Considering “I am Who I am” (Ex. 3:14)

It seems that the translation “I am that I am” (ehyeh asher ehyeh; Exodus 3:14) does not do justice to the Hebrew original. The imperfect “ehyeh,” used here, means continuous being. … The Hebrew phrase says: “I am continually what I am continually.” It expresses the “jutting out” of the divine being into time or – to use some German terminology – the phrase does not speak of sein (Being) but of dasein (Presence). The correct meaning of the text, therefore, is: I am forever present (for man). The rabbis in the Talmud give it the right interpretation when they remark: “What is the meaning of ehyeh asher ehyeh? The Holy One said to Moses: Go and tell Israel that as I have been with them in this subjugation, so shall I be with them in their future subjugations by other kingdoms…” Brachot 9b. “I am that I am” is metaphysics, and so it was understood, for instance, by Thomas Aquinas…. The “I am continually present” or “I am forever with them” of the rabbis is religion.

Eliezer Berkovits, God, Man and History, 4th ed., ed. David Hazony (Jerusalem: Shalem Press, 2004), 171, n. 2.

Leave a Reply