After failing to get Pharaoh’s attention, Moses communes with God, who informs him not to abort the liberation mission, as he is still the instrument of Jewish salvation. To illustrate the point he tells Moses “I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as EIL SHADDAI, but I did not make myself known to them using my name ADONAY.”
To say that the commentators are puzzled by this declaration is an understatement. What exactly was God telling Moses, and why? Was he saying that Moses was greater than Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? Were the Patriarchs deficient in some way, or should we consider them inferior to Moses? In any event, what difference does it make which name they knew God by, or what name Moses knows Him by?
Clearly there is a much deeper message here. Rabbi Dunner works through the text in the Torah together with the commentaries to gain an insight into God’s enigmatic statement, and looks at two commentaries in particular that turn this entire declaration on its head.