In this week’s parasha we read: God spoke to Moses and said to him: “I am the Lord. I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as El Shaddai, but (by) My name the Lord was I not known to them.” This passage has puzzled many commentators as it claims that this is the first time this name of God is used, when in fact it was used on two previous occasions (the first when God appeared to Abraham, and the second when Jacob was about to leave the Holy Land).
How could it be maintained that God had not appeared to the Patriarchs by this name? Rashi and Rambam (both Biblical commentators) say that this passage does not imply that God had not been revealed before to the Patriarchs by this name, but rather this particular aspect of God was being revealed for the first time, and that this particular attribute of God had not been evident until then.
Rashi says that the aspect of God revealed to us is that of a promise-keeper, while Rambam states that the attribute of God revealed to us is God working through open miracles rather than through ordinary events. What is important to note here is the recognition that we perceive God through God’s manifestations in the world, through God’s deeds. We have new opportunities to see different aspects and attributes of God each and every day. We just have to permit ourselves to see them.