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After the plague of hail, but before the plague of locusts, G-d told Moses that He had caused Pharaoh to stubbornly refuse the Israelites to leave Egypt…
"…So that you may tell your children and your grandchildren how I made a mockery of Egypt… and you will know that I am G-d" (10:2).
G-d waited for the eighth plague - the plague of locusts - to bring in that aspect of His punishing Egypt. Why did G-d wait for the Plague of Locusts to emphasize that the Israelites will tell their future generations about the plagues? What was special about the Plague of Locusts?
In response, the Kli Yakar explains that after each plague ended, there was no remnant of the plague in the whole world. There was nothing that the children - the new generation - could relate to. The exception was locusts. He writes that the children would ask why locusts returned to all areas around Egypt, but not to Egypt itself. That would give sufficient reality for the children, so that they would be able to relate to the other plagues as well.
In addition, it may be suggested that locusts were specific to one aspect of the Egyptian civilization at the time. That is its very status as the leading power of what today is called the Middle East. Evidence of what then was the New Egyptian Kingdom shows that its culture, technology, and administration was stable, and advanced for its time. In today's terms, that would be successful, Great Power status.
The plague of locusts was unique as it made a mockery of what made the stable Egyptian civilization possible - its great wealth. Unlike pestilence that tends to attack those animals least resistant to disease, locusts attack lush crops and produce. The more successful, the more there is to eat and destroy. The Egyptians went to great expense and technological development to raise the water in the Nile to the level of the fields and agricultural expanses needed to grow a wide range of foodstuffs. The locusts attacked the products of precisely that - the fruits of Egypt's technologically-driven agricultural success.
This lesson is indeed an eternal one. Many seemingly technologically-invincible empires have risen, and they have subsequently fallen. Yet G-d shows that technological superiority is not invincible against His Will, as represented by the Plague of Locusts…
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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:
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