Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Bo
To dedicate this lesson

Wonder of wonders


Rabbi Stewart Weiss

Shvat 5783
The stage is set: The Egyptians have been struck by 9 devastating Plagues which have decimated their gods, their economy, their agriculture & their physical safety. And now, their very future will be targeted in the slaying of the First-Born, wiping out the heirs to their leadership.

Yet suddenly, Hashem puts the 10 Plagues on hold. He interrupts the process of Redemption in order to issue His first decree to Bnei Yisrael as a nation: "This month (of Nisan) will be for you the first of months." Our calendar, like Jewish life itself, is starting anew, and so we will now begin counting our months from Nisan, even though the world was created in Tishrei, six months prior.

But why pause to make this decree, rather than first concluding the Makot & only then establishing a New Jewish Order? Would that not have made more sense?

I think the answer lies in a statement Hashem makes just before He issues the command to re-order the calendar: "L’ma’an tayd’un asher yafleh Hashem bayn Mitzrayim u’vayn Yisrael; so that you shall know that G-d has differentiated between Egypt & Israel."

Rashi helps us by defining the unusual word, "yafleh" as "differentiated." But clearly, the word also connects to "peleh," which means wonder, or miracle.

I want to suggest that Hashem here is making a grand statement about the nature of His relationship with the Jewish People, as well as hinting as to how we are to proceed towards ultimately fulfilling our eternal destiny.

Hashem is telling us that there is a structured, systematic procedure for us to follow in normal, Halachic life. We will studiously observe the moon; that will allow us to "set up" each month, so we can designate our Chagim during the next 30 days, as well as establish our seasons. The sun will guide us as to when we rise for morning prayers & when we recite evening Tefilot; it will also tell us when Shabbat begins & ends. These universal objects are not ours alone; we share them with all humanity, but we utilize them for our own specific Jewish purposes.

Yet the natural world is not our boundary. We are also a people of wonders, witnesses to miraculous events & recipients of Divine assistance from above that defy logic, science & rationality. There is no rational explanation as to how we could have survived – no, flourished! - all these centuries against such staggering odds, outlasting mighty empires along the way that sought our demise.

Our very existence is a peleh, a wonder. To the knowing eye, it is as clear as the moon & as bright as the sun.
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