A Torah Thought From the Chumash Shiur of
Rav Dovid Feinstein zt"l.
(As heard and adapted by Rabbi Aaron D. Mehlman)
G-d spoke to Moshe and said to him, “I am Hashem!”
However, the parsha begins with the words, “G-d (Elokim) spoke….”
The posuk then suddenly pivots to a different name of G-d, Hashem.
What is the difference in meaning and why do both appear in the same posuk?
Answer: whereas the first references middas ha’din, G-d’s attribute of punishment and the rule of law, the latter designation illustrates middas rachamim, compassion, and the merciful dimension of His character.
How can we reconcile two seemingly contradictory elements appearing in the same verse?
We can explain as follows.
Midas din is what we deserve. Reward and punishment are based on absolute meritocracy.
The term Elokim and din suggests we are in subordination to a set of well-defined and established rules.
As we are subject to the Laws of the Torah, and if we live our lives counter to this moral code, we must bear full responsibility for our actions, al pi din, according to the letter of the Law.
Consequently, in a case of a legal infraction, a minimum sentence is mandatory and must be meted out to the guilty party. This is emmes, the absolute truth of judgment.
But in our own minds, at times, the truth is subjective!
We approach middas din with personal cheshbonos, personal biases layered with rationalizations and justifications - and these calculations alter our understanding of authentic din.
Indeed, we don’t begin to fathom or understand eichus hadin, the depth, and profundity of G-d’s judgment.
We fail to appreciate the true egregiousness of our actions and then proceed to ignorantly question Hashem’s “harsh” response.
Moshe Rabbeinu had “complaints” against G-d - why did the Jewish People have to gather their own straw and produce bricks?
Even though the task was still feasible and doable, the added hardship caused Moshe to stop and question the injustice of it all.
Too much din! The scales of justice, argued Moshe, have swung inequitably in disfavor of the Jewish People.
G-d then responds to Moshe’s legal claim: you are greatly mistaken!
“I am Hashem!” Never forget, I am comprised of midas rachamim. Indeed, everything I do is a manifestation of midas rachamim.
Hashem tells Moshe Rabbeinu the following narrative:
It says in Avos (2:4,) “Do not judge your fellow man until you have reached his place.”
Moshe, you think this is a harsh sentence, but in truth, it is an illustration of midas rachanmim of the highest order.
The Jewish People were to work for four hundred years, but in reality, the enslavement period lasted one hundred and sixteen years!
My calculations included the total Egyptian exile - heavily discounting hundreds of years of hard labor. The years prior to the last one hundred and sixteen were difficult but not excessive.
“I am Elokim and Hashem!” I judge accurately and efficiently and have determined that there is still more affliction necessary to make the Jewish People complete again.
But unlike your interpretation of events, this last sentence (with the straw) is of the lightest variety possible - and embodies the gentlest touch.”
We can compare this to a sick person who is in need of an urgent life-saving surgical procedure.
The painful operation promises to restore his vitality and reestablish his original robust healthful state.
But it is the skilled and compassionate surgeon who will perform minimally invasive surgery - with the least pain and associated disability.
Similarly, we must recognize that in our own lives, Hashem exercises the rule of law - but always through the prism of midas rachamin, with an abundance of compassion and unlimited love!