(Torah Portion Bo) Stubborn to a Fault!
The description of all the ten plagues G-d brought upon the Egyptians is contained in last week’s and this week’s portions of the Torah.
The Medrash tells us that the plagues took the course of a full year. Rabainu Bachaya explains that the year began when G-d dispatched Moshe to lead the Jewish people at the Burning Bush, which was on the 15th of Nisan. The next year, on this same date, the Jews were set free from Egypt.
Rabainu Bechaya gives us a roundup of the year: G-d contacted Moshe on the 15th of Nisan and they remained at the burning bush – Mount Sinai – for seven days. These seven days correspond to the seven days that would eventually be celebrated as the Passover holiday.
Moshe did not go directly from there to Egypt. Rather, he returned to the land of Midyan to release himself from an oath he made to his father in law, Yisro, that he would not leave Midyan without his permission.
Moshe travelled to Egypt where he met his brother Aaron and they then met with Pharoh to relay G-d’s message to release the Jews. Pharoh refused to listen despite the miracles that were performed before him. In fact Pharoh even intensified the workload of the Jews.
The Medrash Tanchuma tells us that Moshe returned to Midyan for the next three months. (Iyar, Sivan and Tamuz)
Our Sages tell us that for the majority of the plagues, Moshe warned the Pharoh of the upcoming plague for three weeks and the plague lasted for a week’s time.
The plague of blood occurred during the Hebrew month of Av; Frogs during Elul; Lice in Tishrai; Wild Beasts in Cheshvan; Pestilence in Kislev; Boils during Teves; Hail mixed with Fire in Shevat; Locusts in Adar; and Darkness during the first seven days of Nisan.
Then there was a break for seven days, during this time every Jew took a male sheep – the deity of Egypt – and brought it into their homes to examine to make sure it was blemish free and suitable for the Pascal offering on the 14th day of Nisan. On the 14th day they slaughtered the sheep and collected its blood. They then dipped a hyssop branch into the blood and dashed the blood on their inner doorposts and lintel. They were commanded to remain in their homes the entire night while they roasted and ate the Pascal sheep together with Matzah and Morror.
Exactly at midnight, G-d Personally came to Egypt and killed all the Egyptian firstborn but passed-over the Jewish homes sparing their firstborn.
Pharoh, who was himself a first born, came running to find Moshe and insisted that the Jews leave immediately. The Jews were on house lockdown the entire night and only in broad daylight on the next day, the 15th of Nisan, were the Jews miraculously and simultaneously lifted and transported out of Egypt.
Three days into their travels, Pharoh had a change of heart, and led his remaining troops to pursue the Jewish nation. On the seventh day of their release, the waters of the Red Sea miraculously split allowing the Jews to cross safely while the Egyptians drowned at sea.
A thought about the plague of Locust: While the other plagues either came immediately or at a designated precise time, G-d caused the plague of locust to appear as if it was a natural occurrence, “Moshe stretched out his staff over the land of Egypt and G-d guided an east wind through the land all day and night. It became morning and the east wind carried the locust-swarm.”
Pharoh was again undaunted by the plague and the total devastation of Egypt’s vegetation and made an excuse that it was a ‘natural’ occurrence.
The Baal Haturim points to a specific word the Torah uses in association with the swarm of locust, “Vayanach – and it rested.” This same word “Vayanach” is used in the command of Shabbos in the Ten Commandments, “Vayanach Bayom Hashevi-ei – and G-d rested on the Seventh day.”
Says the Baal Haturim; although the locusts were busy devastating the land on the weekdays. During the plague, throughout the course of the day of Shabbos, they rested and did not do any damage.
Although, Pharoh was convinced that the locust ‘suddenly’ came to Egypt based on a natural occurrence, the fact that the locusts rested on the seventh day should have convinced the Pharoh to yield to G-d’s order.
Pharoh was aware of the day of Shabbos because many years before Moshe had appealed to the Pharoh to give the Jews a break from their work on the day of Shabbos.
Yet, the Torah relates that Pharoh remained steadfast in his stubbornness, not giving into the conditions set by G-d through His messenger Moshe.
When we think about it, this is exactly the message of the weekly Shabbos. During the week, we are busy working and creating. G-d knows that if we keep up this continual motion without a break, we will be convinced that all we develop, produce and construct is due to our personal power, intellect, skill and authority. G-d lovingly gave us the day of Shabbos when we are prohibited to perform creative actions, so that we will reconnect with the Almighty and strengthen our trust and belief that all we produce and will establish is due to His blessings which emanate through our adherence to His sacred command of Shabbos.
Have a most enjoyable, restful and peaceful Shabbos!
Rabbi Dovid Saks