Thursday, February 2, 2017

Parshas Va'eira 5777

פּרשׁת וארא

Okay; so the first verse in Parshas Va’eira is ‘Vayidaber Elokim el Moshe, vayomer eilav; Ani Hashem/And G-d spoke to Moshe and He said to him; I am Hashem’.  

Tells us the Sefer Toras Avos (teachings from the Rebbes of Lechovitz, Kobrin, and Slonim):  As we know, the Name Elokim (translated as G-d) denotes Judgement - Hashem’s Attribute of Strict Judgement.  While His Name Hashem denotes His Attribute of Mercy.  

So, Hashem was saying to Moshe Rabbeinu here, says Sefer Toras Avos, that according to what he thought, everything that had happened so far in Egypt to the Jews was from His Attribute of Strict Judgement - as things had even gotten worse towards the end of Parshas Shemos - and Moshe Rabbeinu had complained some about it (thus the Name Elokim first in the verse).  

However the truth is that, as He said, ‘Ani Hashem/I am Hashem’ - the Name that denotes Mercy.  Everything that happened was actually out of mercy for the Jews (it was going to help them greatly!) - though it might have seemed like it was harsh.  

We should take the lesson from this that even though things might sometimes be, Rachmana Litzlan/may the Merciful One save us, tough, we should remember that actually; even the hardest thing is coming from Hashem’s Mercy for us and to help us.  This is a very, very important thing that we should try to always remember in life.  

Okay; so, as we know, 7 of the Plagues are in Parshas Va’eira, and, with Hashem’s Help, let us try to list at least one commentary on each:

1) Dom/Blood.  Hashem turned the Egyptians’ water into blood.

So, the Midrash Rabbah tells us that if an Egyptian and a Jew would both go to a barrel of water to draw water; the Egyptian would draw blood and the Jew would draw water.  

And this teaches us a big lesson:  Two people can view, do, see, etc. the same thing - but it can be completely different for both of them.  For example; a good person (may we all merit to be like this) can look at a Mitzvah and think “What an opportunity!”  But someone else can look at it and think (Rachmana Litzlan), “What a bother!”

Water is a very helpful and pure thing in the world.  While blood - when not in a good way, such as being in our bodies (that is the good way) - can represent certain evils.  

When a better person looks at something, they will often see the good stuff in it; while the less righteous will often see the bad stuff.  May we all have the merit to see only the good in things, Amein vi’Amein.

And this Midrash teaches us another thing:  The power of perspective:  While you might see one thing, another person might see something totally different.  We must realize this…..

2) Tzifardeia/Frogs:  Hashem made a bunch of frogs in Egypt - going into their houses, ovens, etc.

And, when the Torah talks about the frogs going up onto Egypt, it says ‘And the frog went up…..’ So, Rashi HaKadosh quotes from Midrash Tanchuma, which tells us that there was originally only one frog, but the Egyptians kept hitting it and hitting it, and it kept splitting into more frogs.  

Asks the Steipler Gaon (HaRav Yaakov Yisroel Kanievsky zt”l):  Why did the Egyptians keep hitting it?  If they saw that it would multiply every time they hit it, why wouldn’t they have just stopped?!  

But he answers that this is the way of the trait of anger:  A person totally loses control of themselves and can’t even think straight. (From Sefer Bircas Peretz)

Indeed, the Sages say in Gemara NedarimKol ha’koeis, kol minei Gehinnom sholtin bo/All who get angry, all kinds of Gehinnom control him.’ (However, there are, of course, good reasons to get angry).  


3) Kinim/Lice:  Hashem made a lice infestation in Egypt.

So, as we know, Aharon HaKohen was the one who struck the dust and it became lice - not Moshe Rabbeinu.  And Rashi HaKadosh quotes from Midrash Tanchuma, which explains that Moshe Rabbeinu couldn’t do it because when he had killed the Egyptian who was striking a Jew, he had hid him in the dirt.  So he had to show HaKaras HaTov (literally, Recognizing the Good - sort of like gratitude) to the dirt.  

Asks HaRav Chaim Shmulevitz zt”l:  Dirt is an inanimate object; did Moshe Rabbeinu really have to show HaKaras HaTov to it?

And he answers; yes.  HaKaras HaTov goes so far that we even have to show it to inanimate objects.  If something helped us (even though all help is from Hashem), we must show gratitude to it. (From Sichos Mussar)

And, if we must show gratitude to something that did something good for us but once; all the more so should we be extremely grateful to Hashem, He is Blessed, for the good that He does to us every single second!!


4) Arov/Mixture of Wild Beasts.  Hashem made an assortment of dangerous wild beasts infest Egypt.

Asks the Be’er Yosef (HaRav Yosef Tzvi Salant zt”l):  Why is this plague specifically called ‘Arov’ - which means a mixture? (Couldn’t it have been called like, Wild Beasts - in Hebrew?)  And he explains that it is because the ‘Arov/Mixture’ part, was the biggest Miracle.  

Most wild animals live in different habitats, (and would eat each other if they were close to one another, I might add).  So this Plague is called after the biggest Miracle of it, he says (though everything is really a Miracle):  The fact that it was a mixture of wild animals from all different habitats in one place. (From Sefer Be’er Yosef Al HaTorah)


5) Dever/Pestilence.  Hashem sent an epidemic in the animals of the Egyptians, and it killed most of their animals.

So, with this plague, the Torah tells us about how Paroah saw that none of the Jews’ animals ‘Ad echad/Until one’ - (meaning none) died, and he didn’t let them out.  And many commentators ask; what is going on here?  Paroah saw that none of the Jews’ animals had died - so it was obviously a total Miracle - so he hardened his heart and didn’t let them out?!  

So, HaRav Moshe Shternbuch shlita quotes from HaRav Leib Chasman zt”l, who explains that oftentimes, when a person is about to lose an argument, they get very stubborn and push even harder.  Even if everyone knows that they are wrong, they will push even harder for their argument.  

This is what happened with Paroah, explains Rav Chasman zt”l:  He saw how much of a blatant Miracle it was - there was no question.  And he essentially was proven wrong by it, so he got very stubborn and pushed back again. (From Sefer Taam Va’Daas)


6) Sh’chin/Boils.  Hashem gave the Egyptians itchy, scratchy, hurting boils.

With this Plague, Moshe Rabbeinu had to throw soot Heavenward, and boils would be on the Egyptians.  So, HaRav Shimshon Refoel Hirsch zt”l explains that by making all the boils “come from” a little bit of soot, Hashem emphasized how much of a miracle this was. (From The Stone Edition Chumash)


7) Barad/Hail.  Hashem rained down hail with fire upon the Egyptians.

Tells us Rashi HaKadosh from Midrash Shemos Rabbah, a wondrous thing:  To serve Hashem, fire and water worked together.  

Fire and water essentially never mix; but in order to carry out Hashem’s Will, they joined together in the Hail.  We should take this lesson and try to always do Hashem’s Will, no matter what.  


Okay; we had commentaries on the Plagues, and, with Hashem’s Help, I would like to add one last commentary - a double feature - for this Dvar:  As we know, during a lot of the Plagues, Paroah said that he would let us go; but then afterwards - when the Plague had been taken away - he turned back and decided not to.  

Tells us HaRav Yeruchom Levovitz zt”l:  When we have a pressure situation (we are having trouble, Rachmana Litzlan, etc.), we will do a lot of things, or say we will.  But then when the pressure is off; we just forget.  And this is what Paroah did. (From Sefer Daas Torah)

Adds HaRav Shalom Rosner shlita; this is how we act with Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur:  We feel the pressure - everything is on the line - and we take upon ourselves to do a bunch of things and tell ourselves that we will change, etc.  But when these days are over, we just forget and go back to normal.  In this way, he says, we are just like Paroah. (From So, we must work to change this.  And may Hashem help everyone to do so, Amein vi’Amein.

I wish everyone a wonderful week!

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