As every student of the sciences will tell you, nature does not work in
chaotic randomness. Nature's majesty is reflected in the mystery of her
order and constancy. The one time rising of the sun is called chance. Twice
might be luck. The third time is a coincidence. The fourth time begins to
amaze. The fifth time is a wonder. The sixth time confounds. The seventh
time and beyond is a mystery. Yet, when it happens daily with unfailing
consistency we call it nature.
From the very beginning, the exodus from Egypt was intended to proclaim G-d's
undisputed mastery over the universe. As I explained in last week's issue,
the message would have been most clear had Moshe immediately accepted the
mission. As the verses state, Moshe's initial mission was to go to Pharaoh
and take the Jews out of Egypt. From there he was to bring them to the
Promised Land. The moment Moshe would have delivered G-d's message to
Pharaoh, Pharaoh would have consented to free the Jews. More so than that,
before leaving, the Egyptians would have presented the Jews with enormous
wealth just as Pharaoh had done to Avraham when he left Egypt. As my
Grandfather Zt'l explained, that would have shown the world that all events
are under G-d's control. All events are intended and have a specified
beginning and a specified end. Nothing is random; nothing is by chance.
Everything, including the actions of kings and nations, fits into G-d's
intended design for the universe. There had been a reason why G-d wanted the
Jews enslaved. When that reason was satisfied, there was no longer any
reason for the Jews to be enslaved. Therefore, Pharaoh would have let them
However, Moshe did not immediately accept the mission and the ensuing saga of
the Exodus was the result. (to the great glee and profit of Heston and
Spielberg) Moshe was forced to use persuasion, miracles, and plagues. Moshe
became a miracle worker rather than a mere messenger. In the process, G-d's
absolute control over he universe was partially obscured. Instead of the
redemption being done by G-d and only G-d, the redemption would be seen as
collaboration between G-d and Moshe. (Remember Kayin and Hevel, the Farmer
and the Shepherd)
However, the goal of all the events remained the same. The intended end of
all the miracles and plagues was to proclaim G-d's undisputed mastery over
How did the 10 plagues reveal G-d's mastery over the universe? Was it merely
the uniqueness and miraculous nature of the events that proclaimed G-d's
mastery? Was it the timing of each plague that astounded the Egyptians? Was
it the judicious "measure for a measure" that was evident to those who were
discerning and honest? In fact, it was all the above and more. However, for
this Shabbos I would like to share with you some of the "more."
Nature's majesty is reflected in the mystery of her order and constancy. The
basic criterion for order is the clear delineation between different
creations. Those established differences, both genetic and geographical,
reveal the purpose of each creation. Imagine if humans and fish were both
amphibious. Imagine if both fish and fowl could fly. Imagine if cats and
mice were of equal size. The world of differences and clarity would be
greatly obscured and confused.
Classification, the fundamental ordering of information and knowledge,
demands identifiable differences. Without differences, we would be the same.
(How's that for profundity) The ordering of the universe is the direct
result of G-d's intent and control; therefore, the presence of delineation
and differences reveal G-d's presence and control.
It is incumbent upon all humans to recognize and respect the natural order of
the universe. In doing so, we proclaim G-d's mastery over the universe. The
Talmud tells us that G-d destroyed the pre-diluvian world because society no
longer respected personal ownership. Thievery, promiscuity, and murder were
rampant and therefore G-d's design for each person and creation was denied.
G-d had no place in such a world. A world in which G-d has no place is a
world that cannot and should not exist. Therefore, G-d destroyed the world
with the Mabul - Great Flood.
The Talmud in Megilah stresses the importance of burying the dead (the
Mitzvah of Mais Mitzvah) over reading the Megilah (Scroll of Esther).
Burying the dead shows respect for G-d's creations. Publicizing a miracle
(Pirsumei Nissah) proclaims G-d's mastery over the dealings of individuals
and nations. In truth, both the reading of the Megilah and burying the dead
proclaim the same thing. They proclaim G-d's mastery over the universe.
However, the Talmud concludes that showing respect for the dead is an even
greater proclamation of G-d's mastery than publicizing a miracle. It
suggests that G-d's control extends to the creation of all people and all
creations not just the occasional miracle.
If G-d demanded such respect for the dead how much more so does He expect us
to respect the living. In burying the dead, we proclaim that the Creator had
a divine intent for each human. However, it is a "short-lived" lesson.
After leaving the cemetery we return to the norms of life, living, and
forgetting. When we protect and honor each other we proclaim the same
understanding of G-d's intent; but in this instance the statement and its
benefits are woven and reinforced into our lives and consciences through the
actions of life and living.
When Pharaoh enslaved and abused the Jews he denied them their personal and
divine worth. They became mere objects for his personal use. This also
denied G-d His place in the order of the universe. Had Pharaoh wanted to, he
could have cherished the limited time his nation would enjoy the Jews and
become partners with G-d in His divine plan. Instead, he chose to deny Him.
"Who is G-d that I should listen to His voice to send out the Jews?"
The ten plagues were intended to proclaim G-d's mastery over the universe by
removing the expected lines of demarcation. Instead of water running through
riverbanks and blood flowing through veins, the Nile ran red with blood.
Instead of frogs living in the marshes and swamps, frogs entered bedchambers
and throne rooms. Lice were everywhere and wild animals no longer respected
the territorial rights of cities. Diseases and skin lesions spread rampantly
refusing to respect the confines of isolation and home. Hail fell where rain
feared to tread and locust descended in masses beyond the imagination.
Finally, light and darkness ceased to respect each other's boundaries and
death came to claim the souls of those who otherwise should have lived.
The lesson was obvious. The G-d of the Jews is the master of the universe.
The natural ordering of the world is not by chance. Ignore G-d's place in
nature and nature will ignore the human's place in the universe. The absence
of control over specific natural phenomena underscores G-d's control over
what we take for granted and call nature.