Ron Wexler, Weekly Newsletter
Janurary 12th, 2008
"Shabbat Shalom" is a weekly message, sent on Friday, that contains very short commentaries on the portion of the Bible that is read in synagogues on the corresponding Sabbath services.
Reading portion Exodus 10:1-13:16 P. Bo
As this portion begins, the climax of Moses’ mission is impending. The last three plagues, the commandment to sanctify the New Moon, the laws of Passover, and the sanctification of the firstborn are about to come in quick succession. Soon, Pharaoh’s resistance will be completely destroyed and he personally will dash through the streets, seeking Moses and Aaron and urging his erstwhile slaves to leave their land of bondage as soon as possible.
The first plague of this reading portion, that of Locusts, introduces a new element. God tells Moses that He intends to make a mockery of Egypt – putting to rest the haughty presumptuousness of Pharaoh and his cohorts – so that not only Egypt, but even the Children of Israel would know that I am God. The inclusion of the Jews in that category implies that even believing people are often imperfect in their faith. That pharaoh had resisted the evidence of the Divine origin of the plagues is not surprising. But it seems that even the faith of the Jews, strong though it may have been, was still not perfect. In fact, it was not until the Splitting of the Sea that the Torah testified of Israel that they had faith in God and in Moses His servant.
The sages teach that the plague was “measure for measure”: The Egyptians forced their Jewish slaves to grow crops; the locusts devoured the crops.
Come to Pharaoh. To warn him of the forthcoming plague. Although Scripture does not mention locusts in this commandment to Moses, it is clear from what he told Pharaoh that he was sent to deliver a warning.
Pharaoh’s servants are mentioned in this context to imply that even at times when he was ready to yield, they firmed his resistance.
And so you may relate. The commentators note that the Exodus was a seminal event in the world history because it demonstrated God’s mastery over nature. Thus, it became the textbook lesson for humanity that God is not a aloof Creator, but the Master of the universe day by day and event by event. This verse encapsulates that concept, for it tells Israel that the miracles of the Exodus were to teach them for all generations that God can toy with the most powerful kingdoms, and that this creates the perception that He is “Hashem” (The Name), the Name that denotes His eternity because its letters comprise the words He was, He is, He will be.
Rabbi Bressler in his “Dvar”, comments on the story of Pharaoh, and how it took him 10 plagues to realize that he should let the Jews leave Egypt. The strange thing is that G-d tells Moshe that He has hardened Pharaoh''''s heart not to let the Jews go. Why would G-d have to do that? Furthermore, because God did harden his heart, why should Moshe bother asking Pharaoh?
The sages bring a nice example to answer these questions: If two people are standing, and one is really blind, while the other is simply blindfolded. They both can''''t see, but only one is blind. The same could be explained of Pharaoh. Although God put a blindfold on him, he still wasn''''t blind. He always had it in his power to take off the blindfolds, just as we have the power to remove our blindfolds from whatever''''s holding us back from doing what we know we should. And that''''s why Moshe still had to go to Pharaoh. God was telling Moshe and all of us that although doing certain things can seem impossible, it is our job to see the bigger picture. It''''s our responsibility to realize that although we don''''t always do the right thing, we always CAN, if we just take off our personal blindfolds that are hardening our own hearts.
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