Does G-d obey the law of noncontradiction? Can G-d make something that is A and not A at the same time?My goal is not to get into a debate about whether G-d can make a rock that he can’t lift or how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. My goal is to explain a parsha in chumash.
Moshe Rabeinu at the end of last week’s parsha questioned why the shibud had grown more intense as a result of his coming to Pharoah to ask for Bnei Yisrael’s release. M’mah nafshacha: if it was time for Bnei Yisrael to be let out, then why is the oppression increasing? And if it’s not time for them to leave, why was he sent?The opening of our parsha is presumably a response, but if it is, it’s an ambiguous one. Moshe is told that G-d revealed himself to the Avos as K-l Shakai, but not with the shem Havaya. What does that mean and how does it answer the question?
The Netziv explains that the K-l Shakai defines the purpose of creation: to reveal G-d’s glory. Whenever G-d intervenes in the world to further our awareness of his greatness and his presence, that’s K-l Shakai.The shem Havaya simply means that G-d is immanent and in control of everything.
The problem is these two names seem to contradict each other.M'mah nafshach: If G-d interacts with the world as K-l Shakai, then things that happen that hide G-d’s presence cannot be attributed directly to Him. Those are roadblocks to K-l Shakai’s revelation, obstacles to seeing his glory.
But if G-d interacts with the world as Havaya and everything is governed by hashgacha, then hashgacha can’t have to do with G-d’s glory because it means he is behind things that disguise his glory and presence and even cause it to be diminished.
As the Netziv writes, “Im shemi ‘K-l Shakai,’ aino hakol b’hashgacha. V’im hakol b’hashgacha, al korchach aino choshesh l’kvodo v’ain zeh ‘Shakai.’”Does the law of noncontradiction hold true when we are talking about G-d?
What Hashem was telling Moshe is that even the Avos could not fathom how Hashem could be both “Shakai” and “Havaya” at the same time, but they knew not to ask. We cannot imagine the law of noncontradiction not holding true, but G-d is an exception. For Him, both “Shakai” and “Havaya” can both be true at the same time. Hashem can b’hashgacha be behind the oppression of the shibud increasing, and at the same time, that very same event which seems to contradict everything we would associate with G-d’s glory, is itself a manifestation of K-l Shakai, the revelation of his glory.
The Netziv writes that this parsha was not just an answer to Moshe, but is a “limud l’doros.” We can’t understand it all, and will never have all the answers.