• Rabbi Chaim Richman

Parashat Shemot - I Will Be What I Will Be

In Parashat Shemot, the first Torah portion in the book of Exodus, verse 3:14 conveys a deep mystery: “Hashem answered Moshe, ‘I shall be as I shall be.’  And He said, so shall you say to the Children of Israel, ‘I shall be has sent Me to you.’ "

The Hebrew for this enigmatic expression, ‘I shall be as I shall be,’  is Eheyei Asher Eheyei, which is clearly in future tense – the word eheyei literally means ‘I shall be.’ Yet, EVERY SINGLE non-Jewish translation of the Bible always translates this expression as ‘I Am Who I Am’ or ‘I Am That I Am,’ which is in present tense, and is completely wrong. It is a deliberate and calculated mistranslation of the original Hebrew words, done intentionally in order to ‘prove’ and validate a non-Jewish theology. But that’s another story.


What's really interesting is the expression itself: ‘I Shall Be What I Shall Be,’ in future tense. What does this mean? After all, Hashem never changes!


Hashem never changes, but our understanding of Him certainly does, as we get older, and hopefully wiser, as we experience Him in our lives more and more. Our conception of G-d changes and deepens as it reflects our own experience.


Rebbe Nachman explains that even a perfect tsaddik, a perfectly righteous individual, has to do teshuva, he has to repent, every day. But what is the repentance of a tsaddik, what does it consist of? He hasn’t sinned! At least not in the manner of ordinary people. He explains that the repentance of a tsaddik is on yesterday’s conception of G-d, on what he thought of Hashem yesterday – he repents of the fact that he thought he had any inkling of understanding yesterday of who Hashem is; on this he asks forgiveness for today. Because today is a new day, the tsaddik is a new person, and realizes that he still hasn’t even begun yet to understand Hashem, so he honestly exclaims to himself, 'Whoa! I can't believe that yesterday I actually thought that I understood who Hashem is.' Not because Hashem has changed since yesterday but because we should always be growing closer to Him and changing our understanding as we understand more and more….because then we truly acknowledge and admit that actually we know less and less! It has been taught that ‘the goal of all knowledge is to know that we do not know.’ That is very true regarding our conception of G-d.


I think this is the true meaning of these words that Hashem told Moshe, tell the children of Israel that ‘I shall Be’ is My name. Because He never changes and always Is, but our understanding of Him is always evolving as we hopefully learn and grow closer to Him…Hashem is saying to each of us, ‘I shall always be here for you, and whatever you think of Me, I shall always be that, until you realize that is not what I am at all, and you grow to know Me more, then, I shall be that for you, until you realize that you still do not know Me….My truth shall always Be.’ May we constantly be growing closer to Hashem and in our understanding of Hashem in our lives.

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