The ten plagues were the most awe-inspiring events of the times in which they occurred. Even Pharaoh, with all of his power and his hardened heart, ultimately capitulated to the powers that Hashem had brought upon him and his people.
The ten plagues were the most awe-inspiring events of the times in which they occurred. Even Pharaoh, with all of his power and his hardened heart, ultimately capitulated to the powers that Hashem had brought upon him and his people. By extrapolation then, it is obvious to see that the one who facilitated the plagues was seen as the most powerful human. The leaders of the Children of Israel, Moses and his brother, Aaron, facilitated the deliverance of the plagues. It is important to note that Moses did not conduct the plagues alone.
Seven of the ten plagues occur in this week's Torah portion. The first three blood, frogs, and lice have something in common. Unlike the other seven plagues, Moses precipitated none of these plagues. The reason for this discrepancy is that the first two plagues, blood and frogs, involved the Nile River and the third plague, lice, involved the ground.
The commentaries tell us that Moses could not bring these plagues upon the Egyptians personally because he had a debt of gratitude to both the Nile River and the earth. The river guarded him and brought him to safety when he was an infant placed in a floating basket on the Nile. Later in life, the earth assisted Moses as it hid the body of the Egyptian whom he had killed. Because Moses was indebted to these resources, he could not facilitate any plague which involved striking either the Nile or the ground. Certainly, the Egyptians were not to gain from Moses' experiences so, in his stead, Aaron brought these three plagues upon the Egyptian people.
In retrospect, could the river or the ground have felt slighted if Moses had ignored his debt of gratitude to either? Obviously not, considering Moses was carrying out the will of Hashem. Nevertheless, by Aaron's facilitation of these plagues, we can derive a valuable lesson. With the expression of such gratitude to inanimate objects, incapable of human emotions, we may extrapolate from this the magnitude of Moses' sensitivity toward people.
Moses' approach symbolizes a basic philosophy that is represented numerous times throughout the Torah. That is, we must show our appreciation to those from whom we have benefited. Appreciation is one of the reasons that we pray to Hashem. As a simple example, open the prayer book to the blessings that we recite when we wake up in the morning prior to beginning the shacharit prayer service. We thank Hashem for all of the things in life that he has given to us. It is difficult to begin counting all of the kindnesses Hashem has bestowed upon us. Even though at times in our lives Hashem also gives us our share of painful experiences, if we were to weigh these challenges against all of the kindnesses that we have been given, certainly His kindnesses would be of greater number.
The Hebrew word for Jew, Yehudi, comes from the Hebrew name of Judah, Yehudah. Judah, one of the sons of Jacob, received his name from his mother Leah. When Judah, the fourth child was born, Leah recognized she had received more than her share (as she knew there would only be 12 sons). In a symbol of appreciation, she named the child Yehudah, as the name is derived from the Hebrew word "hoda'ah thankfulness." In this way, Leah showed her appreciation to Hashem for allowing her to give birth to four of Jacob's children.
In our lives of relative ease and comfort, we, many times, overlook the simple things that have been given to us by our parents, teachers, and others. We take for granted certain things as "inalienable rights" even though they could be taken away from us at any moment without warning. From Moses' practices and other similar episodes which occur throughout the Bible (i.e. Leah, etc.), we must learn not to take anything for granted and appreciate what we are given, by giving thanks to all those who cared for us and somehow had a positive impact on our lives. Through our prayers, blessings, and practices we certainly must also show our eternal appreciation to Hashem for all that He has provided and continues to provide for us, our families, and all of the Children of Israel.
Joshua Hartman, an alumnus of Yeshiva Atlanta, resides on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.
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