Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Va'era
To dedicate this lesson

Wonder of Wonders

for whom were these plagues/miracles done? Was it to bring Egypt to its knees, punishment for the inhuman way they mistreated us during 117 years of slavery? Was it to show Paro who really is boss? Was it to strengthen & energize Bnei Yisrael, after so many years of our being downtrodden?

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Rabbi Stewart Weiss

Tevet 25 5782
Our Sedra of Vaera might aptly be subtitled, "The Miracle Worker," as Hashem performs multiple miracles in Egypt. But for whom were these plagues/miracles done? Was it to bring Egypt to its knees, punishment for the inhuman way they mistreated us during 117 years of slavery? Was it to show Paro who really is boss? Was it to strengthen & energize Bnei Yisrael, after so many years of our being downtrodden? All quite plausible & possible. But perhaps there is yet another idea behind these wonders & signs.

The 7th plague (Hail) destroys the crops of Egypt. But the wheat & spelt are saved, as the pasuk says, "Ki Afilot Hayna." Rashi explains: These 2 species bloom later, & because they were soft & not yet standing, they survived the hail. But Rashi also brings a Medrash on the unusual word, "Afilot" & relates it to Pele-miracle, saying that this aspect of the plague was indeed a wonder of wonders, a miracle of miracles! (Apologies to Mottel Kamzoil).

Rav Moshe Feinstein asks: Was the fact that the wheat & spelt were spared deserving of such extreme hyperbole, a "miracle of miracles?!" And so he maintains that this was G-d holding back His attribute of Justice, refraining by Divine decision from exercising the full force of the plague, & that is a momentous thing indeed. Perhaps He did this to offer Paro an out (Paro could say the plague was not 100% effective & so remain obstinate); perhaps it allowed the Egyptians to continue their oppression, so as to be brought completely to their knees later on ("When the wicked grow as grass, it is so that they may be totally cut down in due time," says Tehilim 92).

But I see another profound lesson at work here. We Jews live in a world where we are constantly under threat. Half the world directly attacks, assaults or condemns us, while the other half sits by & is deathly silent in the face of these obscenities. We ask: Why doesn’t Hashem punish them? Why are they free to carry out their Barbaric, Despicable, Sickening (BDS) actions? Why does G-d hold Himself back from dispensing the justice due them?

Perhaps G-d hopes the world will do Teshuva. Perhaps He waits for just the right moment to strike the evil-doers. Or perhaps He wants us to realize just how blessed we are, that our People, small in number but giant in stature, can withstand any & all forces arrayed against us, & still continue to thrive & flourish. Virtually the entire planet can harbor ill will towards us, yet we go on & on, unstoppable. That may just be the greatest of all miracles.

The essential question is: Do we ourselves recognize the ongoing miracle in which we live?!
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