Parashat Vaera – Hokhmah and God’s Names

In our previous Parsha we have seen Moshe from the aspect of “Tiferet” (which inner essence is compassion). This week we are gonna show him from the aspect of “Hokhmah”. Today’s study is a bit deeper than previous ones, but as always I’ll try to simplify it as much as possible.


Moses as Wisdom


Moshe was a man of many questions, unlike the Patriarchs. In his first conversations with God he raises questions as to understand Divine things. He sees a burning bush, and goes up to “Learn” why (mah-dua) the bush is not burnt. He finds the Angel of HaShem sending him to deliver Israel, Moshe asks: If they ask me what is His name (Mah Shmo), what will I answer? After God’s answer Moshe is still questioning and says: They won’t believe me. Then God tells him: What is (Mah Ze) in your hand? God gives him miracles to show to the people, and yet Moshe still question: I am slow of speech and slow of tongue. And God answers: Who gave (Mi sham) a mouth to man? After the first meeting with Pharaoh, when Israel falls in a greater oppression Moshe asks: Why (la-mah) did you sent me if you didn’t deliver your people at all? – and this is when our Portion opens with God’s answer:


God spoke unto Moshe, and said unto him: ‘I am HaShem; and I appeared to Abraham, to Yitzhak, and to Yakov, as ‘El-Shaddai’, but by My name ‘Havaya’ (Yod-Hei-Vav-Hei) I did not make me known to them” (Ex 6:2).


The behaviour of Moshe is that of someone who raises his faith by “Knowing”. Even the Patriarchs didn’t dare to deal with God this way. When God commands Abraham to give his son in sacrifice, the text doesn’t show Abraham questioning God at all (cf. Rashi). When Yakov wants to know the name of the angel who speaks with him, the angel doesn’t answer, and that’s good enough for Yakov, because the Patriarchs are led by emotions (ie. the Middot). But in the case of Moshe, every question is not enough. As a matter of fact, it’s Moshe’s need for answers what causes the Sacred Name to be revealed to him. “If they ask me, what is His name, what will I tell them?” (Ex 3:13) (cf. Sanh 111a).


By the way, knowledge without action leads to detachment, but emotion leads to action. That’s why the Patriarchs are the three pillars and the Fathers. It is good to ‘know’, but don’t be so detached in your Learning as to neglect your mission in this world and your unconditional acceptance of God’s will. Just as Abraham, Yitzhak and Yakov didn’t question my will, neither you question my will (cf. Likutei Sikhot III, pp. 854-862).


In Kabbalah, Moshe in this aspect embodies the Sefirah of ‘Hokhmah’ (Wisdom, or Mindfulness). After the verse: “In the lips of he who has discernment wisdom is found” (Prov 10:13). We can break up the word Hokhmah into two roots: Heikh (חך) – which means ‘palate’, or ‘mouth’, and Mah (מה) – which means: ‘What?’. This word is going to have transcendence in today’s study. The ‘What’ (mah) is what travels between God and Moses’ palates (heikh) in their conversations. Thus the Scripture states concerning the ‘palate’: “taste and see that God is good” (Psalm 34:9). After all Moses spoke with God “Mouth to Mouth” (Nm 12:8). So we find: Why the bush…? What is His name? What is in your hand? Who gave a mouth? Why did you send me?


As I said above, Moses builds his faith through these questions, but Moses’ curiosity is not a matter of disbelief, as some might think; his questions come from meekness, from the fact that he’s aware that he doesn’t know anything. So the Torah says: “Moshe was exceedingly humble, more than any man on the face of the Earth” (Nm 12:3). Later, when people murmur against him and Aaron complaining on their situation, the answer of Moses is: “And we are what? (venakhnu Mah?)” (Ex 16:7).


Moses and Selflessness


This is another aspect of the Sefirah Hokhmah, because its inner essence is that of selflessness. When the letters of Hokhmah are permuted, we get the words: “Koah Mah” – “the state of undefined potential” (Zohar III:235b) – interpreted also as “The Force/or Potential of selflessness” (cf. Zohar Bamidbar 220b), in light of the verse: “Hokhmah shall be found from Ayin” (Yov 28:12), the main meaning of Ayin עין is “Nothing” or “Without-ness”.


Although Moses was a learned man in Egypt, he left his luxury and emptied himself of everything in order to help his people, and in order to let God do whatever he pleased. In accordance with these attributes, Moses became an ‘empty vessel’ in which the Will of God could be manifested, and he received the highest revelation of God’s word in the form of “Written Torah”. Moshe received it and gave it to the people, for the Torah itself is considered the “Wisdom of God” (cf. Zohar III:152a), by which “God created the world” (Prov 8:22, 30, 32; cf. Bereshit Rabbah 1:4), and it descended to our world [filtered through Tiferet] and was embodied with ink and letters (cf. Likutei Amarim 1:4).

And because in this aspect Moses represents the Sefirah of ‘Hokhmah’, the Torah itself will be called after his name: “The Torah of Moses”.


In the same manner, the Hidden Wisdom (Hokhmah Nistara – acronym: ‘Hen’ [grace – חן]) is called after Messiah: “The Torah of Messiah”.


Messiah himself posses a lofty sense of selflessness and thus, Hokhmah is another attribute of Messiah, according to the verse: “a shoot will come up from the stump of Yisai… and the Spirit of HaShem will rest on him, the spirit of Hokhmah” (Is 11:1-2) (cf. Torah Shleima 31:10; Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer 3).

About him it’s written: “Your king comes… humble” (Zech 9:9) and also: “to him the nations will seek” (Is 11:10). In Kabbalah, Hokhmah is referred to as “Father” and Tiferet as “Son”; so both are coupled together in the characteristic of Moses and of Messiah [One of Messiah’s names is ‘Avi-ad’ – continuous father; Is 9:5, and another is ‘Son’; Psal 2:7]. Just like Moses our Teacher, Messiah ben Yosef embodies both, selflessness (Hokhmah) and Compassion (Tiferet).


In Gematria, ‘Moshe’ equals: ‘selflessness + compassion (Bitul + Rakhamim).


ביטול + רחמים = משה = 345


And at the same time, the word ‘Moshe’ equals “Shiloh”, one of Messiah’s names in the Torah (Gn 49:10) [from where our sages understood that “Moshe is the first and last redeemer”].


משה = שילה = 345


The level of Messiah’s selflessness and compassion is taught in a Midrah with the following words:


—“Messiah will say: Master of the Universe, with joy in my soul and gladness in my heart I take this suffering upon myself provided that not one person in Israel shall perish, so that not only those who are alive be saved in my days, but also those who are dead, who died from the days of Adam up to the time of redemption.” (Pesikta Rabbati, Piska 36.1)



The Names of God


I appear to Abraham, to Yitzhak and to Yakov in ‘El Shaddai’, and by my name ‘Havaya’ I was not known to them” (Ex 6:3).


Not by coincidence this book is called “Shemot”. To this point the Bible wants us to investigate the aspects of these two Names. The one by which God was known to the Patriarchs; “El Shaddai” – as stated: ‘when Abram was 99 years old HaShem appeared to Abram and said to him: I am El Shaddai’ (Gn 17:1).

And the one with which God revealed himself to Moses; the Sacred Name (Yod – Hei – Vav – Hei). As stated: ‘say to the sons of Israel: HaShem (yod hei vav hei), God of your fathers’ (Ex 3:14).

As we will see, both names are related in different mystical ways.


El Shaddai


Moses asked God what’s his name, and he answered: ‘Ek-ye asher Ek-ye’ (I shall be who I shall be) – normally mistranslated as “I am who I am”. The short form of this name is the Holy Tetragrammaton. Later He explains that to the Patriarchs he was known as “El Shaddai”.

Interestingly, the Gematria of: ‘Ek-ye asher Ek-ye’ is 543, and the Gematria of ‘El Shaddai’ are the inversed digits of the same number (345). Thus teaching that it’s the same God, but with a different way to reveal Himself [[also, the Gematria of ‘El Shaddai’ equals ‘Moshe’]].


אה-י-ה אשר אה-י-ה = 543

אל שדי = 345


In the method called Atbash (exchanging the letters with their direct opposite), the letters of ‘Shaddai’ turn into: Beit, Kof and Mem.


שדי = בקם


Following the same idea of finding God from the inverted perspective, we would realize that these 3 letters are actually the acronym of the patriarchs in inverted order starting each one from the last letter of their names (cf. Lv 26:42). So the Beit (ב) is the acronym for Yakov, because it ends with a Beit – יעקב, Yitzhak ends with a Kuf – יצחק, and Abraham ends with a Mem – אברהם. Therefore, this God that appears to Moses with the digits inverted is the same God of our Fathers.


“El-Shaddai” is commonly translated as “God Almighty”. In a literal sense it comes from El’ (Mighty, or Power) and ‘Shadai’ (Poweful One in the sense of being ‘self-sufficient’ in all mighty labour). This also means that ‘Our God is enough’; we don’t need any other deity.  This is seen in the Gematria of Shaddai = 314, which equals the phrase: “The leader of all the world” (haManhig Kol haOlam).


שדי = המנהיג כל העולם = 314


From another point of view, the root “Shad” – שד means chest, or breast. It can be interpreted as: ‘al shadi’ –  אל שדי, meaning: “to my bosom”. This speaks of a familiar and personal relationship between God and our founding Fathers: Abraham, Yitshak and Yakov; which is seen in the promise: “I will make of you a great nation”.

Interestingly when we fully spell out the letters that compose the word Shaddai, the hidden letters that are concealed within the word (ie. Mispar Ne’elam) give us the value 500 in Gematria.


שדי = *ין + *לת + *וד = 500


This is the same value with the command: “Be fruitful and multiply” – ‘Puru urvu’.


פרו ורבו = 500


For all of these reasons, in Kabbalah, the Name ‘Shaddai’ is associated to the Sefirah of Yesod (foundation) – and thus linked to Yosef the Tzaddik (as explained in the verse: ‘Tzaddik Yesod Olam’ (the Righteous one is the foundation of the world) (Prov 10:25).

The spiritual power that emerges from the name “Shaddai” is an aspect of Messiah ben Yosef. And this brings us to Messiah ben Yosef’s angel (ie. his oversoul in the sefirotic worlds; cf. Kol haTor 2:112).

As said above, the root of Shaddai means “Chest, or bosom” (Shad). About Metatron (the Angel of HaShem) it is stated: “My name is within him (BeKirbo)” (or in the centre of him, the part of his heart which is the chest) (Ex 23:21). Our sages say this means that “he’s called with the name of his Master” (Sanh 38b).


In Gematria “Metatron” equals “Shaddai” (= 314).


שדי = מטטרון = 314

So when God says: “I appeared [to them] In El Shaddai”, it can be interpreted as: ‘I appeared to them with the Power [El] Metatron [Shaddai]’. This is, the force of the soul of Messiah ben Yosef; because he [the Righteous = haTzadik = Yosef = Messiah ben Yosef] is Yesod Olam, the foundation of all things (cf. Bahir 102). In Kabbalah, the patriarchs are the three pillars: Abraham is Hesed (Mercy), Yitzhak is Gevurah (severity), and Yakov is Tiferet (balance of these two), but Yosef is the foundation of these three pillars.


The number 314 alludes to the concealed continuity of miracles within creation. The value 314 of Shaddai as well as the value 31 of the name “El” alludes to the irrational transcendental number, the number Pi (3’14) (cf. Gra on Sefer Yetzirah). The knowledge of this number was necessary in order to build in the Temple the “molten sea” “completely round” with the specific measures given in the text (1kings 7:23). So clearly, as we have seen, Shaddai represents the concealed power of Messiah Ben Yosef within creation, which is the common seal of the 3 patriarchs, as well as another form for the Sacred Name.


Metatron, who has the Gematria of “Shaddai” is called: “HaShem Katan” (the microcosmic manifestation of Havaya) – as he’s embodied in “Zeir Anpin” (the Little face) [cf. Yalkut Hadash 7:51].  So Let’s explore the next Name.





The Sacred Name is also known as the “Explicit Name” (Shem haMeforash). Of all the names given to God, The Sacred Name is said to be higher than any other name, as stated: “Havayah is greater than Elokim” (Ex 18:11).

The first time the name appears in the Bible is in the creation of human kind (Gn 2:4-7).

The name is a nominal form of the verb to Be, to exist – Yihye (יהיה).

One of the common English renderings for this name is “The Eternal”, because basically the Sacred Name represents the essence of “All there is” and “All there will be” – remember the longest form of the Name which God gives to Moses is “I shall Be whom I shall Be” or “I shall Be who I am becoming”, mistranslated as: ‘I am who I am’ (even though the verbal form can be interpreted whether in ‘future tense’ or in a ‘Present continuous’, but never in Present form).

So in Kabbalah the letters of the Sacred Name contain the “essence” of all the Sefirot and all the Worlds, and literally, of All there is. “He brings what it is into existence”. From the four letters of this name all other names, actions and attributes emerge (cf. Ramhal, (קל”חKalakh Pitkhei Hokhmah, petakh 31:4).   The source of this Creative Power is in the Sefirah of Hokhmah (Wisdom) as stated: “Havayah with Hokhmah founded the Earth” (Prov 3:19). All the miracles performed by God in Egypt which defied all known laws of nature, were invoked by the Ineffable Four-lettered Name, “Havayah”.


But its primary manifestation within creation is in “Tiferet” (which corresponds to the attribute of Mercy, as stated: ‘God spoke to Moses and told him: I am Havayah’; Ex 6:2).


When we fully spell out the 4 Holy letters of this Name, spelling them using the “Alef” – which is associated with the “Aluf” (the great ruler) and with “Adam” (humanity) – we get the value of “Mah” – 45. We know that 45 is the name of God because it’s written:


“45 (mah) is His Name and 45 (mah) is the name of His Son” (Prov 30:4).


יוד הא ואו הא = מ”ה = 45

מה שמו ומה שם בנו


45 is thus the value of the word: Adam, human

Of the 4 basic spellings for God’s Name, the ‘Mah’ spelling corresponds to Zeir Anpin/Tiferet.


אדם = 45


The Fact that God reveals this name to Moses when He’s commanding him to act as a mediator and to rescue His people, reflects the fact that the Name Havaya is manifested in creation within the sefirah of Tiferet (whose inner state is of Mercy [Rakhamim]); meaning that the Sacred Name reflects an aspect of God’s Mercy to humanity (ie. Adam). So when God creates Adam, the Bible uses only the Name Havaya. But when Adam sins and is Judged, the Torah uses the combination: “Havaya Elokim” (this is, Justice and Mercy combined) – because God doesn’t only Judge the man, but also gives him clothes to wear. This is seen in the double meaning of the sentence: “The ground is cursed for your sake” (Gn 3:17) – which can be interpreted both in a negative and in a positive way.


So we find that Pharaoh recognized the name Elokim (the attribute of Justice, whose power is rooted in the forces of nature itself – as the Gematria for Elokim is ‘haTeva’ – ‘the Nature’) (Gn 41:16, 38).


 אל-ה-ים = הטבע = 86


But when Moses came in the attribute of Havayah, Pharaoh said he never heard of it (Ex 5:2). Thus Pharaoh’s hardening of heart and judgements came by this name. To show him that there’s a higher unique God beyond the one he perceived as the “Elokim” or plural forces of nature which his wizards could control by magic – the power of the wicked snake, as stated: “I am against you, Pharaoh king of Egypt, great dragon that lies in the midst of his rivers” (Ez 29:3); and that’s why his judgment began with a Snake (cf. Zohar Vaera).

 – Xus

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