Va’eira

  1. Why does Hashem not just rescue the people? Why do they continue under slavery? The point of the Exodus is not the rescue of the Jewish people, but the power of G-d. Joseph made Pharaoh like a G-d by giving him total ownership. The new Pharoah forgot Joseph and where his power came from. He got the attitude of a god. And the Egyptian people lost both goodness (creative productivity) and holiness (timeless spiritual energy). They were people G-d could punish with plague as they weren’t full people. And so they are set up to make the name of Hashem apparent in the world and to the Jewish people.
  2. We see again another forbidden relationship being critical. Moshe’s parents were aunt and nephew, which is prohibited under Torah law. This follows the relationship of Tamar and Yehuda (yielding Perez, ancestor of King David) and Lot and his daughters (eventually yielding Ruth) and Avraham and Sarah who may have been siblings. These decisions always seem to be made by women and they represent the opportunity for tremendous good even from situations that are not Kadosh. They are the exceptions – but they can occur.
  3. Moshe complains that he can’t speak well and G-d responds, “you are Elohim to Pharoah”. This is a name of G-d. But we see it later being used for Judges. Yehuda Halevi says it is a name representing the binding of physical forces. In other words, Moshe will be seen by Pharoah as a higher power (be it a judge or G-d). How does this answer the complaint? Perhaps the Egyptians were comfortable with the more powerful gods being harder to communicate with and needing a prophet. Of course, Moshe does turn into a god for Pharoah. In their last conversation. Pharaoh doesn’t talk to him or say to him. He VeYikras to him. He calls out as a man calls out to G-d.
  4. Pharoah’s heart is heavy. But the word heavy is Kaveid. It also means honorable. Pharoah’s resistance is one of protecting his own honor.
  5. There is a progression of plagues. The Nile is seen as divine, but the plagues climb the chain of life. First is the water, which is not life threatening because there is other water. Then the animate frogs which come from the water and annoy people in their homes. And then the lice which are not connected to the water and directly attack man and beast. But the lice do not threaten lives.
  6. We can see Hillel’s famous Dtazch Adash V’Achav (the world’s most useless mnemonic) developing. Yeshivat Har Etzion pointed out that this is a pattern of threes. The first plague in each set comes with an option, the second with warning, and the final one out of the blue. And then there is a progression in power from something that seems to curse everybody to something that excludes the Jews (and thus shows intent) to something that has never been seen before and thus shows Hashem’s might. Another VBM dvar pointed out that Lamentations follows a similar progression – Jeremiah’s rise from the depths comes when he realizes his is not a random suffering. Rather, he is the target of arrows, indicating the presence of Hashem.
  7. The progression of plagues is dangerous wild animals (or some say flies) and a disease that attacks livestock. We are in the horizontal plane. Things are no longer come from the river, but they are coming from ‘our world’. They are beginning to more than annoy humans by threatening their lives and then hitting their pocketbooks. We then have boils, which Moshe casts skyward. It comes from above and directly hurts people – and badly. We then end with hail, which threatens to kill large amounts of livestock and eliminates many but not all crops – threatening the people with starvation in the medium term. Specifically, the wheat and spelt survive – letting the Egyptians know there is a possibility of life. The hail comes from above without anything being cast skyward. Hashem is demonstrating his mastery of all aspects of the Egyptian world – from the river to the desert to the skies.

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