Parshat Vaera


First Portion


• The Sages were very clever in devising the essentials in the Siddur so that we can communicate with G-d in the optimal way and thereby get our prayers answered. Yes of course, if one fulfills the commandment and prays with intensity, with all his heart, shakes the shul with his fire, he can break through to the heavens!! We should strive for that BE’EZRAT HASHEM!! However, that’s a difficult task. How can we increase those odds? How can we make it easier? We Jews like to take short cuts, we want instant results. There is no such a thing as a bank line in Israel, or any line for that matter! Well, if we are sensitive and meticulous enough, one can really make inroads in getting through to the Almighty.

It should be noted, in some Siddurim the name of G-d differs in its spelling and punctuation. Every name of G-d has different and distinct powers. They are also unique as to how they manifest themselves in the world. For example, the Friday night Shabbat Kiddush has seventy two words which represent SHEFFA-abundance. This is the reason why we overflow the Kiddush cup- to symbolize an abundance of brachot. Kiddush on Friday night has tremendous powers and, if said correctly, can have a lasting effect throughout the week.

Another example is the Amida (Shemonai Esrai) which we say three times daily. The prayer starts off with G-d’s name A–D–O–N–A–I. Why does it start with that particular name? If one notices in that name there is the word DIN-which represents harsh judgment. The first part of the word is A which is a softener to soften the judgment. In essence we say, “Please soften my DIN – judgment”, make it sweet so that I can start the most important prayer of the day and penetrate your heart.

In this week’s Parsha, G-d reveals himself to Moshe in a different state, a different distinct power. Most of the commentaries agree that G-d’s revelation to Moshe was on a higher level than how he appeared to our forefathers. “I am Yud-Kay-Vuv-KAY (G-d)(6:2); to our forefathers he appeared as Kel-Shakay (6:3). He had not communicated with them face to face, rather only in an unclear fashion that the Sages refer to as “a clouded lens”. G-d wished to redeem the Jewish people in the fashion of revealing himself fully, addressing them face to face, as He in fact did latter at the splitting of the sea and at the Sinai revelation.

Moshe saw concretely what others could not. Since he was destined to give over the Torah, it was necessary that his prophetic revelation be clear. Puzzles and riddles would not have enabled him to convey the Torah’s message, for the Torah must be open and clear to all. Therefore, Yud-Kay-Vuv-KAY was needed. This name has many powers; the one that is most famous is its connotation of RACHAMIM-mercy. Here we are informed that it means an intense revelation of His numerous powers. Our sages point out in the Amida that “HAKEL, HAGIBOR, VEH HANORA”, which describes G-d, in essence equals to Yud-Kay-Vuv-KAY.

• We begin the parsha with G-d rebuking Moshe for not having enough faith. In this portion, G-d is angered by Moshe (vayedaber – connotes harsh language) for being impatient and not giving the process enough time. As one is reminded at the end of parshat shmot, not only did Pharaoh not believe Moshe, he also instilled harsher decrees on the Jews. In essence, Pharaoh sent a message to the Israelites for their show of defiance (Moshe and Aharon) saying, ‘I’ll show you whose boss!!’ Here in this parsha G-d assures Moshe that ‘I promised your ancestors that I will deliver you out of servitude and make you a nation in your own land.

• G-d then instructs Moshe to speak to the Jews and reassure them. However, they did not listen to Moshe because they were overwhelmed with work.

Second Portion

As an introduction to the start of the describing of the redemption, the genealogy of the tribe of Levi, who Moshe and Aharon are from, is listed. Everything in life is timing, as is evident in the Midrash (the Scriptures) that describes an incident with a member of the tribe of Benyamin who mistakenly calculated the redemption to come earlier than expected. They escaped Egypt only to be ambushed and killed in the desert by the Plishtim.

Third Portion

Moshe, along with Aharon who accompanied Moshe because of his inability to speak properly, are instructed by G-d to go to Pharaoh and demand to let the Israelites go. G-d mentions “I will harden his heart and he will not let you out, then I will show my mighty hand”. The famous question is asked, “Where is the freedom of choice that was given to Pharaoh?” What do you mean “harden his heart?” If one ponders the ten plagues that befell Egypt, forcing them to let the Jews go, it seems that that’s not freedom of choice. That’s twisting their arms and demanding: “free them'”. It looks like excessive force to me and not freedom of choice!! We learn a fascinating insight; G-d hardened Pharaoh’s abilities to withstand the torture of the plagues so that he can make a balanced and weighed decision. Hardening the heart was projected on Pharaoh so that he can have the freedom. Pharaoh however, chose to enslave them even though he saw his own Egyptians being punished for his decision.

Fourth portion

• G-d punishes the Egyptians with the ten plagues. If one notices, the plagues occurred in various forms. Some came from the sky, some affected the water, the land, the animals, the air and lastly, the humans. This was to show that G-d commands all aspects of life.

• The Egyptians used the Nile for idolatry. Therefore, it was through and in the Nile that the first punishment took place.

• G-d then instructed Moshe to tell Aharon to raise his hand and bring upon the second plague, frogs.

Fifth Portion

• One big frog came and opened its mouth and a swarm of frogs emerged from its mouth all over Egypt. This is the original source for all those horror movies! Rashi says that the more one hit it, the more frogs come out of its mouth. The sages ask, “Wouldn’t it be wise to just stop hitting it, then nothing will come out?” The Steipler Gaon (R’ Yaakov Yisroel Kanievsky) answers, human nature is such that when we’re caught up in a frenzy, we forget to think. We tend to forget what we are trying to accomplish. So the frogs just kept on coming.

• G-d hardened Pharaoh’s heart and he would not let them go.

• G-d instructed Moshe to tell Aharon to raise his rod on the earth and bring forth the lice.

Sixth Portion

• Pharaoh still did not give in. Aharon, following the instructions from G-d through Moshe, brought upon wild beasts.

• The sixth plague was the death of the Egyptians’ livestock.

• The seventh plague was boils. The heat caused inflammation which erupted into blisters.

Seventh Portion

• Hail was number seven. It came with thunder. The thunder frightened Pharaoh more than anything else, for the Sages teach that thunder was created to purge the perversion of the heart. Throughout the narrative of the plagues, thunder was mentioned before the hail because it was the thunder that frightened the Egyptians and made them susceptible to the terror that would be inspired by the hail.

• Throughout these plagues, Pharaoh was pleading for Moshe to stop them, but soon after G-d hardened his heart and would not let the Israelites go.

Cerdit to : Rabbi Avi Matmon