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Bloody river

The first plague was the plague of blood. Besides the obvious inconvenience, to say the least, of the plague, what significance was there in the choice of blood for this first calamity to befall the Egyptians?
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The first plague was the plague of blood. Besides the obvious inconvenience, to say the least, of the plague, what significance was there in the choice of blood for this first calamity to befall the Egyptians? Also, considering that all sorts of water turned into blood, why does the Torah put special emphasis on the waters of the Nile (see Shemot 7:17).

Let us go back in time and see the relevance of water and blood to these events. The Egyptians were appalled by the fertility of the Jewish family. As such, they decreed that Jewish women should not immerse in a mikveh, in which water purifies the body from the effects of blood. In response, Hashem turned Egyptian water into blood (Shemot Rabba). Others say it is related to Paroh’s slaughter of 300 Jewish children in whose blood he bathed. Still others connect it to the decree to throw baby boys into the Nile. Rashi (Shemot 17:7) points out that the Nile was not only the life source of Egypt but also a diety in Egypt. This should not be surprising, as this extremely arid land always had available water, which seemed to miraculously appear in the Nile.

If we put these last facts together, we can uncover some interesting connections. After Paroh lost confidence in his system of killing Jewish males at birth, he decreed to have them thrown into the Nile. His astrologers told him that it was seen in the stars that the Jewish savior would find his demise with water. "How appropriate," Paroh must have thought, "that the Egyptian diety would subdue the Jewish savior." (In fact, not only did the Nile fail to kill the savior, but it protected him, which is the reason that Moshe did not personally bring the plague upon the water (Shemot Rabba 9:10). According to Me’am Loez, once Moshe was put into the Nile, the signs to the astrologers stopped indicating that there was still a danger from the Jews’ savior.) It must have been relatively easy to explain to his people that the Jewish newborns would not be slaughtered in cold blood but would be given over to the Nile to do to them what it would.

If we view matters along these lines, we can appreciate the story of Bat Paroh more fully. Here she was on the Nile, bathing, when she saw a child floating in the Nile. Not only did her father decree that the babies be killed, but it had been explained that the babies were "the property" of the Nile, which would deal with them. By choosing the life of the young Moshe, she was not only choosing mercy over cruelty, but was questioning the rights of the diety that the Nile represented. This is, perhaps, the Torah’s hint to the conversion of Bat Paroh from Egyptian idolatry to Jewish monotheism. Indeed both problems and solutions began with water and blood.
"You shall draw water, in joy, from the springs of salvation."


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