10 plagues

This week’s Torah reading, Va’era, opens with Moses and Aaron continuing with their mission as the ambassadors of God and the Jewish people. At this time Moses was 80 years old and Aaron was 83.

Once again, Moses and Aaron pay a visit to Pharaoh to warn him of the impending trouble should he continue to refuse to let the Jewish people go. In an effort to prove the Divine powers of God, and knowing that the Egyptians were infatuated with the supernatural, Aaron cast down his rod in front of Pharaoh and it turned into a snake. Not to be outdone, Pharaoh then had his advisors and magicians throw their rods onto the floor and they too turned into snakes. However, Aaron’s rod then went and swallowed all the other rods in what was clearly a Divine warning. Unfortunately, Pharaoh was not moved by this and he continued to refuse to let the people go.

That was it. The last straw. Time for the plagues.

The first plague unleashed upon Egypt was the plague of blood. Not only the Nile, but all sources of water in Egypt turned to blood. This in turn caused all the fish to die which in turn created an unbearable stench throughout the land. The second plague was the plague of frogs followed by lice, wild animals, murrain, skin boils, and hail. The remaining three plagues are found in next week’s Torah portion.

What I would like to focus on is the first three plagues. The Torah records that Moses did not unleash the first three plagues. Instead, God instructed Aaron to do so. Why is this? Wasn’t it Moses’s mission to lead the Jewish people out of Egypt and fight for their freedom? Why didn’t Moses initiate the first three plagues on his own just as he initiated the remaining seven plagues?

The answer to this question can be summarized in one word: Appreciation. Moses wanted to display appreciation to the elements that assisted him in the past. For example, the plague of blood was initiated by hitting the Nile River with a staff. But these same waters saved Moses when he was floating in a basket down the Nile just after he was born! This is also how the plague of frogs was initiated – by hitting the Nile. So too, the plague of lice was initiated by striking the ground. But it was the ground that “helped” Moses in hiding the body of the evil man that he had killed while a prince in Egypt. As such, Moses delegated the job of unleashing the first three plagues to Aaron.

Gratitude is what sustains society and keeps the world turning. If Moses is showing appreciation to inanimate objects, how much more so must we show appreciation to human beings that have gone out of their way to help us. Think about what your wife, parents, co-workers, neighbors, policemen, or your son’s ball coach have done for you lately. It is not enough to appreciate them in your heart and mind – they don’t know what you’re thinking! We must show and articulate our appreciation of others. It would make Moses proud.

By: Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel

Shabbat Shalom from Israel!

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