Past Weekly Shabbat Message
Rabbi Dovid Saks
(Torah Portion Va'eirah) Stubborn
Before our forefather Yaacov passed away, he made his son Yosef promise that he would bury him in the land of Israel.
One reason Yaacov gave why he did not want to be buried in Egypt was that he foresaw through prophetic vision that Egypt would experience a plague of lice which besides attaching itself and sting humans and animals, the lice would inundate the ground to a depth of two feet.
Yaacov did not want to be buried where the lice would be swarming for a week’s time.
A question raised is if Yaacov was concerned with the plague of lice, why didn’t he request to be buried in the land of Goshen, the area segregated for the Jews, which wasn't affected by the Egyptian plagues?
An answer offered is that although the plague of lice did not affect the Jewish bodies or their livestock, it did however, affect the soil of the land of Goshen. Therefore Yaacov's burial in Goshen wasn’t an option.
Why was the ground of Goshen affected by the plague of lice?
The Torah in last week’s portion relates that Pharoh implemented an outrageous quota of bricks for each Jew to produce daily.
This decree lasted until the plague of lice, because after the lice loosened the earth, the soil was not conducive to making bricks. Had the soil of Goshen been free of lice, Pharoh would have demanded that they produce bricks from the earth of Goshen.
Lice was the third plague sent against Pharoh and the Egyptians, and it was a distinctive plague in many ways. It came without Moshe warning the Pharoh before it started. There were fourteen species of lice. Pharoh's sorcerers were able to copy the first two plagues of blood and frogs, yet they couldn't produce lice because of their small size. This prompted them to proclaim to Pharoh, "This plague is certainly through the finger of G-d, and not produced through sorcery or demonic forces."
The Torah relates that Pharoh refused to believe that G-d was sending the plagues, and refused to set the Jews free.
Our Sages explain that while G-d sent the plague of lice which overwhelmingly proved that G-d is in control of the tiniest species and is certainly in control of the entire universe, G-d still gave Pharoh the ability to divert his attention which helped him dismiss any G-dly evidence or notion. Pharoh focused on the fact that the plague of lice affected the Jews’ area of Goshen as well, and blamed it on an epidemic rather than an act of G-d.
Up until the sixth plague, the Torah relates that Pharoh himself hardened his heart and did not allow the Jews out of Egypt. However, for the remainder of the plagues, the Torah tells us that G-d hardened Pharoh’s heart, not allowing the Jews their freedom.
Our Sages explain that G-d gives each person the ability and freedom to choose right from wrong and good from bad. However if the freedom of choice is continuously misused, abused or ignored, G-d revokes the ability to choose freely and can even manipulate one to make the wrong choice, disregarding what is compelling and obvious. From the sixth plague on, had Pharoh had the freedom of choice, he would have made the correct choice and given in to G-d’s demand to free the Jews.
However, since he had previously misused his freedom of choice, it was taken from him and he and his nation suffered tremendously.
The self-centered Pharoh only acquiesced to free the Jews when his own life was at stake during the final plague.
Upon regaining his composure and self-confidence, the Pharoh once again defied logic and common sense by pursuing the Jewish Nation. This bizarre decision eventually cost the lives of Pharoh and his loyal Egyptian Army when they drowned in the raging waters of the Red Sea.
Wishing you a restful, peaceful
and inspirational Shabbos!
Rabbi Dovid and Malki Saks