlook his speech difficulty. For Moses had not only demonstrated that G-d was with him through the three signs (4:30-1), but he also showed that despite his royal connections he identified with the sufferings of the Israelites to the extent of putting his own life in danger (2:12).

Thus Moses' plea of having a speech difficulty may be seen as part of his personal modesty. When he said to G-d Why have you done evil to this people? he added Why did you send me? (5:22) Why did you send me with my limitations, instead of someone who could put G-d's message over in a more direct and impressive manner.

This shows one of the great personal attributes of Moses - he blamed his own shortcomings when things went wrong.


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