In the beginning of Parsha VaEra (Shmot 6:1-3), Elokim, God appears to Moshe and says: “I am HaShem, the Lord. I revealed Myself to Avraham, to Yitzchak and to Yaakov as E-l (Almighty) Shaddai, but by My Name the Lord (HaShem) I did not make myself known to them.”
According to Rashi, God made promises to the forefathers, but they were not yet fulfilled as the time for their fulfilment had not yet arrived.
Ramban quotes Ibn Ezra who brings the opinion of Shmuel HaNagid that the word Shadai is from the root Shodded (robber or pirate) meaning that God is the victor and prevailer over the hosts in heaven.
Ramban explains that Shadai was used in reference to the hidden miracles that delivered our forefathers from death, kept them alive in the famine and redeemed them in the wars. The blessings and the curses are all miracles as it is not in nature that the rains should come in their due season when we worship God, nor are the skies to be like iron if we plant our fields in the seventh (Shmita) year and similarly all promises in the Torah. They are miracles where natural law is overpowered, except that no change in the natural world is noticeable (as opposed to the miracles done through Moshe which openly changed nature and were used with God’s name HaShem, the Tetragrammaton).
We see the covenant with our forefathers in verse 4:
“I established My covenant with them, to give them the land of C’naan, the land of their sojourning where they lived as strangers.”
The first promise was made to Avraham in Breisheet Chapter 17:1-2:
When Avram was ninety-nine years old, HaShem, the Lord appeared to Avram and said to him “I am E-l Shaddai walk with Me and be tamim (perfect). And I will make My brit (covenant) between Me and you, all will multiply you exceedingly.”
In sentences Breisheet 17:4-7, Elokim, God, promises Avram that the covenant will be that he will become the father of many nations. His name will be changed to Avraham. The covenant will be with Avraham and his descendants forever.
The covenant is described in Breisheet 17:8:
I will give to you, and to your descendents after you, the land of your temporary residence, all the land of C’naan as an eternal possession, and I will be their Elokim, God.
God then commands Avraham (and his future descendents) to perform the mitzvah of Brit Milah (circumcision).
The Lord, HaShem then reaffirms his promise to Avraham when he speaks to Yitzchak in Breisheet 26:2-3:
“The Lord, HaShem appeared to him (Yitzchak) and said: ‘Do not go down to Egypt. Settle in the land that I will make known to you. Stay temporarily in this land and I will be with you and bless you, for to you and your descendants I will give all these lands. I will thus keep the oath that I swore to Avraham, your father…’”
Before Yitzchak sends Yaakov away to Padan Aram to look for a wife, he blesses Yaakov using the name E-l Shaddai (Breishhet 28:3-4) “And E-l Shaddai will bless you and make you fruitful and multiply you that you may be a multitude of people; and give you the blessing of Avraham, to you, to your seed with you, that you may inherit the land in which you are a sojourner, and which God gave to Avraham.”
God’s official promise to Yaakov (Breisheet 35:11-12) comes after he returns to the land of C’naan with his family and after God changes his name to Yisrael:
God, Elokim said to him: “I am E-l Shaddai. Be fruitful and increase, a nation and a community of nations will come from you, and kings will come from your loins. The land that I gave to Avraham and Yitzchak, I will give to you; and to your offspring after you I will give the land.”
Through hidden miracles, Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov lived in the land, yet it was not yet theirs. The promise was that their future descendents would inherit the land after the Egyptian slavery and that is why Avraham bought Mearat HaMachpela in Hevron, Yitzchak had trouble from his neighbors when he tried to dig wells and Yaakov bought a plot of land in Shchem.
God recounts all of this history to show Moshe that he is the next link in the chain and the goal is to get B’nei Yisrael back to the land of C’naan (Israel), the land that was promised to them. This time, B’nei Yisrael will officially inherit the land, fulfilling the promises that God made to our forefathers.
The State of Israel today is nothing short of a miracle. On a daily basis, we are threatened from all sides yet we prevail. We see God’s power as E-l Shaddai, His Hashgacha, Divine protection constantly watching over us.
The Shin on the mezuzah on our doorposts reminds us that the Almighty, Shaddai watches over our homes as Shaddai represents the acronym of Shomer D’latot Yisrael, Guardian of Israel’s doors. May He continue to watch over and protect our private homes as well as the State of Israel.