Beshalach: This is my God

“I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob…” (Shemot 3:6)
This is my God and I will enshrine Him, the God of my father and I will exalt Him. (Shemot 15:2)

From my fathers I fell heir
to the image of a vigilant God –
just but somber-eyed
kindly but stern –
Who cared about all the infringements,
recording them before Him
for inspection on the Days of Awe,
balancing violations against virtue
misdemeanors versus merit.
The sharp edges have blurred somewhat;
His gaze is more loving than harsh,
His face filled with light
and wordless compassion.
His demands have changed
from seeking stringencies
to urging us to be kind to each other.
And I wonder which God
my sons will inherit.


The commentary of the JPS, the Etz Hayim, cites Rabbi Aharon of Belz on “The God of my father, and I will exalt Him,” saying, “It is as great a spiritual commitment to honour God because your ancestors did as it is to do so because you have experienced God in your own life.” However, the Etz Hayim adds, “Others, however, have taught that it is not enough to inherit a faith. One must discover and experience the reality of God in one’s own life.”

In a commentary on Beshalach from 2007, http://learn.jtsa.edu/content/commentary/beshallah/5767/personal-relationship-torah, Rabbi Marc Wolf considers one of his favorite texts, taken from Pesikta d’Rav Kehana, which, he says “uses as its catalyst the manna we encounter in this week’s parashah.” He notes that we learn from this Midrash that for each person the manna tasted different. Furthermore, everyone received the specific nourishment each required from the manna. From the youngest to the oldest, each one’s portion was effectively tailor-made. Rabbi Wolf continues, “In the midrash, Rabbi Levi makes an empowering juxtaposition between this week’s encounter with the manna and the revelation on Sinai we read about next Shabbat. When God spoke, each Israelite commented: “Revelation came to me. ‘I am the Lord your (plural) God’ was not said, rather, ‘I am the Lord your (singular) God’ was said “(12:25).
“Focusing on the use of the second–person singular pronoun employed by the first commandment, Rabbi Levi learns that the revelation on Sinai was directed individually to each person present. The verse could have easily made use of the plural eloheichem, and the first commandment would have been directed at the entirety of the people, but instead the verse uses elohekha, establishing a personalized relationship. While both words translate as “your God,” the simple switch of pronoun creates an entirely different relationship between each Israelite and God.”

In a commentary from 2010 on Beshalach, http://learn.jtsa.edu/content/commentary/beshallah/5770/innovation-and-tradition, Prof. Arnold Eisen cites the Midrash on the same theme: “Said R. Jose bar R. Hanina, “The Divine Word spoke to each and every person according to his/her particular capacity…Now if each and every person was enabled to taste the manna according to his/her particular capacity, how much more and more was each and every person enabled according to his/her particular capacity to hear the Divine Word.” ”
Prof Eisen, too, addresses the verse “This is my God and I will glorify Him, my father’s God and I will exult [sic] Him.” He says, “Our connection with God is shaped and nurtured by loving bonds to our parents. The rabbis long ago made the point that though God is of course the same in every generation, the meaning of God to my parents, the conceptions they held of God, will not be the same as mine. How much more is this the case when the gap between generations stretches over millennia?”

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