A Drash for Vaera 5769
by Marc Mangel
Parshat Vaera falls between Shmot – oppression – and Bo – redemption. This is where we live most of our lives, that intermediate region. There is no better model for how to do this than Heschel, who lived his life with prophetic zeal but did not reject observance. He did reject religious behaviorism that disregarded God and Israel in favor of rules. The issue of prayer, he said, is not prayer. The issue of prayer is God because the fundamental statement about God in Judaism is that God is in search of man, in need of man, and concerned about man. We do not need to communicate with God, we only need to make ourselves communicable with him
Last Weds (14 Jan) was the Yahrzeit of Heschel and Thurs (15 Jan) was the 80th birthday of Martin Luther King. And of course, this past Tuesday was a remarkable moment in history [reminder: it was the inauguration of Barack Obama for his first term].
In Vaera, Ch 6, v 3 God say “And I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob as El Shaddai but through my name HaShem I did not become known to them”. From this we learn three things. Maimonides writes “The gates of interpretation are never sealed” and Tamar Ross “a dynamic unfolding f the original Torah transmitted at Sinai that reveals in time it ultimate signifiance” and Rav Kook “There is a supernal Torah with successive unfolrding of that Torah as progressive revelations”
To Kohelet, Heschel said “How dare you say that life his vanity” and about the Shoah he wrote “The question is ‘where was man’, not ‘where was God’” because a person cannot be religious and indifferent to the plight and suffering of other people. He wrote that the beginning of piety is compassion and that Judaism exists only in community – because there is no anxiety in Judaism about personal salvation, but what matters is universal salvation. The prophets had no idea of God; they had understanding that God is a partner of man. There is one message from God, and we must continue to understand and reveal it. Every time we read the Torah we are able to see a new truth.