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by Elly Berlin    
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer    

Throughout history, the Jewish people have suffered through many bouts of slavery and oppression. These difficult times often lead some to question if, perhaps, G-d does not have complete reign of the universe, or, if we are in fact, His chosen people.



Throughout history, the Jewish people have suffered through many bouts of slavery and oppression. These difficult times often lead some to question if, perhaps, G-d does not have complete reign of the universe, or, if we are in fact, His chosen people. These doubts can be easily overcome based on the events that take place in this week's Torah portion, which picks up with the story of the exodus already in progress. We see the final three plagues that Hashem brought upon Pharaoh and the Egyptians through Moses and Aaron, as well as the first two commandments to the Jewish nation setting the lunar calendar and the mitzvah to consume the korban pesach (Paschal lamb).

The story of our exodus from Egypt is very important. It is recited daily in the Shema prayer, we reenact the entire story each year at the Passover Seder, and it is stated in the first commandment (of the famous ten) "I am Hashem your G-d who took you out of the land of Egypt" (Exodus 20:2). It is interesting to note that in all of these places, the story of our exodus from Egypt is strongly connected to our belief in G-d. For example, the second paragraph of the Shema explains the concept of reward and punishment. We are told that if we as a nation follow G-d's laws, then we will be rewarded with sufficient rain in the proper time, symbolic of G-d's providing us with everything we need. However, we are warned not to stray from the righteous path lest the rains stop falling and we are banished from the land of Israel. The third paragraph of the Shema ends with a reminder that Hashem is our G-d and that He took us out of Egypt.

To understand why the exodus from Egypt is so powerful and important in reinforcing our fundamental belief in Hashem, we need to look more closely at the ten plagues. In the second verse of this week's Torah portion, Hashem tells Moses and Aaron that He made Pharaoh stubborn so that He could continue to bring the plagues so that "you may relate it in the ears of your son and your son's son that I made a mockery of Egypt and my signs that I placed on them that you may know that I am Hashem" (ibid. 10:2). The plagues are designed to prove to us that Hashem is our G-d and has complete and total reign of the universe. In fact, every single plague was a direct attack on some form of Egyptian or pagan deity. Let us examine two plagues and the first two commandments and see how they directly show Hashem's complete dominion over idolatrous worship.

Moses and Aaron returned to Pharaoh after many failed attempts and asked once again that all the Jewish men, women, children, and their animals be freed. The Midrash informs us that Pharaoh looked up to a bright, powerful, and light providing star called Ra'ah for advice, after which he only agreed to let the men go. Pharaoh worshipped the stars and felt they would protect him.

The men would not leave without their families so the next plague, a swarm of locusts, erupted. The description of how severe the locusts were appears in Exodus 10:15: "It covered the face of the entire land, and the land was darkened." This "darkening" effect of the locusts was a direct hit to Pharaoh's light providing star god, Ra'ah. To drive the point home further, just six verses later Hashem brought the plague of darkness, which completely blocked out all light.

Now let us look at the first two commandments given to the Jewish people. The first is to establish Rosh Chodesh (the sanctification of the new moon). The verse states, "This month shall be for you the beginning of the months, it shall be for you the first of the months of the year" (ibid. 12:2). Why would the Torah, which uses words extremely sparingly, repeat "for you" twice in one concise phrase? This taught a lesson to the Jews of that time and forever. The Jews had been enslaved to the Egyptians; Moses and Aaron came to free them, but Hashem had already performed all these plagues and they still were not free. Even worse, April when Passover takes place is the time of the astrological sign Aries. Aries, represented by the ram, was an Egyptian deity. Some of the Jewish people feared that Pharaoh would be victorious. However, Hashem tells the Jews this month will be for you, which is emphasized with repetition.

Finally, the second commandment was the korban pesach. Very specific laws which apply to this offering that do not apply to any other offering carry the same theme which we have been looking at. For one, the only animals to be used for the Passover offering were a lamb or kid known to be Egyptian deities. The Jews were instructed to tie them to their bedposts for four days. The Egyptians saw every Jewish household waiting to kill one of their gods, but they were powerless to act. The Jews sprinkled blood from the slaughtered animal on their door posts after which the offering had to be roasted whole. All of these are a sign for generations to come that Hashem took the Jewish people out of Egypt, and that Hashem had control over every item that the Egyptians worshipped; signs for us to see that He has complete and total reign of the universe.


Elly Berlin is studying the philosophy, science, and art of Chiropractic at Life University in Atlanta.

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