Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg

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Vol. 24   No. 14

This issue is sponsored with wishes for
a Refu'ah Sh'leimah for
Yechiel Yosef ben Crassiah n"y
and Aharon Meshullam Leib ben Devorah Malka

Parshas Vo'eiro

The Miracles of Egypt

There are two major historical events which we are obligated to remember daily - (1) the exodus from Egypt. This event, together with a chain of miracles which preceded it and which accompanied it, in demonstrating G-d's Omnipotence and inimitable powers, serves as the basis of Emunah and of Yir'as Shomayim; and (2) the giving of the Torah at Har Sinai, in essence the event that transformed us into a nation - the nation of G-d.

Apart from the awesomeness of the miracles themselves, in no small measure caused by the rapid succession in which they struck the Egyptian people, the unique character of those miracles is worth a glance. Indeed, it is that very character which set them apart from any form of witchcraft or magic, leaving them with the Divine imprint.

To begin with, witchcraft has its limitations. When it came to the plague of lice, the Egyptian magicians were unable to produce them in any form because, explains Rashi, demons (one of the forms of witchcraft employed by the Egyptians) have no jurisdiction over creatures smaller than the size of barley. And black-magic, adds the Da'as Zekeinim M.T., cannot work unless the magician is actually standing on the ground - whereas here, this was impossible, because the entire ground of Egypt was covered with lice. In contrast, Hashem's plagues struck when and where He predicted, without the slightest hindrance, and devoid of any limitations.

The Gemara in Pesachim tells how not everyone was subject to the spells of witchcraft or to the attacks of demons. Depending partially on what one eats, and how one eats, some people are not susceptible to the power of magic. No such luck for the Egyptians. The plagues struck everywhere, and anyone designated by Hashem. No Egyptian was safe - indeed, at the plague of Makos Bechoros not a single first-born was spared, with the sole exception of Par'oh, whom Hashem kept alive because He chose to. Yet not a single Jew was targeted. Not one Jewish first-born died, not one Jew was struck by hail, and not one solitary louse touched a Jewish body. And why on earth should a ferocious tiger bypass Jews and their animals, and then devour the first Egyptian in sight? It is doubtful as to whether witchcraft in any form, could effectively paralyze an entire nation throughout the length and breadth of the land. It is certainly inconceivable for it to strike down one nation, whilst totally sparing a nation within that nation - G-d did!

And then there is the time factor. Chazal have informed us that witchcraft has its times. There are apparently times when witchcraft works, and times when it does not - or at least the termination of the spell does not - which is why Par'oh accepted Moshe's challenge to remove the Plague of Frogs tomorrow. "Let Hashem remove them tomorrow," he said. But why not today?

"No," thought Par'oh, "Moshe is a crafty man, and because the plagues are painful and humiliating, he expects me to say today - and today is the day that the plague is due to terminate anyway. So I'll say tomorrow! The plagues will disappear today and Moshe will be proved to be a liar" (Ramban). But the plagues struck when Hashem predicted, and they terminated when Hashem ordained.

The depth of the miracles too, was awe-inspiring; when one considers that the hail consisted of the impossible phenomenon of a ball of fire surrounded by ice (Sh'mos 9:24 - see Rashi), and that the four handfuls of soot (two handfuls of Moshe plus the two of Aharon - all held in one of Moshe's palms) rose into the air when he threw it aloft, and sufficed to cover the whole of Egypt when it descended.

But perhaps the most awe-inspiring aspect of all was the utter helplessness of the Egyptians, as plague after plague struck them, slowly but surely devastating their land, as well as their sanity and self-esteem, whilst they looked helplessly on, unable to offer the slightest resistance or even the smallest semblance of defense. The only recourse they had to salvation from this terrible onslaught was the word "Yes" which, as we know, was not forthcoming.

It must have been uncanny, seeing the steady disintegration of the mighty Egyptian nation, whilst the Egyptians themselves could do nothing, absolutely nothing, to even ease the impact of one single plague - to such an extent did Hashem hold them in check that they made not the slightest move to do what any other enemy would have done - to retaliate, if not against Hashem, then at least against the Jews, on whose behalf Hashem was fighting - evidently, G-d was controlling not only their bodies, but also their minds, with the result that, incredible as it may seem, the Jews found favour in the Egyptians' eyes. The extent of the miracles and their depth clearly illustrated, once and for all, that G-d is unique and that He has no equal on earth or in Heaven!

* * *

The Ten Plagues - Battle Strategy

The Medrash Tanchumah writes that the order in which the Makos struck Egypt was by no means haphazard, but strictly followed the pattern that successful invading armies would strike at their enemies. This is the way it would be done:

1. First of all, a besieging army would stop up the defenders' water supply .... so Hashem turned their water into blood.

2. If the defending army refused to surrender, they would make a terrible noise to frighten them .... so Hashem sent the frogs (whose incessant croaking scared them more than the presence of the frogs themselves).

3. If they still refused to surrender, then the archers would let loose a volley of arrows .... so Hashem sent the plague of lice (which pierced their flesh).

4. Should the defenders persist in defending their country, then they would send in wild mercenaries, who were thirsting for blood .... so Hashem sent the wild animals.

5. Next, they would kill their animals and

6. Hurl boiling tar at them, .... so Hashem smote the Egyptians with wild animals, and then with pestilence.

7. If the enemy still refused to capitulate, then they would catapult rocks into the city ... so Hashem sent the plague of hail-stones.

8. Then came the final assault, when all the army would attack .... so Hashem dispatched His army - the locusts.

9-10. Finally, upon capturing the city, they would imprison the enemy, and then kill all their leaders .... so Hashem imprisoned them in a tomb of darkness and killed all their first-born.

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