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This Parasha recounts the last three of the ten plagues which were to persuade Pharaoh to release the Israelites - locusts, darkness, and the death of the firstborns.
The plagues of locusts and darkness - together with the previous plagues - were put into action by Moses or Aaron. G-d's command was to 'raise your stick and strike' or 'raise your hand to the heavens'. And that would herald in the plague - blood, frogs, lice, boils, hail, locusts, and darkness.
However, there were three plagues which G-d initiated without any 'prompting' from Moses. They were wild beasts, pestilence, and the final plague - the killing of the firstborns.
The plague of wild beasts may be explained as being natural - indeed, reversion to nature. For wild beasts do roam in search of food. That they do not regularly 'go for' humans is because they fear Mankind. But that is something extra, imposed within the Creation. As G-d told Noah after leaving the ark: 'All wild beasts shall hold you in fear and dread' (Gen. 9:2). The plague was not caused by creating something new, but - within the Creation - by letting things be. So the animals entered civilization in large numbers. Similarly pestilence - the fifth plague. Germs causing disease are always there. They naturally flourish when the forces keeping diseases at bay are weaker.
All the other plagues - blood, frogs, lice, boils, hail, locusts, and darkness involved the creation of something new. Thus the staff and/or the hand of Moses/Aaron heralded in these new phenomena.
That leaves the final plague of this week's Parasha - the death of the firstborns. G-d did not tell Moses to lift his staff and point at the heavens, so that the 'destroyer' (12;23) would kill the Egyptian, but spare the Hebrew firstborns.
Instead, 'At midnight, G-d stuck all the firstborns in Egypt' (12:29). Neither Moses nor Aaron were directly involved.
But in fact they were. And - unlike the other plagues - so were all the Israelites. The purpose was not merely 'so that all Egypt will know that I am G-d' (7:5), even though 'I will harden Pharaoh's heart… and Pharaoh will not listen to you' (7:3-4). The purpose was that Pharaoh would let the Children of Israel go! And G-d knew in advance that he would.
Indeed, Moses, Aaron, and all the Israelites brought about the final plague - and their divine deliverance from slavery - by acting all together, in unison.
That was not done by raising hands or lifting the stick, but by defying the sheep/goat Egyptian deity (c.f. Gen. 46:34), in carrying out G-d's commandment to slaughter the sheep or goat (12:21) - at the risk of their own very lives at the hands of the Egyptians. It was that act of faith in striking at idolatry that was to effect the 'pass-over' - that G-d would strike the Egyptians only and spare the Israelites…
Leaders lead and inspire, but need to enthuse and effect the complete participation of the community to bring full salvation…
For those looking for more comprehensive material, questions and answers on the Parasha may be found at http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/questions/ and on the material on the Haftara at http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/haftara/ .
Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.
Parashiot from the First, Second, and Third Series may be viewed on the Shema Yisrael web-site: http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/archives/archives.htm
Also by Jacob Solomon:
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
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