A Tidbit of Torah – Parshat B’Shalach 5784

…This is my God and I will enshrine Him;  New Jewish Publication Society Translation

…This is my God and I will glorify Him;      Old Jewish Publication Society Translation

Sh’mot / Exodus 15:2

The difference between the two translations of this phrase from the Song at the Sea exists within the writings of our medieval biblical commentators, specifically Rashi and ibn Ezra in how they understand this passage, a debate rooted in the Talmudic discussion regarding how to understand the unusual verb used here in the Hebrew.

The Talmud in the tractate Shabbat (133b) records the view of the majority of sages that one glorifies God through the performance of ritual mitzvot.

As it was taught in a baraita with regard to the verse: “This is my God and I will glorify Him [anveihu], the Lord of my father and I will raise Him up.” The Sages interpreted anveihu homiletically as linguistically related to noi, beauty, and interpreted the verse: Beautify yourself before Him in mitzvot. Even if one fulfills the mitzva by performing it simply, it is nonetheless proper to perform the mitzva as beautifully as possible. Make before Him a beautiful sukka, a beautiful lulav, a beautiful shofar, beautiful ritual fringes, beautiful parchment for a Torah scroll, and write in it His name in beautiful ink, with a beautiful quill by an expert scribe, and wrap the scroll in beautiful silk fabric.1

In what can be read as a concurrent view to that of the sages, the Talmud records:

Abba Shaul2 says: Ve’anveihu should be interpreted as if it were written in two words: Ani vaHu, me and Him [God]. Be similar, as it were, to Him, the Almighty: Just as He is compassionate and merciful, so too should you be compassionate and merciful. 1

For Abba Shaul, glorifying God is acting as a reflection of divinity in the world; of making God manifest in the world through my concern for others in God’s creation. In this way we also enshrine God in the world and not just in the realm of ritual.

Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotsk and Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch echo each other as they take the idea of enshrining God to its ultimate expression wherein I will establish a living space for the Holy One within me, making myself a worthy dwelling place for God through my goodly acts.

Shabbat Shalom –

Rabbi David M. Eligberg