Thursday, December 30, 2010

Thursday's Parsha Tidbits - Parshas Va'era

The following is a brief summary of a vort said over by R' Frand this evening. I have attempted to reproduce the vort to the best of my ability. Any perceived inconsistency is the result of my efforts to transcribe the shiur and should not be attributed to R' Frand.

In its discussion of the plague of dever (animal sickness) the Torah relates what appears on the surface to be a strange sequence of events. Moshe tells Pharaoh in Shemos 9:3 that if he does not let the Jews leave Egypt, Hashem will strike the Egyptians' animals with a severe epidemic. In the following pasuk, Moshe tells Pharaoh that Hashem will differentiate between the Egpytian animals and the Jews' animals as not a single animal owned by a Jew will die. In Shemos 9:6, the Torah relates that all the Egyptian livestock died, but not one animal owned by a Jew died. The following pasuk states that Pharaoh sent out people to look at whether the Jews' animals had died and that they confirmed this fact, yet Pharaoh hardened his heart and did not allow the Jews to leave.

R' Frand pointed out that it is difficult to understand the logic behind Pharaoh's actions. Pharaoh heard the prophesy that the Egyptian animals would be killed but not a single animal owned by a Jew would be killed. Pharaoh then confirmed that the prophesy came true, so why would he then harden his heart?

R' Frand answered that Pharaoh's action demonstrated that he was truly a rasha - an evil man. Pharaoh looked and saw that he had no meat to eat, but the Jews did have animals which survived the plague. In Pharaoh's mind, the plague was only a minor inconvenience - he could still get meat to eat, but would need to buy it from a Jew. Therefore, he did not need to change his ways.

R' Frand then gave two examples of similar conduct. In Parshas Toldos, the Torah discusses how Esav traded the bechorah (first born right) for a bowl of soup. In so doing, the Torah relates that the bechorah was sold "cayom" - as this day. The Seforno writes that a man who only lives for today can sell his future for a bowl of soup. This is an indicia of being a rasha as Esav is willing to give up his future, as long as he can eat today.

R' Frand gave one more example from the plague of frogs. At the end of the Torah's discussion of this plague, the Torah writes at Shemos 8:11 that Pharaoh saw that there was "harvacha" - there had been a relief. The Klei Yakar writes that Pharaoh did not use similar language when any other plagues ceased. The reason for this is that every other plague had a definite ending - the hail stopped, the water was no longer bloody, etc. However, when the frogs stopped multiplying they did not simply leave. Instead, the frogs died and remained in heaping piles which created a terrible stench. When Pharaoh saw this he surveyed the land and saw that there were areas of Egypt which were not near water and therefore were unaffected by the frogs which came from the rivers. Since Pharaoh had somewhere that he could go to escape from the stench of the rotting frogs, he felt that there was a relief. This was just another indication of his being evil - as long as there was a solution for him, he did not need to change his ways.

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