Friday, January 07, 2005

II-2 Va' eira A Plague on You

4. II-2 Va'iera "And I appeared" 7 Jan 05

Torah: Exodus 6:2- 9:35
Haftorah: Ez 28:25-29:21


1. Ex 6:2-13
2. Ex 6:14-28
3. Ex 6:29-7:7
4. Ex 7:8-8:6
5. Ex 8:7-18
6. Ex 8:19-9:16
7. Ex 9:17-35


God reveals His mission for Moses to return to Egypt and lead the children of Israel to freedom. However, the winning their release will not come easily. Moses must be a diplomat extraordinaire when confronting Pharaoh. The commitment between man and God is a mutual contract, reminiscent of marriage. The first seven plagues come to pass, touching every aspect of human life as Pharaoh refuses to acknowledge that he is not in control of the universe.

In Focus:

Then Moses returned to the Lord and said, "O Lord, why did you bring harm upon this people? Ever snce I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has dealt worse with this people and still You have not delivered Your people. Ex 5:22-23

God spoke to Moses and said unto him, "I am the Lord. I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as El Shaddai, but I did not make myself known to them by my name HaShem." /Adonai (YHVH) Ex 6:2

A Plague on You

Pharaoh comes into a direct collision course with God. Pharaoh, himself, is worshipped as a god, causing problems to relinquish power. He's like the wagging tail claiming to hold the dog still.

Maimonides (Guide to the Perplexed, Part I Ch LXIII) derives the name El Shaddai from "dai" interpreting the name to mean, "he who is sufficient". What is different between the relationships of the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and that of Moses? God says to Abraham, "Pack your bags and leave," and he does. Not any of them question the identity of God. Each has a personal relationship that does not extend outside of his family or clan. Abraham intervenes in the War of Kings to save his nephew, Lot; but he allows Lot to go his own way in the choice of land settlement and domestic affairs. Abraham argues personally with God to save Lot from the destruction of Sodom.

Moses, though, grew up in the Pharaoh's palace, accustomed to the ritual pomp of the god-king. Although he identifies with the hardship of the Israelites, he does not have the same kind of relationship of the patriarchs. He doubts, questions and challenges God. "What should I say to the Israelites?" He receives an intranslatable cryptic answer of unknown pronunciation that roughly translates as "I am who I shall be", playing on the different interpretations of the indicative verb and its infinitive. Moses is left without a convenient handle to use when interrogated by his new people.

Rabbi Pinchas Winston also explains that the verbs have different meanings:

"Our parsha begins: "Vay'dabare Elokim el Moshe, vayomer eilav: 'Ani Hashem' {And Elokim spoke to Moshe and said to him, 'I am Hashem [6:2]." There is a distinct difference between 'speaking' and 'saying'. There is also a distinct difference between 'Elokim' as a name of G-d and 'Hashem' as a name of G-d.

'Vay'dabare {spoke}' is to speak harshly, 'vayomer {said}' is to speak gently. 'Elokim' represents the Attribute of Justice, 'Hashem' represents the Attribute of Mercy. "
(, Parsha Insights, 5759 rabbi Yisroel Ciner below)

The two names reflect a balance between Justice and Mercy. Justice without some Mercy is not just—it is revenge or retaliation, but without sensitivity. Mercy without some Justice can be maudlin emotion, becoming easily overwhelmed. Both are requisite to change the situation. The Israelites also need to suffer a bit more hardship in order to long for their redemption and release. When things are too comfortable, or when people become submissive to their harships; they will not accept responsibilities for themselves. In contrast, Pharaoh does his job with the delusion that he is god. Like many other administrators, teachers or parents, he believes that the tighter he hangs onto the reins of control, the better control he has. Only a wise person knows that to have control, control must first be relinquished.

Moses forewarns the Pharaoh before he descends into the Nile. The first three plagues establish God's dominion over the world. The first, a natural phenomenon, the River Nile, is transformed into a supernatural event. In becoming blood, Pharaoh is reminded of the grisly infanticide, presenting him with the grim reality of his own mortality... He has no control. Water represents life and spiritual purity. Contaminated water brings sure death. Nothing can long survive. Pharaoh's power is strictly limited to human intercourse. Over nature he has little or no control, and less over death. The Egyptians are reduced to digging wells everywhere --the activity of Isaac in his old age. (Gn 26:18) Digging wells symbolizes man search for spirituality, seeking the source of life in God. They uncover more contaminated water, repesenting false beliefs.

The second, frogs, is a natural event multipying naturally. Frogs are everywhere: in Pharaoh's bed, his kitchen, his dining-room, pantry and oven. Inescapable. Harmless, frogs represent the ridiculous, odious and reprehensible, catching flies with tongues twice the length of their bodies. In classical literature, frogs cariacaturize. Pharaoh sees himself a frog, croaking commandments, but filled with hot air. What is a frog but a noisy bladder? A pin can pop a frog. So it is with Pharaoh. Frogs are amphibious, but so is he. He believes there is a God; but not one that affects his existence. He wants his bread buttered on both sides. The frogs drive him crazy. They affect his sanity and bring chaos into his organized society. They are something evasively small, but cause a twenty-four hour raucous caucus.

The lice or gnats are at best annoying, bringing with them destruction through infection, erpersenting the microbes and viruses that travel insidiously as well as invisibly, destructive to human and animal health.

Does Pharaoh really have control? No, but like the miser hoarding his gold, he likes to think so. Power misapplied is only self-destructive. Pharaoh doesn't get the message.

Moses complains about the confrontation with Pharaoh and his apparent ineffeciency to release the Israelites from bondage immediately. However, he doesn't understand that people must first want personal responsibility to accept freedom. They are not ready to upchuck their homes and go into the Great Unknown. They have accepted the burdens of their lives. It's so much easier to complain, than take the initiative and responsibility to change. Often we can limit the amount of slavery and drudgery we endure in the eternal brick factory, but we like complaining.


"Moses said to God, "When I come to the Israelites and say to them, the God of your fathers has sent me to you," and they ask me,"What is his name?" what shall I say to them? And God said to Moses, "Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh." Ex : 13-14

"Go and assemble the elders of Israel and say to them: the Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob has appeared to me..." Ex 3:16

"I am," He said, "the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." And Moses hid his face, for he ws afraid to look at God. Ex 3:6

The Lord said to Abram, "Go forth from your native land and from your father's house to the land that I will show you... Abram went forth as the Lord had commanded him..."
I-3 Lech Lecha, Genesis 12:1-4


Rabbi Yisroel Ciner, Parsha Insights Vaera 5761
on the development of Moshe's leadership

Rabbi Tendler Lifeline Vaera 5758

Rabbi Yisroel Ciner, Parsha Insights, The Source and Sorcerers
about the first three plagues—blood, frogs and lice

Rabbi Pinchas Winston, Perceptions: Freedom – Speak 5759
upon the different verbs, four languages of redemption

Tali Loewenthal, Freedom in Five Dimensions

Ciner, Parsha Insights, Vaera 5759
on saying and speaking, on names

Dovi Scheiner, Frogmen chabad

Yanki Tauber, It's Only Natural

r Label Lam, Dvar Torah, Vaera: Hidden Identity
a drash on ibn Ezra and the Shabbat host

Rabbi Label Lam, Dvar Torah, Vaera: A Real Human Being
a drash with the Baal Shem Tov


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