Weekly Torah Portion – Va’eira

02
Jan

Finding Jesus in the Torah: A Weekly Reading from the Torah – Va’eira

 

From Beginning to End: Summary of this Week’s Torah Portion

The name of this week’s Torah portion is Va’eira. In it we read about the first seven plagues the LORD brought upon Egypt. The first plague mentioned was the turning the water into blood and ends with the fiery hail. Each one of these plagues was meant to discredit the different gods of Egypt and prove that the Lord alone is the Creator and Sovereign King of all. The scope, scale, and miraculous nature of these plagues are also meant to demonstrate how much God loves and cares for His people. The Lord loves us enough to act on a grand scale!
 

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What’s in a name?: Va’eira

Va’eira means “I revealed” as in the opening verse of this week’s Torah portion, “And the Lord spoke to Moses saying, ‘I am the LORD. I revealed/va’eira myself to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob by the name El Shaddai but by my name YHVH/Adonai/the LORD I was not known to them’” (Exodus 6:1-2).

It was significant that it was as this time that the Lord made Himself known by this particular name, YHVH. At this point, Israel has been in slavery for hundreds of years. God seems to have forgotten about the Children of Israel, and He seems to be hidden from them. This name is the name that represents God’s loving kindness, and of all the divine names, it represents His covenantal loyalty and His desire to have a more intimate active relationship with His people (Ex. 6:4). By God revealing Himself as YHVH, He was declaring that he cares and was about to act on behalf of the Children of Israel (Ex. 6:5).

Furthermore, the redemption from Egypt only occurred after 10 signs/plagues were performed. In this Torah portion, we read about seven of them. The first plague was the turning the water in to blood. In the book of John, Yeshua’s first sign is the turning the water into wine.

Why?

He is the “greater than Moses” who reveals Himself as the Messiah by changing the water not into blood but wine. It is a picture of the transforming power of the redemption He came to bring as the Passover Lamb (to learn more, read the blog). By His redemptive power, He can take some ordinary water and turn it into something extraordinary, wine. And God promises to do the same with all who place their trust in Him: “Therefore if anyone is in Messiah, he is a new creation. The old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Cor. 5:17). Like Moses revealed the YHVH/LORD through this first miracle, so by His first miracle Yeshua reveals His Glory, the Glory of YHVH.

Parashat Va’eira

  • Reading 1- Exodus 6:2-13
  • Reading 2- Exodus 6:14-28
  • Reading 3- Exodus 6:29-7:7
  • Reading 4- Exodus 7:7-8:6
  • Reading 5- Exodus 8:7-18
  • Reading 6- Exodus 8:19-9:16
  • Reading 7- Exodus 9:17-35
  • Haftarah/Prophetic Reading: Ezekiel 28:25-29:21
  • New Covenant Reading: John 2:1-12

 

Commentary by Rabbi Jason Sobel

Why was the first miracle that Moses performed turning the water of Egypt into blood? How is this sign connected with the first miracle that Yeshua performs in Yochannan (John) chapter two?

Our Sages offer many explanations as to why the first plague brought upon the Egyptians was dam (blood). The Nile River made Egypt a very fertile and prosperous nation. Since the Nile was the source of their sustenance, the Egyptians worshipped it as a deity. They personified the Nile as the god Hapi, to whom they offered sacrifices. The Egyptians also believed that Pharaoh, as god incarnate, was responsible for controlling and maintaining nature’s harmony. Therefore the Jewish Sages expound, Why were the ‘waters’ first smitten, and with blood? Because Pharaoh and the Egyptians worshipped the Nile, and God said: ‘I will smite their god first and then his people,’ just as the common saying goes: ‘I will smite the gods and their priests will tremble.’ For so it says: The Lord will punish the host of the high heaven above; and after that, and the kings of the earth upon the earth below (Isaiah 24:21). And the fish that are in the river shall die (8:18).

All ten signs (and the first in particular) were meant to discredit the false gods of Egypt and Pharaoh’s fallacious claim to govern creation. On the positive side, they were meant to convince Egypt that the God of Israel really existed, that He had a special covenantal relationship with the Children of Israel, and that the Lord is the Creator and King of all. Another reason for turning the Nile into blood was to punish the Egyptians who had shed the blood of defenseless Jewish children by throwing them into the river (Exodus 1:22). Thus, the blood of the slaughtered innocent babies cried out for justice from the depths of the Nile and bore witness against Egypt. Afflicting the Egyptians through this plague was particularly fitting, for it follows the principle of mida keneged mida (measure for measure). Based on both explanations, we learn that that the ten signs God brought upon Egypt where both punitive and redemptive. By punishing Egypt for their transgression, God gave them the opportunity to turn from their transgressions and be spared like Nineveh.

According to Deuteronomy 18:18, God would raise up a prophet like Moses from Israel to be their final redeemer. But what made Moses unique as a prophet? The Torah tells one key aspect was “all those miraculous signs and wonders the LORD sent him to do in Egypt (Deuteronomy 34:11).” It only makes sense that the first Mosaic-like sign that Yeshua performed involved the transformation of water into wine at the wedding in Cana.

Why did he specifically turn the water into wine and not blood? Wine is symbolic of the joy and redemption that Messiah King will bring about in Messianic age. As we read in the messianic promise contained in Genesis 49:9-12, The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs [Shiloh] and the obedience of the nations is his. He will tether his donkey to a vine, his colt to the choicest branch; he will wash his garments in wine, his robes in the blood of grapes. His eyes will be darker than wine, his teeth whiter than milk. It was for this reason that first miracle that Yeshua performed in John chapter 2 was the turning the water into wine. As the prophet like Moses, Yeshua publicly declared his messiahship by turning the water into wine and not blood because the thief comes to rob, kill, and destroy, but He came that we might have life and have it more abundantly (John 10:10).

The turning of the water into wine not only connects back to Moses but is a new creation miracle that demonstrates the promise that in Messiah, we become new creations. God wants to transform your life like He did the water so you can be changed from a caterpillar to a beautiful butterfly, whose struggles makes you better, not bitter.
 

Connecting Old & New: Finding Jesus in the Torah

The theme that connects this week’s Torah portion to the Haftorah is Egypt. Ezekiel prophesies that the Lord will once again judge Egypt due to Pharaoh’s pride since he made himself a god and tried to put himself in the Lord’s place as the protector of Israel against the Babylonians (Eze 29:3). Israel was foolish for looking to Egypt for support, for they were like a reed of the Nile that broke and caused even more harm to the people when leaned upon. By seeking military support from Egypt, they demonstrated their lack of faith in and were unfaithful to the Lord. God had made it clear to never return to Egypt for military support (Exodus 17:16).Thus Ezekiel prophetically declares that God would use Egypt to judge Babylon. But even in the midst of judgment there is some good news for Israel. Chapter 29 ends with a messianic promise, “In that day I will cause a horn to shoot up for the house of Israel” (29:21).

Our New Covenant reading reveals that Yeshua (Jesus) is the promised Messianic horn of the Lord. Yeshua demonstrates Himself to also be “the Prophet Like Moses” (Deut. 18:18) by performing Moses-like signs such as turning the water into wine and healing Jews and Gentiles both physically and spiritually. His miracles demonstrate that He is even greater than Moses, for Moses brought judgement by his miracles, but Yeshua brought life even raising the dead instead of bringing death to the firstborn. Messiah came that all who believe in Him might have life and have it more abundantly (John 10:10)!