“I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob…” (Exodus 6:3).
This seems to be a very straightforward and unambiguous statement by God to Moses. There would seem to be no need for any clarification. Yet Rashi (R’ Shlomon ben Yitzchak, 11th century France) does comment here.
His two words seem utterly mystifying: “El ha’avot” (to the patriarchs). Do we really need Rashi to inform us in the 6th chapter of Exodus that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are the patriarchs? We already know this from the book of Genesis. God already spoke to Moses in Exodus 3:6 describing them as his patriarchs. What is Rashi really telling us here?
The Chasam Sofer and others beautifully explain that Rashi is not explaining who God appeared to – but WHY he appeared to them.The word “avot” normally means fathers or patriarchs. But this Hebrew word also has the connotation of ‘desire or want’ (Exodus 10:27).Why did Hashem appear to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? Because they were AVOT – they sought God, they wanted Him in their lives.
It is interesting that the Hebrew word for soul (nefesh) also means desire (Genesis 23:8). The deepest desire of our souls is to connect with Hashem. The more we get in touch with this – the more it will be actualized.