וארא - "And I Appeared"
G-d spoke further to Moses and said to him, "I am the LORD; and I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as G-d Almighty, but by My name, LORD, I did not make Myself known to them.
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The Hebrew Words
The name of this week's parashah, וארא (va'eira) comes from the Hebrew root word ra'ah. It is a primitive root verb which means "to see". Ra'ah (Strong's #7200) is used 1308 times in 1198 verses in the Tanakh. It is the same word that forms the root of the word which names Parashah Vayera.
First use in Scripture
The first time ra'ah is used in Scripture is in Genesis 1:4.
G-d saw that the light was good; and G-d separated the light from the darkness.
Last use in Scripture
The last time ra'ah is used in Scripture is in Malachi 3:18.
So you will again distinguish between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve Him.
- Heads of Israel - Exodus 6:14
- "I Will Stretch Out My Hand" - Exodus 7:1
- Aharon's Rod Turns Into a Serpent - Exodus 7:8
- Water Is Turned to Blood - Exodus 7:14
- Frogs Cover the Land - Exodus 8:1
- The Plague of Insects - Exodus 8:16
- Egyptian Cattle Die - Exodus 9:1
- The Plague of Boils - Exodus 9:8
- The Plague of Hail - Exodus 9:18
The plagues are examined in more detail in The Plagues of the Exodus article.
Portraits of Messiah
Verse by Verse Notes
G-d's special Name
In the beginning of the parashah the Torah tells us that G-d speaks to Moshe and tells him that He did not make Himself known to the patriarchs by his Name, י-ח-ו-ח. We find, however, in Genesis 21:33 that Avraham plants a tamarisk tree at Be'er-Sheva and calls on the name י-ח-ו-ח. If G-d did not make this name known to Avraham then how did he call upon it? Did Avraham pull a Rumpelstilskin and guess his name or have someone else tell him? This ties back directly to last week's parashah's notes on G-d's Name.
Note that the Torah tells us that G-d said that He did not make Himself known to the patriarchs by this Name. It does not say that He did not make his Name known to them. This speaks more of the nature of the relationship between G-d and the patriarchs (to make oneself known) rather than knowledge about his Name.
The word used in the Torah for "make myself known" is נוֹדעתי (noadeti) and is a conjugation of the Hebrew root word yada. The word has the sense of "to know by seeing" and in this case we might interpret this passage as "I did not show myself" in the aspect that G-d did not reveal his character as י-ח-ו-ח. The patriarchs knew Him (saw Him) as El Shaddai, G-d Almighty, but they did not know of his character as the eternal, unchanging (and covenant keeping) G-d.
G-d made a covenant with Avraham which was passed on to Yitzchak and Yaakov but they did not see the promise of the covenant come to pass. They did not know of G-d's character as "the one who delivered upon the promises of the covenant". It was their descendants (hundreds of years later) that were brought up out of Egypt and their descendants who actually entered into the Promised Land. It was these descendants that came to know (through what they saw and experienced) of G-d's covenant keeping nature.
What is special about the staff?
The first 3 plagues are delivered with the staff. The remaining plagues are delivered by the stretching out of hands. What is the significance of the staff and the hands being used? This is a mystery.