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by Zvi Akiva Fleisher

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Ch. 7, v. 9: "Kach es matcho y'hi l'sanin" - Take your staff it will become a serpent - Verse 9 relates that the Egyptian sorcerers did the same with their incantations. What was Hashem's intention in telling Moshe to ask Aharon to perform a wonder that is old-hat to the Egyptians? The medrash lists a number of allusions contained in this act.

A most penetrating message is contained in this act, whose intention is to convey to Paroh and his servants the utter evil in their behaviour towards the bnei Yisroel. The Rambam in hilchos teshuvoh 6:5 asks why Hashem punished the Egyptians for their enslaving and oppressing the bnei Yisroel given that Hashem prophesied to Avrohom that his descendants would be exiled to a land where they would be enslaved and persecuted. The Rambam therefore asks why Hashem punished them, given that they fulfilled His prophecy. We have dealt at length with the Rambam's answer and the answer of the Ramban and Raavad. They answer that although Hashem said they would be enslaved and persecuted, there was no prophecy that their firstborn males should be killed, thrown into the river, or be so cruelly and extremely made to work.

Indeed, had the Egyptians only worked the bnei Yisroel to the level that Hashem prophesied, then Hashem would not have punished them. This message is so glaringly relayed in the staff and snake. When one hits with a staff, he controls the strength of the blow and the location on which it lands. This is parallel to fulfilling Hashem's prophecy. When one attacks another with a snake it can inflict extremely more damage than the owner had envisioned, as it has a mind of its own. This is parallel to persecuting the bnei Yisroel well beyond Hashem's wishes. (B'eir Yoseif)

Ch. 9, v. 7: "Va'yishlach Paroh v'hinei lo meis mimeknei Yisroel ad echod" - And Paroh sent and behold there did not die even one - Why specifically here did Paroh send out people to see if there were any bnei Yisroel cattle casualties? Commentators offer numerous answers. A novel answer is offered: In parshas Va'yeishev it says, "Va'yshalchu es kso'nes hapasim" (37:32). This simply means the brothers sent the tunic of fine wool to their father. However, Baalei Tosfos translate "va'y'shalchu" as "they lacerated." They made numerous cuts in the tunic so that it resembled the lacerations a wild animal would make in the garment of the person it attacked. They cite verses where this word form clearly means lacerating. Perhaps we can say that Paroh was so eager to disprove what Moshe said, which included that not even one cattle belonging to a ben Yisroel would die. Obviously, if he killed an animal, it did not die of its own accord. He therefore did the maximum in his power to bring about a livestock fatality. He got hold of an animal belonging to a ben Yisroel and cut into it, hoping it would then die, and this would be enough to assuage his stubbornness. Alas, the animal survived. Read the words of our verse as: And Paroh lacerated, and behold not even this one of the cattle of Yisroel died.

Alternatively, he actually killed the animal by lacerating it, and claimed that one was dead, albeit not by virtue of the plague. This would explain the difference between "v'lo meis echod" and "v'lo meis ad echod," as one did died by Paroh's action. (n.l.)

Ch. 9, v. 18: "Hin'ni mamtir ko'eis mochor borod" - Behold I will at this same time tomorrow rain down hail - Rashi comments that Moshe drew a streak on a wall and said that tomorrow when the shadow cast by the sun reaches this line the hail will immediately begin. Why by this plague was it necessary to pinpoint its commencement? When rain or hail comes it is always preceded by some level of cloud cover. Moshe told Paroh that this is a unique G-d sent plague and not just bad weather. To prove this he said that tomorrow at this time you will see the shadow that the sun casts will reach this mark, meaning that it will be a sunny clear day. Then immediately the hail will begin.

With this another difficulty can be alleviated. Rashi on 9:10 writes that there were cattle existent at the time of the hail even though the plague of pestilence killed the cattle. This is because the plague of pestilence only killed the cattle that were outdoors. Many people brought their cattle inside as a safe haven. If so, why did these same people who took heed of Moshe's warning suddenly become lax and no longer feared the word of Hashem? (Some commentators say that devastating pestilence is a somewhat commonplace happening so many brought their servants and cattle to a safe haven, but not by the hail, which very infrequently causes fatalities.) Since people know that rain and hail are always preceded by heavy clouds, they looked to the sky and figured that when it darkens they will quickly bring their cattle to safety. Alas, it came when moments earlier the sky was clear. It was only the few who were so G-d fearing that they brought their slaves and cattle inside notwithstanding the beautiful weather whose slaves and cattle were saved. (Nsiv Refo'el)

We might add that this was the intention of Moshe by saying, "V'atoh (with an Ayin) shlach ho'eiz (verse 19)." Do it now and do not wait for clouds.

Ch. 9, v. 21: "Vaasher lo som libo el dvar Hashem va'yaazove es avodov v'es mikneihu baso'deh" - And he who did not take to heart the matter of Hashem and he left his servants and his cattle in the field - Why does the verse deal with their not taking seriously the word of Hashem? The point is that if he left his servants and/or livestock in the field they would be smitten by the hail? Perhaps the verse is telling us that if he left them in the field and took no heed to Moshe's warning they would be killed by the hail even if his servant took the warning seriously and brought the cattle and himself to safety, v'docheik. Any help would be appreciated.

Ch. 9, v. 29: "K'tzeisi es ho'ir efrose es kapai el Hashem" - Upon my exiting the city I will spread out my hands to Hashem - Rashi says that Moshe wouldn't pray in the city as it was full of "gilulim." The commentators ask that we find that after the plague of frogs and the mixture of wild animals he did pray without predicating it with exiting the city. Although the Haflo'oh and others say that it was specifically now that the city contained idols, as the "ha'yo'rei es dvar Hashem" brought his animals into his house, and the sheep were worshiped, the medrash says that when Hashem said, "Uvchol elohei Mitzrayim e'eseh shfotim" it included wooden and metal figures. We see that their idols were not limited to sheep. The Chasam Sofer therefore answers that in Sh.O. O.Ch. #94 the Rem"a says that if one is traveling and the time to pray has come, it is preferable to pray at the side of the road, where he will not be disturbed by passers-by rather than to enter a hotel belonging to idol worshipers, which will undoubtedly be full of idols. If he cannot pray at the side of the road then he should enter the hotel and find a quiet corner.

Moshe in the past prayed in the city rather than on the road, as he figured that Egyptians would disturb him there. However now, just after the hail, when all who were outside were killed, he assumed that the roads would be empty, and it was preferable to pray there rather than in a building in the city.

Ch. 9, v. 34: "Va'yoseif lachato" - And he continued to sin - This is not the first time he said that he would emancipate the bnei Yisroel and didn't keep his word, so why here does the verse say that he continued to sin? It is only here that he said that he would send them right away, "V'lo sosifun alamode." Even a small delay is a sin. Earlier he gave no set time, so he might rightfully claim that he will fulfill his words later. (Rabbi Yitzchok Eizik Ausband)

This insight seems to translate "va'yoseif" as "he increased," as earlier he was not specific.

Perhaps the "hosofoh" was that he also impressed upon his servants to not allow the bnei Yisroel to leave, "Va'yichbad libo hu vaavodov." (n.l.)



See also Oroh V'Simchoh - Meshech Chochmoh on the Weekly Parsha, Chasidic Insights and Chamisha Mi Yodei'a

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