Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Parashah Va’eira - “And I appeared" Shemos (Exodus) 6:2 - 9:35

“When the mighty man guards his court and his weapon is upon him, his possessions will have shalom.  But if someone stronger than him comes against him and overpowers him, he will take the weapon that he trusted in from him and divide his spoils.”  (Luke 11:21 - 22 Delitsch Hebrew Edition)

HaShem is sending to the strong man Pharaoh, Moshe, one who is stronger in the spirit of the L-rd.  The strong man has something that does not belong to him, and the stronger man goes to redeem what is rightfully G-d’s.  To me, this is the overriding theme of this parashah as well as the parashas which bookend this week’s, Shemos and Bo.

The beginning of this parashah commences with HaShem reinforcing what He has already spoken to Moshe, and Moshe relays all the information to the Children Israel, but they could not bring themselves to believe.  As I have heard related in other situations, they were so low that they had to look up in order to look down.  This did not catch the Almighty off guard at all; He just continues with the next step of the process - Moshe needs to speak to the king of Egypt.

Moshe however did not have the all-encompassing view of the L-rd.  Neither did he have the hindsight that we enjoy, though our hindsight is still far less than Yah’s all-encompassing view.  If the Children of Israel did not believe him, how could he expect Pharaoh to acquiesce?  Apparently, the stronger man has forgotten the words of G-d from Shemos 3:19 - 20, “I know that the king of Egypt will not allow you to go, except through a strong hand.  I shall stretch out My hand and I shall strike Egypt with all my wonders that I shall perform in its midst, and after that he will send you out” (emphasis mine).  Because he has apparently not taken these words to heart yet, he does not see himself as the strong man - or at least not the man who is strong because of the provision of the L-rd.

Verses 14 through 27 reveal the new leaders of the tribes of Reuben, Simeon, and Levi; the three firstborn and all sons of Leah.  Most of the attention in this section is concerning the descendants of Levi.  It is not until later on that we are informed that Aharon and Moshe are great-grandsons of Levi, sons of Amram and Jochebed, but the groundwork is laid here in  6:16 - 27.  This parenthetical section is now completed and the narrative resumes, briefly rehashing what has already been stated.

It is here that the L-rd reaffirms what He told Moshe back in chapter 3.  Moshe is going to be G-d to pharaoh, Aharon will be Moshe’s prophet.  They will speak the exact words of HaShem.  Nevertheless, the L-rd will be working on Pharaoh’s heart and He will put His hand upon Egypt.  There will be an exodus, but there will be judgements as well.  In fact, the word is given that though they are going to be dealing directly with Pharaoh, all of Egypt will know HaShem.  Does this not sound like Yeshua’s words to his talmidim in Yochanan 15:14 - 16?  “As for you, if you do what I command you, you are My companions (friends).  I will no longer call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master will do.  But I said you are My companions because I have made known to you all that I heard from My Father.  You did not choose Me; rather it is I who chose you.  I have charged you to go and produce fruit, and your fruit will endure.  All that you ask in My Father’s name He will give to you.”

The final instructions are given; Moshe and Aharon approach Pharaoh and we then read of the incident with the rods and snakes.  Though the rod and snake of Aharon clearly are superior to those of the magicians, Pharaoh did not permit his hard heart to soften.  But is not this what they were told would happen?  Of course it was!  This occurrence does not seem to be disconcerting to Moshe.  Apparently he has learned to trust in the plan of the Holy One.

From this point we notice several things about the first nine plagues that are about to begin.  They seem to come in sets of three.  Plagues 1, 4, and 7 are all announced to Pharaoh at the river while plagues 2, 5, and 8 were announced at the palace.  It seems to me that when Pharaoh was at the river in the morning, only his servants would be with him.  Perhaps they were foreigners and did not understand the words that were spoken.  If so, Pharaoh alone was a witness to the Word of G-d.  Also, Pharaoh claims to be the god/creator of the river.  Another G-d has challenged him.  In his palace, certainly his courtiers were present.  Doubtlessly they were learned men.  Pharaoh was not the only witness to the Words of the L-rd at those times.  Again, the palace was a symbol of his power and authority - also being challenged by this “unknown" G-d.  Plagues 3, 6, and 9 were all unannounced, however, they affected all of the people of Egypt.

Another point to notice regarding the plagues is that though the magicians could replicate the first two plagues of blood and frogs, they were unable to match the third.  Let us notice that they were also unable to quell the second plague.  Hence, during the plague of lice they said to Pharaoh, “It is the finger of G-d!” (Shemos 8:15).  Though Mitzrayim may never have heard of HaShem until this time, which I feel is unlikely, they have certainly seen Him in action now.  No lives have been taken to this point, but Pharaoh can no longer deny H-s existence.

Set two of the plagues is ready to commence - the plagues of the wild beasts, the epidemic on the animals in the field, and the plague of boils.  HaShem states at the beginning of this set that He would now “make a distinction between My people and your people...” (Shemot 8:19). During the plague of the wild beasts Pharaoh summons Moshe and Aharon and tells them that they may bring offerings to G-d in the land.  Moshe counters by saying that they need to go three days out in order to worship.  Pharaoh agreed, but once the plague ended he reneged on his part of the agreement.  During the fifth plague the Egyptian animals that were in the field suffered death.  Pharaoh was informed that just as Moshe had spoken, the livestock of Isra’el was not affected at all.  Still, he would not send the people out.  Boils were the 6th plague to hit Egypt.  They were so severe that even the necromancers could not stand before Moshe; it was obvious to all that they had now completely met their match.

It is time for set three to commence.  In introducing this final set of three at the Nile River,  the L-rd reveals in Shemot 9:14 - 16 the purposes of this set (vv. 14, 16) and His grace (vs. 15) to Egypt to this point.  “14 For this time I will send all My plagues against your heart, and upon your servants, and upon your people, so that you shall know that there is none like Me in all the world.  15 For now I could have sent My hand and stricken you and your people with pestilence, and you would have been obliterated from the earth.  16  However, for this I have let you endure, in order to show you my strength and so that My Name may be declared throughout the world.” (All emphasis is mine).

He could have used His hand, but to date it has only been “the finger of G-d.”  The epidemic/pestilence of plague five could have wiped out not just Egypt’s animals, but also its people.  Lastly, though Egypt was raised up and honored before the nations during the time of the seven years of famine, it will now reveal to the nations H-m Who directed the events for the sake of H-s people Yisra’el.

Our portion ends with the seventh plague, hail.  Some of the Egyptians took     G-d’s words to heart, and they brought their animals and servants in from the fields.  Others did not take H-s word to heart and left their servants and animals in the fields.  This time there were two distinctions that were obvious following the plague.  Not only were the Hebrews spared in the land of Goshen, but so were the mixed multitude who feared and obeyed His word.

During the moment of personal pain Pharaoh admitted his sin.  He did not repent, he just stated that he would send the people out; they shall not continue to remain.  Verse 30 quotes Moshe as saying, “...I know that you are not yet afraid of HaShem, G-d.”  This statement is proven true 3 and 4 verses later, the last verses of our portion.  When the rain, hail, and thunder ceased, he continued to sin and did not send out the Children of Yisra’el - for he made his own heart stubborn.

Pharaoh has not, nor will he repent.  Because of this he will be judged.  The judgement has been going on for some time now, but it is soon to come to a completion.  The judgement of Pharaoh, though it primarily affects him, also affects those who are under his authority.  Egypt will be devastated.  Perhaps this is a detail that we, no, that I need to consider when sin is lurking at the door.  My repentance needs to be sincere and lasting.  Sincere, lasting repentance likewise affects not just me, but those who are mine.

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