Thursday, January 10, 2008


Since the Shabbat of "Va-Era"-Exodus 6:2-9:35, (Saturday, January 5, 2008), I have been struggling to understand the meaning of one of God's appellations, namely-"SHADDAI." Moses is informed by God that :
" I appeared to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as El Shaddai..." Loosely translated, the term means "Almighty." It is commonly found in the prayer book, on the Mezuzah-the small receptacle containing selections on parchment from the Torah that are affixed to the doorposts of Jewish homes- and its first letter, "shin," is duplicated on our hands when we tie the straps of the teffilin, the phylacteries to our arms for daily morning prayer.
Some suggest that the origin of this divine name is related to the Akkadian "sadu," a mountain, which implies might and permanence . Others connect the name to the Hebrew for breasts, "shadayim," reflecting the nurturing part of God. Most scholars maintain that the authentic meaning remains elusive.
The Midrash, Bereishit Rabbah, 46:3, offers an interpretation that I consider to be unusually imaginative and evocative. The name of "Shaddai" is employed for the first time in the Bible immediately prior to the commandment of circumcision. The Torah tells us:"...the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him:I am El Shaddai..."(Genesis 17,1) The Midrash comments:"The Holy One Blessed be He said to Abraham : I am SHADDAI- DAI-CHA-it is enough-Hebrew, "DAI"- that I and you are in the world, and if you refuse to accept the mitzvah of circumcision, "DAI", it is enough , for my world to have existed until now...(Abraham then points out that without being circumcised he is more vulnerable to his enemies)...the Holy One Blessed Be He said further:"DAICHA"-it is enough for you that I am your God and Protector and the God of the world and its Protector..."
Clearly a great deal rides on the mitzvah of "Milah"-circumcision. Yet, there is a strong sense of God articulating a deep sense of gratefulness for His relationship with Abraham, recognizing Abraham's loyalty and love as suficient reason for which to acknowledge a response of "DAYENU"- it is enough for me and I am grateful.
Typically, we tend to understand God as a demanding God who insists on the observance of many mitzvot and a very high standard of moral and pious living. While this is an accurate reading of the sacred texts, nonetheless I would like to consider something a little different about God emerging from the above mentioned Midrash. One can interpret a component of this text to point to a God who has the capacity to be grateful and demonstrate this aspect of His identity by way of one of his identifications , SHADDAI, a God who can express an experience of gratefulness for the special relationship of love shared with Abraham. Interestingly, what elicits gratefulness from God is in fact the love of a human friend and companion.Gratefulness and love are intertwined as threads in the cloth of intimate relationship that envelops God and man.
Shabbat Shalom.

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