Sh’mot – The Formation of a Human-Divine Partnership

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Rabbi Peter Knobel, in his d’var Torah Who is This God? “Eyheh-Asher-Ehyeh” speaks of the conversation between G-d and Moses at the burning bush. Moses agrees to lead the Israelites from bondage but appears a bit unsure that they will follow based on his word. So in Exodus 3:13-14 he asks G-d

When I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?

God presents him with the wonderfully enigmatic name


What has God told Moses and us about Himself or Herself? Volumes have been written in response to this question.

Rabbi Knobel imagines G-d replying with something like the following, “I am whatever you want Me to be. I am whatever you need Me to be. You cannot know My Essence but we will have a relationship, and you will tell stories about your encounters with Me. None of them will be totally accurate because I am not a concept. I am a living complex reality that can be experienced, but not defined or limited by language. That is Who I Am and Who I Will Be.”

I stopped the sketchnote with this imagined reply because I was floored by how well this describes for me the very nature of G-d.

Rabbi Knobel takes it one step further and asks “Why, when we seem to need God, does God often seem absent?” He supplies a possible answer… “I suggest it is we who are absent, not yet ready to take up the mission and make the world better. God is always present and calling, but only our action can make God’s will, hopes, and dreams a reality. God seems to be able to act only when divine empathy and human empathy work in concert. The divine-human partnership makes tikkun olam, “repairing the world,” possible. God’s seeming indifference is the result of human indifference to suffering and injustice. God’s responsiveness depends on human responsiveness.”