When the time came for the Jewish people to leave Egypt, Hashem performed lots and lots of miracles. We are going to speak about the miracles of the eser makkos (ten plagues) this week. The first makko turned the Nile River into blood. The second makko brought frogs from the river. Aharon HaCohen, not Moshe Rabbeinu initiated both of these makkos. Rashi explains that the river protected Moshe Rabbeinu when he was an infant, therefore he could not start a plague against it. Hashem was teaching Moshe Rabbeinu a powerful lesson in hacoras hatov (gratitude). One must feel and express gratitude even to inanimate objects that have no free will. How much more so to human beings who help us consciously out of the goodness of their hearts.
Children . . .
Who can think of ways to express our gratitude? How about thanking the shopkeeper who brings the food to our neighborhood? And the bus driver who takes us where we need to go. Next time we see the doctor, let's thank him for helping us get better. Let's not forget our teachers who teach us Torah. And our friends who bring us the homework if we are sick and miss a day of school. The biggest hacoras hatov has to be for Abba and Imma. They do everything for us! Without them, we would not even be here! How do we thank Hashem? The Sefer HaChinuch (Mitzvah 430) writes that one of the reasons that we say blessings is to help us to realize that Hashem is the source of all the good that we receive. Knowing this, we can feel and express our hacoras hatov to Him for all of His blessings. So, children, next time we make a bracha on an apple, let's try very hard to concentrate on thanking Hashem for giving us this delicious apple to eat.
The Reason For Punishment
Paroh behaved in a very interesting manner during the eser makkos. While the makkos were occurring, he promised Moshe Rabbeinu that he would comply with Hashem's order and free the Jewish people. After the makko ended, however, he changed his mind and did what he wanted, not what Hashem wanted. Rav Leib Chasman points out in his sefer Ohr Yohel that the suffering that a person undergoes in his life is no different from the makkos that plagued Paroh. They are both tests to see how we will react. When a person is suffering from a terrible thing he cries out to Hashem and promises to do tshuva (repentance). After the suffering passes, what does he do? Does he keep his promises, or does he return to his old ways?
Children . . .
Abba and Imma do not like to give you a punishment. Why do they do it? To teach you that you are doing something wrong. Of course during the punishment, you stop misbehaving. What do you do after the punishment ends children? Do you behave like Paroh, chas veshalom (G-d forbid), and return to doing the very same thing that brought on the punishment in the first place? We hope not. Or do you learn from the punishment and stop misbehaving. When you learn the proper lesson from a punishment, you make Abba and Imma very proud of you.
Who Runs the World
The Steipeler writes (in Chayey Olam) that the eser makkos showed that Hashem is in control of everything in the world. The makko of dam (blood) was to show that Hashem rules over the water. Tsefardea (frogs) showed His rule over the creatures of the water. Kinnim (lice) demonstrated Hashem's rule over the ground. At His will, the dirt turned to lice. The plague of orov (wild animals) demonstrated His control over the land animals. Dever (cattle disease) illustrated Hashem's hashgacha (guidance) of the lives of animals. Only the animals of the Egyptians were afflicted, not those of the Jews. Shchin (boils) showed that the health of a person is in the hands of Hashem. Only the Egyptians became ill with boils, and not the Jews. The makko of borod (hail with fire inside) showed that Hashem controls the rain, and can change the weather and convert it to hail. He also controls "natural laws" as we see that the fire and ice made peace and coexisted in the borod to do the will of Hashem. Arbeh (locusts) illustrated Hashem's sovereignty over flying creatures and wind. A strong east wind brought the arbeh, and a strong west wind swept them away. The makko of choshech (darkness) exemplified Hashem's rule over the light. Lastly, makkos bechoros (death of the first born) showed that life and death are in the hands of Hashem.
Children . . .
Paroh needed eser makkos to recognize Hashem's rule over the world. We can try to see Hashem's control without suffering makkos. When we plant a seed in the ground, we see how Hashem takes care of it by watering it with rain and giving it plenty of sunshine. Before long, He makes a beautiful tree grow. Hashem makes that tree sprout an apple, which we then eat to give us strength to do mitzvos. And He makes that apple taste so good. He gives us good health so we can learn Torah. Boruch Hashem, we see that He is controlling everything. It all ties together, children. Seeing hashgacha (Divine control), hacoras hatov (gratitude), and kavanna (concentration) when making brachos. They are all a part of realizing Who Hashem is and giving Him lots and lots of nachas.
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