Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Va'era
קטגוריה משנית
To dedicate this lesson
The process of the redemption of Israel from Egyptian bondage is long and slow. The Jews suffer eighty years of bondage and persecution, humiliation and murder before the redemption takes place. Many Jews waver, understandably so, under the impact of the bad times. Some become informers (Datan and Aviram), others lack courage (the seventy elders of Israel who drifted away from accompanying Moshe to warn Pharaoh) and still others castigate Moshe for the apparent lack of progress in their redemption (the Jewish overseers employed by the Egyptians.) Then there will be large sections of the Jewish people who simply give up on the entire enterprise of freedom and redemption. They will not merit to live to see and be part of the actual redemption and exodus from Egypt when it occurs. Even Moshe himself is ruefully criticized by God at the beginning of this week’s parsha for his complaints to Heaven about the apparent lack of progress on the redemption and freedom front. It is obvious that staying power and almost infinite patience are requirements for Jews hoping to see better times. The story of the plagues and the events of the parsha illustrate for us the necessity of a long range view in dealing with events in Jewish life. Great things take time to develop and unfold. Sudden and immediate proposed solutions to longstanding problems and challenges rarely are effective or beneficial. The Lord, so to speak, counts as one of His attributes infinite patience. Our task is to somehow emulate Him is this characteristic.

Pharaoh, the enemy of Israel, is the prototype of all later enemies of the Jewish people. No logic or facts can persuade him to abandon his irrational hatred and self-destructive behavior towards the Jews. Even when his closest advisers exclaim to him: "Are you not aware that Egypt is doomed because of your intransigence?" Pharaoh remains unmoved. He is willing to soldier on till the last Egyptian is destroyed in the series of plagues that are visited upon him and them. The hatred of Jews is unreasoning and totally irrational. Yet it remains the constant in world history for millennia on end. Let Gaza be totally destroyed but no one will step back and ask why did we allow this to happen? The spirit and unreasoning stubbornness of Pharaoh lives on in all later haters and murderers of Jews. Moshe engages in negotiations with Pharaoh but Pharaoh never honors the agreements achieved by these negotiations. Pharaoh is already preparing for the next round as soon as the physical pressure of the plague is relaxed. And God tells Moshe in advance that this will be the scenario until the final blow is delivered. Pharaoh will remain Pharaoh until the end, even after the exodus from Egypt takes place. Even though this is completely illogical, the Lord realizes, so to speak, that evil people behave this way and oftentimes cover their evil in the cloak of piety. In any event this week’s parsha illustrates for us once more that the parshiyot of the Torah deal not only with the past but illuminate for us our present situation and our future hopes and triumphs.
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