Thursday, January 6, 2005

Shemot/Exodus: Parshat Va'eira

I've decided to post my parsha sheets. None of the ideas here are original, I try to pull them from different sources and find practical lessons. I call this practical Judaism. Feel free to respond and post new ideas. Good Shabbos to all.

Since this parsha deals with the plagues, there is a wonderful book called: Let My Nation Go, by Yosef Deutsch, published by Artscroll. This is a novel written based off all the sources of the exodus from Egypt. It’s a great book, very readable, interesting and informational. Deutsch wrote two other books, Let My Nation Serve Me, picks up after the exodus and talks about the Jewish People going to Mt. Sinai to receive the Torah. The other is: Let My Nation Live, which is the Purim story. I recommend all of these.

All right, back to the parsha. There’s certainly what to learn here. This parsha includes the first seven plagues that G-d visited on Egypt.

We notice that Aaron, Moses’s brother was the one who brought certain plagues down on the Egyptians and not Moses. Aaron changed the Nile waters into blood, and brought the frogs from the river as well. Why didn’t Moshe do these himself? Because of the concept of Hakarat Hatov, recognizing the good that is done for you. According to Rashi, Moshe didn’t smite the river himself “because the river protected Moshe when he was cast into it” (7:19).

The river is an inanimate object, who cares? The point that can be learned here is that we need to sensitize ourselves to recognizing the good. If Moshe has Hakarat Hatov for an inanimate object, how much more so do we need to recognize the good done for us by people and by G-d. By recognizing the good and being grateful, it also trains us to be looking for good in our lives and gives us a more positive outlook in general.

We also notice that the magicians are able to replicate some of the miracles and plagues that Moses and Aaron do (such as making the rod into a snake, water into blood etc.). G-d was giving Pharoh a chance to look past coincidence in order to recognize Him. I was thinking that we can always attribute good things (bad too) to nature or coincidence. But in actuality we also need to look past the obvious and look for G-d’s involvement in our everyday lives.

There is a pattern to Pharoh’s madness, and his refusals to let the Jews leave. According to the Ohr HaChaim, the determining factor in his responses was whether he thought that his life was in danger. If he felt his life was in danger, he would offer to submit to G-d and other times he would not. [Just a comment here, many times we wait until we have our backs against a wall before we ask for help --from G-d or people. Why do we wait?]

1 - Blood - The plague was not life threatening because the Egyptians could buy water from the Jews or find their own water by digging new wells.

2 - Frogs - In addition to the unbearable annoyance of the around the clock croaking, the frogs actually crept into the innards of the Egyptians and threatened their lives.

3 - Lice - Although Pharoh’s magicians finally conceded that the plague could only have been brought by G-d, Pharoh wouldn’t budge, because the plague was uncomfortable but not dangerous.

4 - Wild Beasts - Anyone would have feared for his life when surrounded by beasts of the wild. Pharoh for the first time promised to capitulate to all of Moses’ demands.

5 - Epidemic - Only animals died, not people.

6 - Boils - Again, the plague caused extreme discomfort, but killed no one. Furthermore, as implied by 9:11, which does not mention Pharoh, it may be that it afflicted only his people but not him.

7 - Hail - The loud thunder and flames from heaven terrified everyone, making them fear they would suffer the same total destruction as Sodom had in Abraham’s time.

8 - Locusts - Pharoh said explicitly - remove them from me (10:17).

9 - Darkness - Pharoh did not ask Moses to pray on his behalf. During the first three days of the plague, the Egyptians could have used lanterns; thereafter, they could not move. As soon as the plague ended, he offered to let the people go, but attached an unacceptable condition.

10 - Plague of the Firstborn - Pharoh’s resistance broke down completely, for he was also a firstborn.

[The Artscroll Stone Edition of the Torah, p. 329]