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Home » Vaeirah

Vaeira: Food for Thought at Your Dinner Table

Submitted by on December 31, 2007 – 2:44 amNo Comment | 606 views

Sunday: Believe

So burdened were the Jews in Egypt by their workload and fatigue that when Moses announced they would soon be liberated, they barely took notice. Moses complained to G-d, “if my own brothers won’t listen, how can Pharaoh be expected to listen?” The argument seems curious. His brethren didn’t listen out of oppression and fatigue, but Pharaoh, a free man, would surely have time to listen?

Our sages taught that our redemption depends directly on our faith. Only when we believe that G-d will redeem us, will the redemption indeed occur. This is why Moses doubted that Pharaoh would accept his message of redemption. My brethren have yet to accept and believe my prophecy of redemption, how can  Pharaoh be expected to listen to it and liberate them?

The same holds true for our current exile. The moment we believe in the imminence of our redemption is the moment we will be redeemed. Divrei Yisrael

Monday: Finding the Right Candidate

Moses was a descendant of Levi, Jacob’s third son. In addition, he was not firstborn in his family. In fact he was the youngest. Why was he chosen above those who preceded him?

The Torah is represented by the number three. The Tanach (the complete written Torah consisting of the Five Books of Moses, the Prophets, and the Writings) is divided into three sections, was given to a people divided into three categories, Priest, Levite and Israelite, by Moses, the third sibling in his family. While the number two represents conflict, the number three is a peacemaker. Heaven and earth are polar opposites; heaven is ethereal and spiritual, earth is tangible and materialistic. The Torah brings them together by harnessing heavenly energy to create a dwelling place for G-d on earth.

This explains why Moses was chosen to deliver the Torah. The tribe of Reuben comprised four families, Simon comprised five families. The tribe of Levi comprised three families and was therefore the correct tribe. Now that a tribe of three was identified, a candidate represented by three needed to be identified. Moses, the third sibling in his family, was the first available choice. Kli Yakar

Tuesday: Stop Listening Already

“I shall harden Pharaoh’s heart . . . He shall not listen to you . . . and I shall take my nation, the children of Israel out of Egypt.” If G-d should harden Pharaoh’s heart, it would be obvious that he would refuse to liberate the Jews. Why does the Torah have to mention this seemingly redundant point?

G-d taught Moses an important lesson. So long as Pharaoh receives you, so long as he countenances your visits and listens to you, I will grant him the power to detain the Jews. The day he stops listening to you, he will be forced to liberate you. The deeper meaning of these words is, “I shall harden his heart, and when (on the day that) he refuses to listen . . . I shall take my nation out of Egypt.”

Indeed, after Moses predicted the ninth plague Pharaoh, enraged, banned Moses and angrily proclaimed that he would never receive Moses again. Moses confirmed that this would indeed be the last time. How did Moses know? From the very fact that Pharaoh refused to receive him. Divrei Yisrael

Wednesday: On Whose Merit?

Pharaoh demanded an end to the plague of frogs. Moses replied, “For when shall I pray that the frogs  disappear?” Pharaoh replied, “For tomorrow.” Didn’t Pharaoh want the plague to end that very day?

What did Moses mean when he asked when he should pray? He was asking, by what merit did Pharaoh believe himself worthy of being freed from the plague? “When shall I pray on your behalf?” When will you have a merit that I can present to G-d on your behalf? Pharaoh replied,It’s “for tomorrow.” Indeed, you are correct. I have no merit, however, G-d needs me alive tomorrow if he wants to carry out his plan for the following eight plagues. Divrei Yisrael

Thursday: Some Relief

After the plague of frogs ended the Torah declares, “Pharaoh saw that there was some relief and he hardened his heart.” This is the only time the Torah mentions that Pharaoh took note of a measure of relief. Why is this plague singled out in this way?

Though the plague ended, the suffering did not. The frogs died and their carcasses lay scattered in heaps across Egypt. The piles of dead frogs raised an awful stench resulting in debilitating chaos. The aftereffects of the plague should have kept Pharaoh’s heart somewhat open to G-d’s demand that he release the Jews, yet as soon as he saw even some relief he hardened his heart.

Pharaoh, in his royal mansion, where an army of servants removed the dead frogs and perfumed his chambers, was oblivious to the suffering of his subjects. He was personally no longer encumbered by the plague and felt free to revert to his old self. He hardened his heart not only against the Jews, but also against his fellow Egyptians. Kli Yakar

Friday: Attacking the Heart

When warning Pharaoh about the imminence of the sixth plague, G-d threatened that he would now direct plagues against Pharaoh’s heart. Why are the last four plagues considered attacks on the heart?

Unlike the first six plagues, the damage wrought by the final four outlasted the duration of the plagues. The hail and locust left famine in their wake. The darkness altered atmospheric conditions in Egypt and many Egyptians died during the final plague. The actual plague had passed, but the heart continued to hurt. Here we see that the severity of the plagues increased as they progressed, the final four being far more debilitating than the original six. Seforno

Shabbat: Sincere Insincerity

When Pharaoh expressed contrition, Moses promised to pray for an end to the hail though, as Moses said, “I know that you do not yet fear G-d.” The literal meaning of Moses’ admonition is that though you have petitioned for the hail to end I know you will revert to your old self when the hail ends.

In a novel interpretation Or Hachaim suggests that Moses was offering an insight. Rather than applying the word “yet” to Pharaoh’s fear, Or Hachaim applied it to the plague. Moses words are thus interpreted, “I know the plague has yet to end and that you therefore still fear G-d.”

Pharaoh could have claimed that he had successfully mislead G-d into believing that he was sincerely contrite. Moses therefore declared, I know your contrition will end when the plague concludes, but so long as the plague endures your contrition is genuine. Pharaoh’s silence confirmed Moses’ charge.

By forcing Pharaoh to accept his admonition Moses denied Pharaoh this opportunity to scorn G-d in public. Or Hachayim

Edited by Rabbi Yeruchem Eilfort, Director of Chabad at La Costa.

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