Enjoy four short thoughts and a video adapted from the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe on Parshat Va'eira.


Seven of the ten plagues are described in this week’s Torah reading.

Pharaoh claims of: “I do not know G‑d,” and “the river is mine, I have fashioned it,” deny G‑d’s influence in our world. The fundamental purpose of the plagues was to negate this approach, to manifest G‑dliness openly so that all could see.

The miracles of the exodus serve as testimony to G‑d’s control of the natural order. In Egypt, even Pharaoh had no choice but to acknowledge G‑dliness. At other times however, G‑d’s influence may not be as evident, still, it is always He who is ordering our world and our destiny.

This is the message of the miracles of the plagues: to probe beneath the surface and become conscious of G‑d’s involvement in our lives. The only difference between the plagues in Egypt and our present situation is the degree in which G‑d’s hand is manifest.
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Infinity Revealed

This week’s Torah reading opens with the verse: “And I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob as the A-lmighty Shadai, but My name Y-H-V-H (י-ה-ו-ה) I did not make known to them.”

Why are there different names for G‑d? And what is the significance in using one name over the other?

The Midrash asks these questions and quotes G‑d as saying: “I am called according to My deeds,” i.e., each of the different names of G‑d is associated with a particular quality or attribute. The Zohar and the texts of the Kabbalah expand further on this concept, deriving different insights from the letters of the names and their vocalizations.

The name Shadai contains the Hebrew world dai which means “enough.” Shadai refers to the aspect of G‑dliness that establishes the limitations of the world’s existence, concentrating G‑d’s infinite light in a measured manner that will enable the creation of a world in which G‑dliness is hidden.

G‑d’s name Y-H-V-H, by contrast, represents the revelation of G‑dliness in all its infinity. For that reason, the name Y-H-V-H is not pronounced. Its light is too powerful and all-encompassing to be expressed in speech.

Until this time, even spiritual giants like the Patriarchs received only a limited revelation of G‑dliness, for G‑dliness was meted out within the context of the name Shadai, according to the limitations that prevailed in the world.

In the future, Giving of the Torah, the Jewish people and the world at large would receive a revelation of the name Y-H-V-H, revealing G‑d’s infinity. From that point onward, every time a Jew performs a mitzvah, he establishes an essential bond with G‑d, relating to a higher rung of G‑dliness than the Patriarchs could access.
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The Future is Now

The Torah portion of Va’eira contains four expressions of redemption: “I will release you… I will save you… I will liberate you… I will take you….”

The expression that follows, “and I will bring you” implies a special, superior quality. This refers to the future Redemption. Yet, since this fifth expression is mentioned in the context of the redemption from Egypt, it follows that the future Redemption in fact began (in some way) with the exodus from Egypt.

There is an important lesson here in terms of our spiritual service:

When a person realizes that the loftiest levels of the future Redemption, already exist, though unrevealed, then the person’s service becomes much easier. The individual can more easily overcome all obstructions and hindrances in this world in general, and during the conclusion of this final exile in particular.

In reality, all obstructions and hindrances to Torah and mitzvot are ultimately unreal — concealments which serve to arouse man’s latent abilities to serve G‑d.

When we realize that we are dealing with mere illusion, we will act with vigor and holiness, and such action will remove even the appearance of concealment. We will then realize how everything that happened, even things that seemed adverse at the time, were for the good, and ultimately even “for the best.”
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Wine & Matzah

Concerning the four expressions used with regard to the redemption from Egypt: “I will release you… I will save you… I will liberate you… I will take you….”, our Sages note that the four cups of wine which we drink during the Pesach Seder correspond to these four expressions.

However, bearing in mind that we eat matzah on Pesach “because our ancestors were liberated from Egypt,” why do we not eat four matzos?

Matzah emphasizes the aspect of the exodus that came about as a result of G‑d’s redemption. It is for this reason that matzah is called “impoverished bread” — bread that lacks taste — for it is a remembrance of spiritual impoverishment. Wine, however, has taste and is enjoyable. It is a “remembrance of the liberation and freedom ” ultimately achieved by the Jews, i.e., it was through their own service that they were redeemed from the evil of Egypt.

There is a difference between the first three expressions of liberation and the fourth, in that the first three — “I will release you… I will save you… I will liberate you” — are aspects of redemption that came from Above. The fourth expression — “I will take you unto Me as a Nation” — however, depended on the Jewish people; they had to become worthy of being called G‑d’s nation. This was accomplished when they received the Torah. Thus, matzah is equated with the number three, corresponding to the first three expressions of liberation, inasmuch as matzah commemorates the redemption as it came from Above.

The cups of wine, however, allude to the liberation accomplished by and within the Jewish people. The cups are therefore equated with the number four, for they denote the fourth expression of redemption — “I will take you unto Me as a Nation."
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Lessons from the Exodus

Pharaoh, the mightiest king in the world, ruthlessly oppressed the Jewish People. Nevertheless, when G‑d’s appointed time came, his behavior completely reversed, and, instead of afflicting the Jews, “Pharaoh sent the people away...” – he helped them leave Egypt, even giving them his own wealth to take along with them: