JANUARY 11-12, 2002 28 TEBET 5762
- Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
"Go to Pharaoh in the morning, behold he is going to the water." (Shemot 7:15)
Rashi tells us that Pharaoh would rise very early each morning to relieve himself in the Nile so that people would think he is a G-d and doesn't use the facilities all day long. Imagine the discomfort he had all day just so he could make an impression! Remember the '60's when people would drive in the sweltering heat without air-conditioning and still have the windows closed so that others thought they had? Of course, this is absurd; we would never do such a thing!
So how come we still make affairs that we can't afford? Why do we put ourselves in debt just so others can comment on our occasions? People always ask, why can't the Rabbis do something? Let's have guidelines for our own benefit. But will everyone listen? Will someone be the first to show that we don't have to impress others and fall behind in our payments to people we owe!
If we read about Pharaoh and say how silly to be uncomfortable just for appearances, shouldn't we take the lesson to heart and really do something about it? Shabbat Shalom.
- Rabbi Reuven Semah
"G-d spoke to Moshe and said to him, 'I am Hashem.'" (Shemot 6:2)
At the end of the previous perashah Moshe complained that Hashem sent him to Pharaoh in vain. Instead of helping the people, he had only made it worse for them. Hashem now continues His response. He speaks harshly to Moshe, comparing him unfavorably to the Patriarchs, who maintained their faith without complaint.
It's important to understand this episode in order to have a clear view of our own lives and the times we live in. The Midrash says that Moshe was deserving of punishment for his remarks. This might sound unusual because after all, Moshe was speaking out of anguish that he felt for the Jewish people. Because of his great love for the Jewish people he couldn't bear to see their suffering. Now, because a few words of complaint came out of his mouth, he deserves punishment? On the contrary, he should be applauded for feeling their suffering so deeply that it caused him to complain! Hashem responds to Moshe, "Ani Hashem - I am Hashem." The name Hashem means that G-d is the source of mercy. Hashem is all mercy. Even when you see harshness, it is mercy. Basically, Hashem responds to Moshe, "Do not be more merciful than I am; it is impossible!" Hashem feels the anguish of His people more than we do.
As we hear about the events that occur on a daily basis, tragedy after tragedy, the world seems to be in an upheaval. One might wonder where is the mercy of Hashem? We must remember, Hashem invented mercy. Shabbat Shalom.
- Rabbi Yaacov Ben Haim
"For this time I shall send all My plagues against your heart, and upon your servants and your people, so that you know there is none like Me in all the world" (Shemot 9:14)
Rashi comments on the words "all My Plagues": This teaches that the Plague of the Firstborn was equal to all the other plagues put together." This comment of Rashi is very difficult to understand, for the quoted passage is the warning issued by Moshe before the plague of hail, the seventh plague. Why then, does Rashi interpret these words as being a reference to the Plague of the Firstborn, which is the tenth plague? Many commentators have struggled to explain Rashi's statement.
The Torah tells us that after each of the first few plagues, "Pharaoh's heart became hardened," i.e. that he himself obstinately refused to humble himself and be chastised by G-d's actions. Thereafter, however, the Torah records Pharaoh's reaction to the plagues somewhat differently: "G-d hardened Pharaoh's heart" - i.e. Pharaoh's response to the plagues was forced upon him by G-d and was no longer a reflection of his own free will. Many commentators have attempted to explain why such "interference" in man's decision-making process does not constitute a contradiction to the cardinal principle that each individual is granted free will. The Rambam (Halachot Teshuvah 6:3) explains that sometimes, a person sins to such a great extent that G-d removes the option of spiritual rehabilitation and repentance from that individual, thus forcing him to face the punishment that he has so rightfully earned. The case of Pharaoh is an example of this phenomenon. After continuing to defy G-d for the first few plagues, his fate was sealed, and he was no longer allowed to choose the path of repentance. Thus, in effect, immediately after the plague of hail, Pharaoh's privilege of free will was taken away from him, and he was locked into a path of no return, which eventually culminated in the Plague of the Firstborn.
This, explains the Brisker Rav, is why Moshe warned Pharaoh at this particular point in time - just before the plague of hail - that he was destined, without any hope of escape, to suffer the most fearful plague of them all, the Plague of the Firstborn, which Moshe referred to as "all My Plagues." Shabbat Shalom.
"Take your staff and throw it down before Pharaoh, and it will become a snake" (Shemot 7:9)
Why did Hashem use this sign as the first miracle with which to impress Pharaoh? Undoubtedly, when Pharaoh's magicians immediately duplicated this sign, he no longer was impressed with Moshe's divine powers.
We may suggest that a message was being sent to Pharaoh. When Moshe came to Pharaoh with the request to allow B'nei Yisrael to leave Egypt for a three day "seminar" in the desert to serve Hashem, he was treated with contempt. How could a nation that had sunk to the lowest levels of impurity be able to comprehend holiness, let alone serve Hashem? Moshe's action with this miracle was a lesson to Pharaoh as to the effects of one's environment. The staff which Moshe cast before Pharaoh had Hashem's Name inscribed on it. This symbol of holiness, when thrown in front of Pharaoh, an environment of evil and depravity, was transformed into a snake, which symbolizes the essence of sin and evil. However, when this same poisonous snake was placed back into Moshe's hand, and returned to an environment of holiness and purity, it once again became the staff of Hashem.
Moshe's lesson was simple. The Jewish people had been influenced by the immoral and degenerate society of Egypt. A righteous person placed in the company of corrupt individuals tends to be adversely affected. Let the Jews out of Egypt, give them the opportunity to experience and observe the beauty and holiness of Torah and misvot, and they will revert back to the "kingdom of priests and holy nation" that they are. (Peninim on the Torah)
"Moshe said to him, 'When I go out of the city, I will spread my hands [in prayer] to Hashem.'" (Shemot 9:29)
Why only during the plague of hail, which was the seventh plague, did Moshe insist on praying outside of the city?
When Moshe warned Pharaoh of the coming plague of hail, he told him that the Egyptians should take in all the cattle from the fields because any man or animal in the fields would die. The Egyptians who took the warning seriously brought their cattle into their houses. Others, who did not regard the words of Hashem, left their servants and their cattle out in the fields, where they were killed by the hail (9:19-21).
Egypt worshipped the sheep. Therefore, during all other plagues, Moshe was willing to pray in the city since the sheep were normally out in the fields. However, during the plague of hail the city was filled with sheep, and Moshe went out of the city to pray because he did not want to pray in a place full of idols. (Vedibarta Bam)
This week's Haftarah: Yehezkel 28:25 - 29:21.
This haftarah begins by saying that Hashem will gather all of Israel from the nations among whom they are scattered. In our perashah, Hashem also says that he will take B'nei Yisrael out from under the burdens of Egypt. The haftarah then goes on to prophesize about the downfall of Egypt in Nebuchadnesar's time. Pharaoh, who claimed to be a god, will be conquered by Nebuchadnesar, and all the wealth of Egypt will be looted. Our perashah also begins to tell of the retribution to Pharaoh and Egypt. The first seven of the Ten Plagues occur, and the process which will lead to Egypt's downfall and Israel's redemption begins.
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