Points to Ponder – Vaera 5774

And I appeared to Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov (6:3)Rashi adds that Hashem appeared to the Avos. What does Rashi want to prove with his addition? Rav Moshe Tzvi Neriah ztl explains that although Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov were incredible individuals it was not their role model status alone that would inspire the Jewish people. However, when thinking that they were our Avos and Maaseh Avos Siman L’banim – the young nation could be inspired to relate to the Avos and learn to be inspired by their lead to move toward Geulah.

And Moshe spoke to the people accordingly but they couldn’t listen to Moshe due to the shortness of breath and the hard labor (6:9)Sforno explains that the people couldn’t conceive of listening to the word of Moshe because of the oppressive work. Otherwise, they would have had no problem listening and believing in him and his message. Rav Sheinberg ztl tries to understand what the goal of Moshe was and why he tries once again to step out of the job as spokesman especially after Hashem had told him “no”? He explains that Hashem would not perform a Miracle for Bnei Yisroel if they did not have the most basic faith. The problem of Kotzer Ruach is that it took away the most basic faith. By having a different person speak on behalf of Hashem, Moshe thought the people would be moved to Emunah and merit the miracles as a result.

And Moshe and Aharon did as Hashem had commanded them (7:6) – Usually the phrase “as Hashem commanded” is reserved for Mitzvos that would be relevant for future generations as well. Why is it used here? Maran HaRav Schachter Shlita explains that the Halacha that a Novi must bolster his own word with some degree of proof that he is a Novi is a Halacha relevant to future generations as well.

The Maakos – The Mishna in Avos (5:4) notes that there were 10 miracles that were done for our forefathers in Mitzrayim. Rav Yisroel Meir Lau Shlita notes that this seems somewhat odd – the miracles were done to the Mitzrim – not our forefathers. A nd why bother to call them miracles anyway? Rav Lau explains that miracles are things that bring one to a better awareness of Hashem’s presence in the world. Although the miracle happened to the Mitzrim, the ones who seemed to get the message were the Jewish people.

And the Kinim were found in man and animal (8:13) – The Rambam (in his Pirush to Avos) notes that unlike all the other Makkos which seem to differentiate between the Maaka’s effect on the Egyptian and its lack of effect on the Jew, in regard to Kinim no such reference is present. Rambam explains that in fact, Kinim were found within the camp of both Jew and non-Jew but it only affected the Egyptian. Rav Sorotzkin ztl. finds proof from the fact that Yaakov asked not to be buried in Egypt. Rashi explains that he was worried that his body would be affected by the Makkah of kinim. If Kinim were not to be found in Goshen, why would he simply request to be buried there – unless Kinim were to be found there as well. But why would Hashem have this makka there? Rav Sorotzkin adds that this was necessary because it was the last Makka of brick requirement. Had kinim not been in the Jewish camp the Egyptians might have moved the brick operation to Goshen and the Jews would have had to continue working.

 Behold the hand of Hashem will attack your cattle in the field (9:3)Rav Dovid Soloveitchik Shlita asks how we use this as a proof to the Yad Hachazaka of the Seder. After all, the Makka of Dever was only at the halfway point to Geulah? Why was Dever singled out with the phrase Yad HaChazaka? Rav Dovid Cohen Shlita, Chevron Rosh HaYeshiva, explains that the first 5 makkos broke the spirit of Pharaoh and he would have let the Jews go. Thereafter Hashem hardened his heart in order to punish him. This is why I is referred to as “Yad HaChazaka” it is a five fingered punishment that destroyed the economy.

He who feared the word of Hashem from the servants of Pharaoh (9:20) – How could the concept of “Fearing Hashem” enter the discussion when we are speaking about the Egyptians? The fearing of Hashem should have made them change their minds which is something that would not happen for another 3 Maakos? The Steipler ztl. explains that Yiras Shomayim is not an intellectual concept. One can see proof that there is Hashem and come up with all sorts of alternative explanations for the proof. True Yiras Shomayim is a desire to see the obvious. Rav Dovid Povarsky ztl. adds that this is why the Jewish survival in the Galus, a concept that clearly proves Ki Lo Yitosh Hashem Amo is not widely seen by humanity as a proof to Hashem and a calling to be close to him.

Haftorah: Nevuchadnetzer’s defeat of MitzrayimRav Avraham Rivlin Shlita notes that the battle of the Babylonians and Egyptians contained a major dual message for the Jewish people. On the one hand, the defeat of Pharaoh Necho II and the Egyptian empire reminded Bnei Yisroel that they cannot trade their trust in Hashem for support of Egypt for Egypt can crumble in a moment. At the same time, the rise of Nevuchadnetzer came about, as the Novi notes, as payback for Babylonia’s dealing with Tyre who had strained relations with Yirushalayim. When good or bad things happen in the world, we need to look at them from a Jewish perspective