Rabbi Zvi Sobolofsky
Rabbi Zvi Sobolofsky

Rising Above Time

The significance of the name of Hashem plays a central role throughout the events of yetzias Mitzrayim. Parshas Vaera begins with Hashem telling us that unlike His relationship with the avos which was expressed through the names of Keil and Shakai, Hashem will now be known by the shem havaya that we are not allowed to pronounce. Although a true understanding of the meaning of this description of Hashem is obviously not within our grasp, we can get a glimpse of the role this particular name has in the events of yetzias Mitzrayim.

The shem havaya refers to Hashem being haya hoveh v'yeheye - He was, is, and will always be. This name highlights that Hashem is not bound by the limits of time. As human beings we focus on the present which is the only reality for us at the moment. It is this focus that can distance us from Hashem. The Rambam in Hilchos Teshuva explains that the sound of the shofar is the vehicle that wakes us up from slumber. Those who must be awoken are described by the Rambam as "hashochachim es ha'emes b'havlei hazeman - those that forget the truth because they are preoccupied with the frivolities of time."

One can become locked into the reality of the present for two different reasons. The fleeting pleasures of this world can lead one to believe that it is only instant gratification that matters. Conversely, one can be suffering so profoundly that it is difficult to see past the moment. This was the state of mind of the Jewish People as the situation in Mitzrayim deteriorated. They couldn't even hear the words of Moshe. As the events of yetzias Mitzrayim unfolded, they would have to leave their world of the present and realize that Hashem Who is above time can provide them a glorious future notwithstanding the bleak present.

A person who lives only in the present loses sight of his destiny as he doesn't focus on where he came from. "Mosay yagi'uh ma'asay l'ma'aseh avosai - when will my actions reach the level of the actions of my forefathers." One who sees himself as a link in the chain beginning with our avos sets standards for himself that are fitting for descendants of such giants. Throughout the events of yetzias Mitzrayim, Hashem reminds the Jewish People that they are the descendants of Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov. Although they are right now in a lowly state of slavery, they are descended from great people and they too can emulate their illustrious ancestors.

How do we prevent ourselves from succumbing to the "havlei hazeman - the frivolities of time"? Only through connecting to Hashem whose very name represents One above time can we avoid the pitfalls of living our lives only for the moment. In Koheles we are taught, "mah yisron la'adam bechol amalo she'ya'amol tachas hashemesh - what worth is there for a man for all of his work under the sun?" Although a seemingly depressing thought, Chazal drew tremendous inspiration from this observation of Shlomo Hamelech. Under the sun has no lasting worth. However, the work performed above the sun, spiritual pursuits of Torah and mitzvos, last forever. The sun symbolizes time as days and years are measured by its travels. Efforts "under the sun," those that are bound by time, are the havlei hazeman that Shlomo Hamelech and the Rambam describe as worthless. Those who toil "above the sun," in the realm of Hashem, are connected to the Source of Eternity.

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