Words of Torah: Moses Hears the Triple Name

Rabbi Sacks tells the story of Jews in the Kovno ghetto during WWII who realized they were bound to die. A prayer leader came to the words in the service that said, “Thank you for not making us slaves.” The prayer leader objected to reciting the words.

The synagogue members then looked to the rabbi for help. He said, “Heaven forbid that we should abolish the blessing now. Our enemies wish to make us slaves. But though they control your bodies they do not own our souls. By saying this blessing we show that even here we consider ourselves as free men, temporarily in captivity, awaiting God’s redemption.” (The Jonathan Sacks Haggadah, pg. 31).

God’s nature has been revealed to us as one who liberates and restores. Moses began to discover that in his initial encounter, the vision of God in the burning bush.

ehyeh asher ehyeh, אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה, “I will be what I will be.”

Hebrew, Exodus 3:14

Moses had asked for God’s name. The answer he got came in three words never used again anywhere else in the Bible. God’s answers are not always what we expect.

Rather than a label by which he might be called, God gave him a mysterious statement of his identity. “You will find out who I am am,” God seems to have been saying, “when you see what I do.” God’s essential nature would be seen.

It was seen in the Exodus. It is seen again and again in the stories of every person attuned to the reality behind the universe.

God’s essential nature comes out when he frees us from bondage, puts us on our feet, removes from us the label “slave,” and puts on us the true identity which is our birthright: “child.”

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