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  • Writer's pictureJoseph Greenberg

Hebrew Names of God #6: ADONAI Rophe

ADONAI-rophe is the second of the compound names of God we will look at in this series. It comes from one of Israel’s earliest experiences in the wilderness (Exodus 15:22-26). Israel has just escaped from Egypt, passed through the Reed Sea, seen the Egyptians defeated, and sang Shirat HaYam (Song of the Sea) and Miraim’s song. The people have begun their long trek to the Promised Land. On their way to Sinai four crisis occur, the first of which is the lack of drinking water at Marah. This is where we encounter Hashem as ADONAI-rophecha, ADONAI your healer.

B’nei Yisrael has been walking in the desert for three days, and found no water. This three days recalls Moses’ demand from Pharoah to let B’nei Yisrael go three days into the wilderness to worship him, but instead of worshipping HaShem, they complained. When they arrive at Marah they finally find water, but to their dismay the water is not drinkable; it is bitter. The people grumble against Moses. He cries out to ADONAI, who shows him a tree, or piece of wood. Moses tosses the piece of wood into the water and suddenly the water becomes sweet. ADONAI then promises Israel that he will not bring the diseases of Egypt upon them, because “I am ADONAI- rophecha” I am ADONAI your healer.

The word rophe appears well over 60 times in the Tanakh. It means to heal, mend, repair, restore, cure physically, spiritually, mentally and emotionally. In the episode where he reveals himself as healer, ADONAI not only heals the water, but he saves the lives of B’nei Yisrael, establishes some ground rules for the future, and provides promises of his protection and healing, all of which is summed up in his name.

Notice that the text simply says a piece of wood. It does not mention any specific kind of tree or wood. The wood itself holds no healing or purifying powers; it is simply a log. It is only through the word and power of ADONAI that the water is changed from bitter to sweet. The same is true for us. It doesn’t matter if our sickness or bitterness is of the flesh, mind or spirit, or whether healing comes through doctors, medication, rest, or his direct miraculous intervention, his healing hand is behind it all. The instruments used in healing, like the piece of wood, are irrelevant; it is the word and power of ADONAI that still heals today. It’s in his name, ADONAI-rophe.

Bitterness to Sweetness, Healings & Miracles

ADONAI can change all bitterness into sweetness. There are conditions, the same ones that were spoken to Israel the day the bitter water was made sweet, “you must listen to the voice of ADONAI your God, do what is right in His eyes, pay attention to His mitzvot, and keep all His decrees.” The Mekhilta, an early Jewish Midrash, explains that the etz, tree/wood in this episode is a symbol of the Torah as described in Proverbs 3:18 “a tree of life to those who embrace her.” ADONAI empowers his word, which in turn works his healing and miracles. The midrash also explains that the living, lifesaving water that refreshed B’nei Yisrael symbolizes the Torah. To be deprived of the Torah’s substance for three-days is life-threatening.

ADONAI-rophe will keep all of the diseases of Egypt away from us and heal all of our bitterness; it is part of his character, part of who he is. But we need to do our part. Listen to his voice and don’t neglect the Tree of life— the Torah, His word—because being deprived of the Torah’s substance is life-threatening. •

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