Torah Fax

Friday, January 7, 2004 - 26 Tevet, 5765

Torah Reading: VaEra (Exodus 6:2 - 9:35)
Candle Lighting time: 4:26 PM
Shabbat ends: 5:31 PM
We bless the New Month of Shevat
For a lengthy discussion of the 10 plagues and their meaning see The Doctor Is In I, II, III and IV
Running On Auto Pilot?
The Ten Plagues were the means by which G‑d gradually forced the Egyptians to release their stranglehold on the Jewish people. Obviously if the A-mighty had so desired He could have simply wiped out the Egyptians in one fell swoop. There was no need to prolong the agony on either side. The Israelites did not have to spend a full extra year (the time, our Sages tell us, that transpired from the first plague until the liberation) witnessing the pain and suffering G‑d inflicted on their tormentors. We may presume they would have been ore than willing to forgo that spectacle if it meant leaving Egypt even sooner.
Yet G‑d chose to strike the Egyptians with the Ten Plagues so that they - and we - would learn certain lessons about life that will enable us to free ourselves from all that hinders our enjoying freedom.
In other words, while physical freedom is a cherished ideal, it will not be appreciated nearly to the full extent possible if we remain in an internal prison. If we cannot free ourselves from our bad habits and shortcomings, for example, we cannot be truly free.
From this perspective we can view the Ten Plagues as a means of freeing us from the things that limit us both emotionally and spiritually.
The first plague was blood and it affected all of the Egyptian waterways. No water remained that didn't change to blood. The Nile was the source of life for the Egyptians and all of their food was produced with water that came through man-made irrigation canals from the Nile.
It is noteworthy that the Torah tells us that the Egyptians had to dig new wells because all for the existing supplies of water were contaminated. But if G‑d wanted to deprive the Egyptians of water why wasn't the new supply of water contaminated as well?
Another question that comes to mind is: if the purpose of the plague was to impress upon the G‑d's might it seems to have been a failure. Firstly, the Egyptian magicians were able to replicate this plague, so they weren't at all sure the plague came from G‑d. After all maybe Moses was also a talented magician (as they were) and he created the blood himself. Also, as we noted, with some additional effort the Egyptians were able to find new supplies of water.
One simple explanation is that G‑d did not want our taskmasters to suffer inordinately from the very first plague. If they would learn their lesson and listen to Moses there would be no reason for further plagues. Each plague gradually increased the pain and suffering of the Egyptians. Thus, G‑d made it difficult to obtain water but He did not deprive them of water entirely.
On a deeper level, we might suggest, G‑d wanted to teach them a lesson about a common human failure - taking things for granted. To explain: before we can teach someone who to thank and credit, we have to teach them to recognize that there is a need to thank others - including G‑d - for much of what we have.
The Egyptians were so used to the intricate system of irrigation canals built by their forebears, they did not even appreciate the fact that their grandparent left them with a means of sustenance. By extension, if they couldn't even appreciate their own grandparents' efforts in digging the canals, they certainly could not appreciate G‑d who provided a miraculous river that would overflow its banks each season.
Therefore, the first plague taught them that producing water was no simple feat. It takes much energy and effort. After they dug their own wells and found their own water, they were able to appreciate that things don't happen automatically. They were now ready to discover the ultimate Source of everything.
As we approach the ultimate Redemption, which has been compared by our prophets to the Exodus fro m Egypt, we must also go through several stages until we appreciate the need for the Messianic Age.
The Messianic Age is more than a time of goodness and peace. It is first and foremost a time when we will recognize G‑d's involvement in our lives. But before we develop a sense of appreciation for G‑d we must develop our sense of appreciation - period.
When we cease to take things for granted we open up our eyes and appreciate the multitude of goodness in our lives. Then we can begin to recognize that G‑d is the source of all that goodness.
This is what preparing for Moshiach entails. We must be open and aware of what is going on around us. Granted, we cannot be oblivious to the cataclysmic events that have occurred, but we should also not ignore the subtle changes that are happening. To become sensitive to all that I s going on will help us in achieving our own Exodus from exile into a world of Redemption.

Moshiach Matters
It is incumbent to await the coming of Moshiach every single day, and all day long... It is not enough to believe in the coming of Moshiach, but each day one must await his coming... Furthermore, it is not enough to await his coming every day, but it is to be in the manner of our prayer "we await Your salvation all the day," that is, to await and expect it every day, and all day long, literally every moment! (Torat Zev)

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