ויאמר אלקים אל משה אקיה אשר אקיה ג:יד Hashem revealed Himself to Moshe Rabbeinu at the burning bush. He instructed Moshe to return to Mitzrayim because the time had come for the Jewish people to leave Mitzrayim. Moshe asked Hashem, “How should I answer Klal Yisrael when they ask me what is your name?” Hashem responds by saying, “Ekyeh Asher Ekyeh, I shall be as I shall be”. The mefarshim are bothered as to the meaning of the question as well as the meaning of Hashem”s response. The Ramban brings various interpretations. The Ramban himself explains that Klal Yisrael believed in Hashem and were not asking about the very existence of Hashem, rather they were inquiring as to which middah (attribute) Hashem will employ to take them out of Mitzrayim. Will Hashem act primarily with middas harachamim (mercy) or middas ha’din (strict justice)? Will the redemption come about through hidden miracles (like Hashem related to the Avos) or through open miracles? Hashem answers that He will act with great mercy and open miracles.
Ekyeh is in essence the same shem (name of Hahem) as yud-kay-vav-kay. They both refer to hanahagas Hashem (a manner in which Hashem acts) which is merciful and with open miracles. The difference is that Ekyeh means there will be Havayah (the name of Hashem that connotes open revelation) in the future. The Gemara in Brachos 9b says that Hashem said I will be with Klal Yisrael in this galus (exile) and I will be with them in future galus, and, ultimately, I will redeem them.
Hashem’s message was that He is with Klal Yisrael not only in the redemption, but also in the galus itself. The relationship of galus (exile) and geulah (redemption) is not simply that redemption is what will extract us from galus, rather that galus is a necessary part of the redemption process whereby Hashem is guiding the Jewish people every step of the way with complete hashgacha pratis (Divine supervision). One of the functions of galus is to purify and perfect the Jewish people through their search of Hashem, and loyalty towards Him even when His presence is not so obvious. Ekyeh means there is a light at the end of the dark tunnel. Yet it is also a promise that Hashem will be with us in that dark tunnel. We should not think that Hashem has abandoned us until the geulah arrives. Hashem is with us in the darkness. Ekyeh teaches us to appreciate the process, because the process also has kirvas Elokim (closeness to Hashem). The process itself is also important. We must feel and express appreciation to Hashem not only for the geulah but also for the galus. There is a hint to this in the gematria (numerical value) of the word Ekyeh. The Sefas Emes points out that the gematria of Ekyeh is 21 which is the same numerical value as hodaah (to express appreciation).
The process of galus and geulah is not only our collective, national roadmap, but it is a paradigm that can and should be integrated into each individual’s life. We all have goals; whether it be in learning, davening, or raising a family based on Torah values. It is not only the accomplishments that we should embrace with simchah, but the very endeavor and process to get to reaching these goals should be done with great simcha and patience borne of the realization that Hashem is with us every step of the way. (From the notes of Reb Chaim Rosen)