The book of Exodus is called the book of Names ( Sefer Shemot);
” And these are the names of the sons of Israel who came to Egypt; with Jacob, each man and his household came:”( Exodus 1:1) . The giving and choosing of names cannot be understood as being arbitrary and is in fact a deeply significant and impactful act.
Throughout the Tanach we read of prophets giving their children names as a way of making a prophetic declaration. There are times when the name given describes the current state of being of the one giving the name; “Moshe consented to stay with the man, and he gave his daughter Zipporah to Moshe.She bore a son, and he named him Gershom, for he said, “I was a stranger in a foreign land.”( Exodus 2 :21-22)
When parents give names to their children they think that they read or heard something that moved them to name their child in a certain way. Yet in fact their choice was a prophetic inspiration that moved the parents to give the child the exact name that was destined for that child. That name then defines the child’s potential, direction or his or her challenge.
We read in the book of Genesis;
“And out of the ground Hashem G-d formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto the man to see what he would call them; and whatsoever the man would call every living creature, that was to be the name thereof. (Genesis 2:19)”.
The understanding of our sages of this verse has been that whatever Adam called the animal that was to be its spiritual essence as well. That is the reason that, the Holy Ari teaches that the name the parents choose for their baby is actually a ‘small prophecy.
In the Torah portion of Shemot we read twice of names being given that carry an eternal message for all of mankind. One is the name given to Moshe ( Moses) as an infant.( Exodus 2:10) The second being the name Hashem declares to be His name when asked by Moshe “Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them: The G-d of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me: What is His name? What shall I say unto them? “( Exodus 13:13).
When Yocheved attempts to hide her newly born infant in a little basket floating on the Nile, the infant is discovered by the daughter of the Pharaoh who decreed all the male infants in the first place.
“She opened [it], and she saw him the child, and behold, he was a weeping lad, and she had compassion on him, and she said, “This is [one] of the children of the Hebrews.” …The child grew up, and she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became like her son. She named him Moshe (Moses), and she said, “For I drew him ( MishiTeeHu) from the water.”( Exodus 2:10).
Yet the name Moshe is in the present tense form rather than the past implied by the statement “For I drew him ( MishiTeeHu) from the water”. What lesson must be gleaned from that inconsistency?
The tense used in the name of Moshe was meant to teach an important lesson. Moshe did not receive his name because the daughter of Pharaoh drew him out of the water. He received his name because he was destined to be in a constant state of drawing others or truth out of water, whether that was to be the waters of the Red Sea or the eternal living waters of His truth and Torah.He and all that followed his teachings are meant to be in a constant state of “being present” and doing what needs to be done.
Furthermore we find a similar inconsistency when G-d reveals one of His names to Moshe at Mount Sinai by the burning bush;
“And Moshe(Moses ) said unto God: “Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them: The G-d of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me: What is His name? What shall I say unto them?” And G-d said unto Moshe:”Ehyeh asher Ehyeh,” and He said: “Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel :Ehyeh hath sent me unto you.” (Exodus 13:13 -14)
Most English translations translate the words Ehyeh asher Ehyeh in the following way: “I Am That I Am.” Yetthat translation is generally incorrect.
In Hebrew, the word hayah means “existed” or “was,” but the word ehyeh is the first person singular present-future form. That means that Ehyeh asher Ehyeh means, “I Shall Be What I Shall Be.”
This is similar to the translation we see in the book of Zechariah (8:8):
“And I will bring them, and they shall dwell in the midst of Jerusalem; and they shall be My people, and I shall be [Ehyeh] their God, in truth and in righteousness.”
Here too we see a variance in the tense used in the descriptive name.
The statement “I Am That I Am” bespeaks an Eternal G-d that has always been and always will be. That is a true statement, but in fact may not be the concept G-d was trying to transmit at this juncture in history. There is no point in transmitting to the Israelites suffering under the burden of slavery that the G-d that was is the G-d that always is. People collapsing under the yoke of hatred and oppression do not have the ability to look up to the heavens, let alone see the infinite and powerful G-d for what He is.
Rabbi Yehuda HaLevy, explains that this use of the future tense describes G-d not as much as the G-d of being, but rather as the G-d of becoming. The Jewish people are beginning an endless journey of discovery with their G-d. All the events that they will experience and endure will be experienced as both a challenge and a lesson in developing deeper insight into their relationship with Him as a people.
Our relationship with G-d is in a constant state of becoming. Our spiritual must be a constant walk of becoming. It is intended to be an eternal journey of discovery.
Those then become the two truths of our existence. Our relationship with Hashem is constantly in motion and eternally in a state of becoming. Yet our responsibility in that journey is to be in a constant state of “Being”. We need to be ever-present and active in that walk.
There have been too many groups and peoples who have lost the ability to be surprised and grow. They are therefore imprisoned by doctrine and ironclad expectations. On the other hand there are others who focus on all that may be without ever being present in the now and taking responsibility for their lives and their future.
The Torah is teaching us to be ever cognizant of both truths at one and the same time.
The spiritual of balance of “being” and “ becoming “ at the same time.
LeRefuat Yehudit bat Golda Yocheved