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Posted on January 22, 2020 (5780) By Rabbi Yisroel Ciner | Series: | Level:

This week we read parshas Va’era. Last week’s parsha ended with Moshe’s challenge to Hashem: “Why have you done evil to this nation, why did You send me? [5:22]”

The Ramban explains that, although Hashem had told Moshe right from the start that Paroah would not readily agree to freeing Bnei Yisroel {the Children of Israel}, Moshe had thought that the plagues would come in rapid- fire succession and Paroah would be brought to his knees. He quotes the Medrash which says that when Moshe saw that his words to Paroah had the reverse effect of intensifying the slavery and Hashem hadn’t reappeared to instruct him further, Moshe returned with his wife and children to Midyan for six months! At that point, Hashem again appeared to him and told him to return to Mitzrayim {Egypt}. Upon his return, he was confronted by the Jewish officers in charge of enforcing the work quota. They complained bitterly and accusingly to Moshe about the seemingly disastrous results of his appearance before Paroah.

Moshe then complained to Hashem, “Why have you done evil to this nation, why did You send me?” If the time for the redemption had not yet arrived, why did You send me so early?

Hashem answered: “Now you will see what I’ll do to Paroah.[6:1]” Rashi explains that Hashem was censuring Moshe for second-guessing Him. Unlike Avrohom who didn’t question Hashem when he was first told that his seed would be through Yitzchok and then was instructed to offer him as a sacrifice. Therefore, Hashem said to Moshe, now you’ll see what I’ll do to this king, Paroah — but you won’t see what I’ll do to the Kings of the Seven Nations when Bnei Yisroel will enter Eretz Yisroel {Land of Israel}.

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.

The Ohr HaChaim explains that Hashem saw that His ‘warmth’ to Moshe had led Moshe to overstep his bounds. He therefore ‘spoke’ to him as Elokim. Don’t forget, even for a moment, whom you are speaking to. Elokim is Hashem, Hashem is Elokim.

Additionally, the Ohr HaChaim explains, Elokim told Moshe: “I am Hashem!” How can you say that I have done evil to the nation? I am Hashem! I epitomize Mercy and Compassion! Do you know each and every aspect of their actions to allow you to judge Me for My actions? Elokim is Hashem! The Attribute of Justice is actually a form of the Attribute of Mercy. “And Elokim spoke and said, ‘I am Hashem.'”

Our parsha then moves on to Moshe’s return to Paroah and covers the first seven plagues. The ten plagues are actually divided into three groups: DaTZa”CH – Dom, blood; TZfardea, frogs; CHinim, lice. ADaSH – Arov, wild animals; Dever, pestilence; SHchin, boils. BaACHaB – Barad, hail; Arbeh, locusts; CHoshech, darkness; Bchoros, the slaying of the first-born.

Paroah denied Hashem’s existence. Even if Hashem does exist, he doubted His supervision and involvement in what goes on here in this lowly world. Lastly, he doubted the extent of His power. Each of the groups of plagues graphically illustrated a fundamental tenet of Hashem and the way that He rules the world, disqualifying Paroah’s (lack of) beliefs.

The first plague, all of the waters of Mitzrayim turning to blood, is introduced in the following manner. “Go to Paroah in the morning as he goes out to the waters (the Nile)… and tell him to send forth My nation… With this you will know that I am Hashem… The water will turn to blood. [7:15-17]”

The Egyptians worshipped the Nile, their source of bounty, and worshipped Paroah. Paroah made himself into a god, claiming that he never needed to relieve himself. In fact, he would go early in the morning to the Nile and take care of his needs (talk about a guy in deNile…~ sorry~).

As the Kli Yakar explains, the first three plagues firmly established that Hashem is G-d. It is clear to see how the first plague, the water turning to blood, established this fact. It hit one of their gods (the Nile) while catching the other (Paroah) doing a very ungodly function. “With this you will know that I am Hashem.”

The third plague, lice, also clearly established Hashem’s existence. Whereas the sorcerers of Egypt were able to duplicate the first two plagues, they were unable to ‘create’ lice. They admitted to Paroah: “This is the finger of Elokim.[8:15]”

However, how did the frogs swarming into the Egyptians houses demonstrate Hashem’s existence? The Kli Yakar writes that while Paroah was denying His existence, this plague showed that even the Nile was generating things that proved Hashem’s existence by sanctifying His name.

In Daniel [3:1-30], King Nebuchadnezer built a massive idol of gold and proclaimed that at the sound of the symphony, everyone must bow down to it. Anyone who wouldn’t would be thrown into a furnace and burnt to death. Chananya, Mishael and Azarya, three Jewish advisors of the king were angrily summoned before him when he heard that they hadn’t bowed down. They steadfastly stood by their refusal and Nebuchadnezer had them bound and thrown into the furnace. He was astonished to see not three but four figures, with one having the appearance of an angel, walking unbound and unscathed in the midst of the fire. As they emerged unharmed, Nebuchadnezer blessed the name of Hashem.

The Talmud [Pesachim 53B] asks: From where did Chananya, Mishael and Azarya derive that they should allow themselves to be burnt to death in a furnace in order to sanctify Hashem’s name? (The R”i explains that they could have fled and thereby avoided the whole encounter.) The Talmud answers that they learned from the frogs!

Moshe had warned Paroah in Hashem’s name that, if he wouldn’t heed their demands, the waters would teem with frogs which would then enter the houses, bedrooms, beds, ovens and pastries [7:28]. Some frogs, eager to do the will of Hashem, went straight for Paroah’s king-sized bed… Now that’s the way to do a mitzva! Others sanctified His name by following His command and heading straight for the Boston Cream pie… Talk about difficulties in doing His will! Yet, there were some frogs who, although none had specifically been ordered to go into the ovens, realized that in order for there to be a true sanctification of Hashem’s name, every aspect of His decree must be fulfilled. They chose to go into the ovens.

Chananya, Mishael and Azarya learned from those frogs that, although they could have avoided the whole encounter, if everyone, without a single Jewish exception, would bow down, it would be a terrible desecration of Hashem’s name. They chose to stay and to conspicuously refuse to bow. They too, chose to enter the oven.

At the end of the plague, the passuk relates that the frogs that were in the houses, the courtyards and the fields all died. The Yalkut Shimoni chillingly points out that the only frogs which remained alive afterward were those that had entered the ovens…

Good Shabbos,

Yisroel Ciner

This week’s parsha-insights is dedicated in mazel tov to my son Shmuel on the occasion of his bar mitzva. May he too learn from the frogs to sanctify Hashem’s name in all situations and be a source of nachus to his family, to all Klal Yisroel and most importantly, to Hashem.

Copyright © 1998 by Rabbi Yisroel Ciner and Project Genesis, Inc.

The author teaches at Neveh Tzion in Telzstone (near Yerushalayim).