(6:2) “Vayidabaer Elokim el-Moshe Vayomer Aylav Ani Hashem-Hashem spoke to Moshe and said to him I am Hashem.”
The parsha begins where last week’s parsha left off. After having begun his mission to free the Jewish people, Moshe complains to Hashem that he has been sent in vain, for instead of helping them he had only made it worse for them. Now Hashem tells him that although the Avos only knew Him by the name Kael Shakai, a name that implies working within nature, they never complained as Moshe did. He would now introduce to the world the name of Hashem that is never pronounced as it is spelled, the name that refers to the aspect of Hashem as beyond the laws of nature and time.
The reason that Moshe’s arrival was followed by an immediate intensification of the slavery is because there are two considerations that needed to be addressed before Klal Yisroel could leave Mitzrayim. One is that before Egypt could be punished they had to reach their full measure of sin. The second is that Klal Yisroel should not be allowed to fall into the 50th level of tumeh out of which there was no escape. They were supposed to remain in bondage for 400 years but now after only 210 years they were teetering on the brink of that 50th level. How would they be able to survive another 190 years? But if Hashem intervened by preventing them from falling into the 50th level, that would be tantamount to removing their free will? Therefore Hashem, using the name of past, present and future, sent Moshe. His presence there aggravated Pharoh to the extent that he not only refused to acknowledge Hashem or let his people go, he actually made it far worse. Pharoh said the people have too much time on their hands. (5:7)“Lo Sosifune Losase Teven- I will no longer supply them with straw to make bricks.” By taking away their ability to perform the requested tasks, Pharoh was in essence removing their free will. The letters of the words Lo Sosifune can be separated to read “Lo Es Sof Nunn-Their end will not be 50. This final act of cruelty enabled Egypt to reach their full measure of sin and triggered the beginning of their punishment. Klal Yisroel would no longer need to complete the 400 years of slavery and could be saved from falling any further into the 50th level of tumeh. The gematria of Sof Nunn equals 190. By removing 190 years Hashem removed the possibility of Sof Nunn.
(6:8) “V'Hevasi Eschem el-H'artez-And I will bring you into the land.” Interestingly enough except for Calev and Yehoshua that entire generation never entered into the Promised Land. Of the 600,000 people who left Egypt only two entered Canaan. The Meshech Chochma writes that it was worth performing all the miracles and wonders in Egypt and the desert so that two righteous people could reach the promised goal. From this we learn that true believers should not despair when it seems that only a few select people are following the righteous path. For the sake of those few, the light will shine forth, as it did then for the two righteous people who entered the Holy Land.
(6:12) “Va'ani Aral Sifasayim -And I have sealed lips.” Why was it that Moshe had a speech impediment? The Maharal explains that Moshe was different than everyone else from the time he was born. When a child is in its mother’s womb Chazal say that he is taught the entire Torah and is able to see from one end of the earth to the other. At the time of birth a Malach comes and taps it on the upper lip and causes it to forget all that it has learned. What is really going on here? The Maharal explains that when the child is first conceived it receives its Neshama from Hashem long before the physical body is developed. At this point it is connected to its roots (Hashem) and is unencumbered by the physical restraints that the body places on it. Therefore it is able to know the entire Torah and to perceive the entire world from one end to the other. The time of its physical completion is when it acquires the ability to speak. This is the apex of human development. It is what sets man above all of the other creations. The power of speech is the synthesis of the spiritual and physical worlds. Through speech abstract concepts of thought can be materialized into the physical world. So it is at this point, just as the baby is coming into the world that these two concepts meet in the power of speech.
Moshe was different in that his spirituality was not so connected to his physical. He was more closely related to the spiritual world than any other person. The Maharal uses the term Nivdal meaning separate, when describing Moshe. This manifested itself in his power of speech. He was lacking in this area because he was not connected as other people. This also would explain how the name “Moshe” was the one name that remained with him even though this was not the name given him at his bris. The name Moshe which means drawn from the water best describes Moshe because water represents the physical. And Moshe was taken out of the physical. This also might explain how at times Benei Yisroel was able to hear the voice of Hashem coming through the throat of Moshe Rabeinu.
(6:12) “Vayidaber Moshe Lifnei Hashem Laymore Hain Benei Yisroel Lo Shomu Aylai V’ayech Yishmaeini Pharoh-Moshe said to Hashem Benei Yisroel won’t listen to me how will Pharoh?” In the beginning of the parsha Moshe said to Hashem that if Benei Yisroel won't listen to me how will Pharoh? Rashi says this is one of the ten Kal Vichomers in the Torah. But really this should not be a good kal vichomer because we said earlier in posuk 9 that they won't listen to Moshe because of their distress and hard labor? Pharoh had no hard labor it should not be an equal comparison. The answer is that Benei Yisroel knew that the golus was to last for 400 years. Moshe came and said “Pokod pokadity” the numerical value of Pokod equals 190. So he was telling them that the golus would be shortened by 190 years due to the intensity of their hard labor. So when he say's they won't listen to Moshe it means they won't believe that the hard labor will shorten their golus.
Alternatively these words can be read as follows. If Bnei Yisroel won't listen to me that would be a tremendous embarrassment. What would be if Pharoh does listen to me, how much more of an embarrassment would that be?
(7:9) “Kach es Matcha V’Hashlech Lifnei Pharoh Yihe L’sanin-Take your staff and cast it down before Pharoh and it will become a snake.” When Moshe spoke to Hashem at Har Sinai Hashem told him to throw down his staff and it turned into a snake (Nochosh). Here in our parsha it says that Moshe threw down his staff and it turned into a serpent (Sanin). Why the change in loshon? The serpent is a sea creature. This was meant to be a message to Pharoh that just like sea creatures which have indiscriminate violence, you and your people will be punished through water because the way they treated Benei Yisroel was also with indiscriminate violence. Also since the Egyptians worshiped a serpent this was a stronger sign for Pharoh than a snake would have been. Another reason is that Pharoh was referred to as Tanin (a serpent).
This could also explain why Rashi writes (4:21) that when Hashem sent him to Mitzraim and told him to perform, “the signs that I have placed in your hands,” he says this does not refer to the three signs shown at Har Sinai. “Because we don’t find that he performed these signs before Pharoh.” But we do see that the turning of the staff into a snake was done in front of Pharoh? It could be that at Har Sinai Hashem revealed the Nochosh to Moshe . This was no ordinary snake, but the root of the most terrifying evil that exists. Chazal say that Moshe was so terrified that he ran away from the sight of it, even though he was standing in the presence of Hashem. Hashem revealed Himself to Moshe and as a counterbalance to that revelation he also revealed this manifestation of evil. This was necessary in order to strengthen Moshe’s emunah when he was to enter Pharoh’s palace, the center of tremendous Tumeh in the world. It was not for nothing that the elders, who began accompanying Moshe on his way to Pharoh, one by one strayed off until there was none of them left. As they entered the palace the stone lions began snarling at them. Black magic was everywhere. The entrance to Pharoh’s throne was constructed very low in order to force anyone entering to bow to him. But when Moshe came the entrance way miraculously expanded to Moshe’s height.
Moshe told Aaron to cast down his staff and it turned into a snake. Pharoh was unimpressed. He then called in the little children to perform the same trick. The question is since Moshe grew up in Pharoh’s house didn’t he know that this would not impress him? Didn’t he know that even the children could do this? The Nefesh Hachaim writes that black magic is really the hand of Hashem in its hidden form. Hashem allows it to work in order to hide his power in the world. What Moshe intended to show was not turning a stick into a snake. That just hides Hashem in this world. Instead he turned the snake back into a stick. That was something black magic could not duplicate. That was revealing Hashem in the world. So when Moshe’s stick ate the other snakes it really silenced the crowd and sent a message to Pharoh that all of their tricks would be revealed to be no more than Hashem hidden in the world.
After Hashem spoke to Moshe it say's he should take the Mateh (staff) of Hashem with him. Later he tells Aaron to take his Mateh and throw it down before Pharoh. Still later it is called Moshe's Mateh? Who’s staff was it? What was the need for there to be a Mateh in the first place? Where did it come from?
This was the first supernatural sign that was to be shown to Pharoh. It was meant to not only send Pharoh a message, but to define the mission that Hashem was sending them on and validate that it was of a divine source. Why then was the Mateh turning into a Sanin chosen?
This Mateh came from the Eitz Hachaim. It was given by Hashem to Adam who passed it on to Shais and then on to the Avos. After Yosef had it, it was hidden among the Treasures of Pharoh. When Yisro fled Egypt he took it with him where it became stuck in the sand for years until Moshe came to Midyan. Moshe was the only one able to remove it from the sand. When Hashem made Moshe his messenger to liberate Benei Yisroel, He gave him a sign. A messenger who comes without a token from the one who sent him is not as readily believed as one who comes with a token. But what was the message?
Reb Yosef Salant in his Be’er Yosef, answers based on the Ramban regarding the guilt of the Egyptians for enslaving the Jewish people. The Ramban explains that the Egyptians were held accountable even though Hashem told Avraham that his descendants would be enslaved, because they went beyond using the Jews as unpaid laborers. The Egyptians made the lives of the Jews miserable by forcing them to do back breaking, meaningless labor, beating them and killing the Jewish babies. The Be’er Yosef explains that the role of a staff is to do exactly what the holder of the staff wants, no more and no less. To be an extension of the hand. The Egyptians acted like snakes going beyond what was required. By turning Aharon’s staff into a snake they were in essence showing Pharoh what they had done wrong.
We proclaim in Aleinu “Shehu Noteh Shomayim V’yosed H’aretz-He bent the Heavens and founded the Earth.” In creating the Olam, which comes from the word Helom meaning hidden, He hid Himself. The word Mateh-staff comes from the word Noteh-to bend. When a person travels down a road he will never lose his way if the road remains straight. The moment the road begins to veer off to the right or left he no longer can see where he came from. The Mateh represents the veering off from the source.
Hashem created two trees and placed them in the garden. These were two paths for man to choose from. The path of the Eitz Hachaim which is the Torah, the straight path, the path of truth, or the Eitz Hadas the path of the Nochosh, of deception and lies. “You can be like Hashem” the snake told Chava. When Moshe stood before Hashem at the burning bush Hashem told him to throw down his staff and it turned into a snake (nochosh). Here in our parsha it says that Moshe threw down his staff and it turned into a serpent (Sanin). Why the change in loshon?
Chazal tell us the source of all future history is rooted in the first days of creation. The first place we find this word Sanin in the Torah is on the fifth day of creation where the Torah writes that Hashem created the great Saninim. Rashi comments that the world would not have been able to exist if both male and female were left alive so the female was killed and salted away for the righteous in the future. What does this mean? It is interesting to note that the only places that the word Boroh-created is found are on the first day of creation, by man on the sixth day, and here by the creation of the Saninim. This represents the three major revelations by Hashem in our world. The first was by Brias Olam where His presence was clearly manifested. The second time was by Yetzias Mitzraim which was a sort of recreation of the world. The third will be by the ultimate revelation at the end of days. Therefore we may suggest that the Saninim represents this type of revelation that only occurred twice in the world since creation. Had they both been allowed to exist, the world could not have continued, just as the Ohr Hagonuz the primordial light, was hidden away for the future, so too the Saninim were hidden away because they both would have revealed too much.
When Moshe spoke to Hashem at Har Sinai it says that Hashem told him to throw down his staff and it turned into a snake (nochosh). This was no ordinary snake, but the root of the most terrifying evil that exists. We see that Moshe ran away from the sight of it, even though he was standing in the presence of Hashem. This was meant to prepare him for his mission to Mitzraim, the place where sorcery and black magic prevail. The Nefesh Hachaim writes that black magic is really the hand of Hashem in its hidden form. Hashem allows it to work in order to hide his power in the world. This is the path of the Eitz Hadas, of the Nochosh. What Moshe intended to show instead was the Saninim, a revelation of Hashem in this world. This was the message that he was bringing to Pharoh. This was the message all of the Macos were to convey. That was something black magic could not duplicate. That was revealing Hashem in the world. The Gematria of the word Sanin is 510 the same as the word Yashar-straight.
When Aharon threw down the Mateh the Egyptians wondered whether it had really always been a snake that just had the illusion of being a staff. Later when they saw the very same Mateh being used by the Makeh of Blood they realized that it must be a staff since water negates any magical illusions. This is why it is referred to as the Mateh of Aharon.
By the makeh of blood all the water in Mitzraim became blood. If this is so how were the magicians able to duplicate this? Where did they get the water from? When the Egyptians came to Goshen they saw that the water was unchanged but when they took any it would become blood. Only if they bought it would it remain water. This is hinted at in the word Daam (blood) Which is used here in the plural meaning Damim the same word which is used meaning money.
(6:14) “Ayleh Roshei Beis Avosom Beni Reuvein Bechor Yisroel–These were the heads of their fathers houses; the sons of Reuvein the firstborn of Israel.” We find that there is no mention of the names of the heads of the fathers houses here only by Levi does the Torah say (6:16) “V’ayleh Shemos Benei Levi- And these are the names of the sons of Levi.” The Shelah writes that there is a concept of feeling another man’s sorrow and pain. Just as we are to share in our fellow man’s simcha so too must we share our brother’s pain. The tribe of Levi was not subject to the same intense labor the rest of Klal Yisroel suffered through. The way in which they could share in their fellow man’s suffering was by giving their children names which were expressions of that suffering. Gershon, Merrai and Kehas are such names. Gershon is from the words Ger Shom- A stranger there. Merrari-is from the word Maror-Bitter, and Kehas is an expression of silencing their speech. This is what the Torah is expressing here with the words “V’ayleh Shemos Benei Levi- And these are the names of the sons of Levi.” Moshe and Aaron, who are accepting the role as leaders of the nation, had to come from a tribe that was able to share their brother’s pain.
The Shelah goes on to say that this explains the conversation Moshe had with Hashem by the Sneh. (3:14) Hashem told Moshe that His name is AKIYEH asher AKIYEH, meaning that He will be with them in this pain and in the future pain they will experience. To which Moshe says “Why mention future pain to Klal Yisroel now?” Hashem agreed and said just tell them. AKIYEH has sent me. What does this mean? Can we possibly say that Hashem did not say the right thing? The Shelah explains that this really was meant for Moshe not Klal Yisroel. Moshe was not in Mitzrayim during the Shibud. For him to have the sympathy needed he was told now about the future events.
(6:26) “Hu Aharon U’Moshe Asher Omar Hashem-This is Aron and Moshe who Hashem spoke with..” Rashi says there are times when Moshe is listed first and times when Aharon is listed first to show they were both equal. But how can this be? We know that Moshe had no equal? But they were equal in regard to becoming the greatest person they could be, in reaching their full potential. Aharon was the greatest Aharon he could have been. R. Moshe Feinstein said we measure a person not by who they are but by how much they have grown.
(7:11) “Vayasu Gam Haim Chartumai Mitzrayim B’Lateihem Kain- And they too-the Necromancers of Egypt- did so with their incantations.” The Malbin writes that they themselves were transformed into snakes and were eaten by Aaron’s staff.
There is a constant mentioning of bringing the staff. After seeing the staff of Aaron devour the sorcerers themselves, the mere sight of the staff instilled tremendous fear in the Egyptians.
(7:19) “Vayomer Hashem el-Moshe Dabaer el-Aaron-Hashem spoke to Moshe saying speak to Aaron.” Moshe was told to begin the first plague by telling his brother Aaron to warn Pharoh. The reason, as Rashi points out, is that Moshe could not strike even the inanimate waters, since he once was protected by them and had to display Akorus H’Tov. The question then becomes, how could Moshe bring so much destruction to Pharoh? Should he not display the same Akorus H’Tov to Pharoh who raised him?
All of the plagues were now being showered upon Pharaoh and Mitzrayim because of their lack of Akorus H’Tov. Everything that Pharoh was, his wealth, his countries existence, all were due to what Yosef had done for them. But this was not only not acknowledged, it was repaid with slavery and cruelty. This lack of Akorus H’Tov was at the root of their sin. Hashem repays Midah K’neged Midah. Every day Pharoh would be faced by the very person who was raised in his home from childhood, and now stood before him making demands for his people. This best showed Pharoh what ingratitude really looks like.
As the Torah begins the narrative of the Ten Plagues a question arises regarding the first two plagues? Turning water, their God, into blood and having the Nile spew forth frogs. Both seem to have had the ability to be duplicated by the Egyptian sorcerers? Now if the purpose of the plagues was to display the unique power of Hashem over all of creation, why use something that can so easily be performed by the lowly Egyptian sorcerers? Rav Eytan Feiner offers a beautiful insight into the reasoning. The Egyptians were now forced to perform a sacrilege on their own God, the Nile, which was the very water supply that sustained them! By replicating the plague performed by Aharon they were in essence striking the very object of their worship. At the very start Hashem is displaying the tremendous foley of all their beliefs saying here is your God, now slap him in the face! By turning the source of their sustenance into blood it totally negated it as a Deity .
(7:21)“Ve'Hadagah Asher- Ba'yor Mase'ah - The fish-life that was in the river died.” We don’t find that any of the fish died during the Great Flood? The reason for this is that in the days of the flood all land life forms corrupted their ways by mating outside of their species. The fish, being below the surface, were not influenced by the actions of man and did not corrupt themselves and did not sin. In Egypt however the fish did sin by eating the Jewish babies that were thrown into the Nile. For this reason they deserved to be punished here. (Toldos Yitzchak)
(7:21)“Ve'Hadagah Asher- Ba'yor Mase'ah - The fish-life that was in the river died.” By the plague of Blood, the Torah tells us that the fish died. Why did Hashem see fit to destroy one of his creations? We don't find this to be the case by the plague of the wild animals? Instead we see they were sent away so that the Egyptians would not benefit from the hides. The Meam Loez writes when the Egyptians saw the dead fish they knew that the blood they were witnessing was not an illusion. It showed that this blood was prevalent throughout the water not just at the surface. For if the blood was only at the surface, the fish would have been able to remain alive by simply swimming into deeper waters.
(8:5) "Rak Bayor Tisharnoh- Only in the river will they remain." During the plague of frogs we find that some frogs die while others remained alive in the Nile? Three reasons are given by the Oznayim L'Torah. One- To show that even their God, the Nile, could not save itself. Two - So that the Egyptians would realize the gravity of their of casting Jewish babies into the Nile. Each time they would hear the croaking in the future it would be a reminder of that sin. Three-These were the frogs that jumped into the Egyptian ovens to sanctify Hashem's name. They survived and returned to the Nile.
(8:6) “Vayomer L’Mochor- He said tomorrow.” The Zohar writes that Pharoh knew Black Magic only operates between noon and midnight. By telling Moshe to remove the plague tomorrow he was testing him to see if Moshe was authentic or if he knew as well how to use the black arts.
(8:9) “Vayomusu Ha'tzfardim - And the frogs died.” Again we find that Hashem saw fit to destroy one of his creations. Why? Because only frogs that did not die were the ones that jumped into the ovens. Hashem wanted to make this distinction to teach that whoever serves Hashem will ultimately not lose out. The frogs multiplied beyond their nature and it was the excess frogs that died because after serving their purpose they were no longer really needed.
When Hashem brought the plague of Dever to Mitzraim the Torah tells us that by Benei Yisroel not one animal died. The words used are “lo mase echod.” In the next posuk it says Pharoh sent scouts to verify this and it uses the words “lo mase ad echod” implying that all but one lived? This one belonged to the son of the one woman who had relations with a Mitzri. When Moshe saw a Mitzri hitting a Jew and Rashi says he looked and saw what was going on in the field and in the home. He understood that this Mitzri would make the Jew leave his home at night so he could be with his wife. The son of that union was really not a Jew because before Matan Torah the child is determined by who the father was. After Matan Torah the child follows after the mother. So this child was not a Jew therefore his animal died. But that was all Pharoh had to see. Even though 99.999% of the Jewish cattle lived, as long as he saw one exception it was enough for him to not believe.
(8:12) “V’Hoyo L’Kinim B’chol Ertetz Mitzrayim- It shall become lice throughout the whole land of Egypt.” The lice came to punish the Egyptians for preventing the Jews from bathing. The Jews remained sweaty and filthy from their work making bricks, and were subject to attacks by lice. Now the tables were turned and it was the Egyptians who were plagued by lice.
(8:13) "Etzbah Elokim" The name Elokim is used instead of Hashem by the advisers to say that this was a natural phenomenon and could have been predicted by the astrologers. This is why pharaoh changed his mind about releasing them. After this the sorcerers no longer tried to duplicate the Macos. The word Etzbah is an acrostic for Ein Bedika Ode-There is no need for further inspection. From here on the word Chartumim is spelled without a letter "YUD". This hinted at the ten measures of sorcery sent to this world of which they now lost all they had.
Why do the magicians not have power over things below a measure? Because that is the Shiur for Tumeh. The word for Shiur has the same letters as Siorah (Barley) This indicates that the sorcery is dependent on and is limited by physicality and is not rooted in the spiritual. (Maharal)
(8:27) The Oznayim L’Torah writes that the wild animals did not die like the frogs to keep the Egyptians from profiting on the hides. The frogs multiplied beyond their nature and the excess were killed because they were not needed, however the wild animals returned back to where they came from.
(9:3) “Yad Hashem” This is the only place where the “Hand of Hashem” is mentioned. The reason is because the posuk mentions five types of livestock.
(9:6) "MiMikneh Benei Yisroel Lo Mase Echad-From the Cattle of the Children of Israel none died" The question asked is from where did Yisroel get cattle? They were slaves? One answer given by the Ohr Hachaim is that they bought cattle with the money they received from selling water to the Egyptians during the plague of blood. Its also possible that some of the smart Egyptians tried to avoid the death of their cattle by selling them to the Jews. The words "From the cattle" implies that some of their cattle were killed. The animals owned outright by the Jews did not die, but those animals owned by Jews in name only died.
(9:11) “Lo Yochlu H’Chartumim Lamode-The Nacromancers could not stand” Why are the magicians singled out here? They shut themselves in their homes out of embarrassment. Because although their remedies helped others, they could not help themselves.
(9:14) “Ki Bepam Hazos Ani Sholeach Es-Kol-Mageifosai El-Leibecha -
For this time I shall send all My plagues against your heart.” First of all why is Hashem telling Moshe to say that he will send all of his plagues when the next plague that was sent was Borod (hail)? Secondly what is meant by the term “against your heart?” Rashi explains that this refers to Macos Bechoros- The Plague of the Firstborn, rather than the hail, about which Moshe was now warning Pharoh. The Maharal explains that this was the first of the last set of plagues that culminated in the Plague of the Firstborn. Thus Rashi's reference is to the plague that was the climax of the current series. The Ohr Hachaim explains that up until now Pharoh thought that all of the plagues were preformed either through Moshe's superior knowledge of black magic or his ability to know when certain natural phenomena was to take place. But after seeing the plague of Borod in which both fire and water coexisted and through which there was tremendous damage to the food supply, and even death to the people and animals, Pharoh realized that it was Hashem and not Moshe that was at work. Through this realization, it was as if “all My plagues” were ow being inflicted at the same time.
Perhaps another approach could be that since, from here on in it was Hashem's decision not Pharoh's as to when the people would be freed, it became all My plagues. In essence what Hashem was saying was that just as the previous plague of Dever came because I hardened your heart, you can no longer let them go, I will bring all my plagues even if you wish to let them go because Hashem took away Pharoh's Bechira (freedom of choice). Now it was automatic that “all my plagues” would be inflicted. This would also then explain the reference to “Against your heart." Pharoh's heart was now taken out of the equation.
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