Rabbi Shimon Feigenbaum
In this week's Torah portion we learn about seven of the plagues that Hashem brought upon the Egyptians. Before sending the plagues, Hashem sent Moses and Aaron to Pharaoh to perform a miracle.
In this week's Torah portion we learn about seven of the plagues that Hashem brought upon the Egyptians. Before sending the plagues, Hashem sent Moses and Aaron to Pharaoh to perform a miracle. Aaron was to throw his staff to the ground and it would become a snake. Immediately afterwards, the magicians of Pharaoh were able to perform the same marvel through their use of black magic.
One may ask: If Hashem wanted to impress the Egyptians, shouldn't He have chosen a miracle that the Egyptian magicians could not duplicate? Why then did Hashem choose this miracle?
The miracle of the staff/snake was more than just a miracle. It was also a response to an accusation that Pharaoh had made about the Jewish people. Pharaoh did not believe that the Jewish people truly wanted to serve Hashem. They were not that different from the Egyptians, he claimed, and even idol worship was quite common amongst the Jews in Egypt. Pharaoh therefore questioned their desire and commitment to serve Hashem.
The miracle answered this accusation. The staff was a holy object, designated by Hashem to be used in the performance of miracles. As long as it remained in the hands of Aaron, it remained a holy staff. However, as soon as it was thrown on the floor before Pharaoh, who was an evil person, it turned into a snake, the sign of evil. (Remember, it was the snake that caused Adam and Eve to sin in the Garden of Eden.) When it was returned to the hands of Aaron, it once more became a holy staff.
This answers the accusation of Pharaoh. Hashem was showing him that the Jewish people can be compared to the stick. In Egypt, under the influence of evil, they also sinned. However, when the Jewish people will be removed from the evil influence of Egypt, they will become a holy nation.
Rabbi Shimon Feigenbaum is an educator at the Torah Day School of Atlanta.
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