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Parshas Va'era/Bo Part I

Rabbi Pesach Siegel

Parshat Vaera

Oct 21, 2009

The Torah states in Parshas Bo, "Ul'maan tisaper bi'aznei bincha u'ben bincha es ashe his'alalti biMitzrayim" -  In order for you to relate over to your son and grandson that which I "played" with Mitzrayim. (1)


Rather than bringing Makas Bechoros upon the Egyptians at the outset, thus freeing the Jewish people immediately, nine plagues preceded it. Hashem is playing with Pharaoh. This is a cardinal part of the redemption. (2)

Let us view the Makos through the eyes of the meforshim to help gain an insight into their character.

Dam

The Chizkuni raises  number of issues. The Nile river turned to blood, resulting in the death of the fish. A stench arose from the dead fish and they were unable to drink from the river. (3) There seems to be an undue emphasis on the effects of the dead fish. The water turning to blood is portrayed as secondary in importance. 
Furthermore, from whence did the Egyptian Chartumim obtain water to work their "Kishuf" upon? Finally, There is no mention of Pharaoh beseeching Moshe to pray to Hashem to end the plague.

The Chizkuni concludes that the miracle of the Nile turning to blood was only momentary. It changed long enough to kill the fish and immediately reverted to its former form.

This lent itself to allow the Egyptians to believe that it was a freak occurrence, a coincidence.

Tzfardaya

Pharaoh begged Moshe to pray to Hashem to remove this pestilence. When? Tomorrow. (4) He suspected that this too was a natural occurrence and would go away "by itself". He was willing to undergo an additional day of torture to test whether it was brought by Moshe or not. When Moshe prayed, he raised his voice in supplication. (5) Why? He wanted his voice to carry over the sound of the croaking of the frogs. Otherwise the Chartumim would suspect him of using Kishuf to remove the plague, rather than praying to Hashem. (6)

Kinim

The Chartumim exclaimed, "It is the finger of Elokim". (7) Yet Pharaoh hardened his heart, nonetheless. Kinim was the first plague they were unable to duplicate. They believed that had it been Moshe Rabeinu who had turned the earth to dust, they would have been able to follow suit. Their failure in doing so was evidence of it being a natural occurrence. The name "Elokim" has the same numerical value of "HaTeva" (the forces of nature). While they denied Hashem's ongoing involvement in the affairs of the world, they did believe in a higher power that set firm the laws of nature. (8)

Arov

Arov was the first of the Makos to be done without Moshe's staff. Pharaoh had room to believe that it had no connection with Moshe. Hashem had Moshe tell Pharaoh that a sharp line would be drawn between the Egyptians and the Jewish people. This would be the sign that it was divinely ordained, even in the absence of Moshe's staff. The attacking animals were removed following Moshe's prayer. Thus furnishing the evidence that it was not happenstance. (9)

Dever 

Here as well, Moshe's staff was not in use. In addition, Moshe wasn't required to pray for the plague to end. It is for this reason that we find Pharaoh personally investigating whether any Jewish owned animals died during the plague. (9)

Shechin

In front of the eyes of Pharaoh, Moshe and Aharon fill their hands with ashes, miraculously, all the ashes fit into Moshe's right hand. He raises his hand and the ashes spread over the entire land of Mitzrayim. The Chartumim are incapacitated. Pharaoh has no room to maneuver now. He saw it with his own eyes. This is the first time that Hashem hardened Pharaoh's heart.

Barad

The plague consisted of three things; hail, thunder, and rain. Moshe assured Pharaoh that he would pray for the hail and the thunder to cease, making no mention of the rain. When all three stopped, including the rain, Pharaoh concluded that had it been due to Moshe's prayer, then, the rain would have continued to fall. (10)

Arbeh - Choshech

In both of these Makos, the Mitzri’im were robbed of their sense of sight. Imagine their surprise, when having their sight restored their eyes beheld the Bnei Yisroel, still contained within the boundaries of Mitzrayim. Why didn't they avail themselves of the opportunity to escape? It must be because the impure powers of the Egyptians had so strong of a hold on them that they were unable to leave without their consent. (11)

A pattern emerges. Hashem is plaguing the Egyptians with tailor made Makos engineered to mislead them into thinking they are either accidental or Kishuf. Simultaneously they are being shown clear signs that this is not so, it is clearly the hand of Hashem.

Hashem is "playing" with them. The question is, “Why”?

Footnotes:

(1) Parshas Bo, perek 10, posuk 2
(2) Rav Yosef Karo al haTorah
(3) Parshas Va’erah, perek 7, posuk 20
(4) Parshas Va’erah, perek 8, posuk 6
(5) Parshas Va’erah, perek 8, posuk 8
(6) Moshav Z’keinim al haTorah
(7) Parshas Va’erah, perek 8, posuk 15
(8) Chizkuni
(9) Moshav Z’keinim
(10) Chizkuni
(11) Rav Yonason Eybeshutz

 

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