Past Weekly Shabbat Message
Rabbi Dovid Saks
(Torah Portion Vaeirah) Supernatural!
The Mishna in Ethics of our Fathers lists ten items that were created in the time between the end of the sixth day of creation and before the Holy day of Shabbos began. These ten items were not bound by the laws of nature because they were formed after the six days were completed and before the holiness of Shabbos enveloped the world; a time that only G-d can calculate.
One of these ten items was the Sapphire Staff that our leader Moshe used to bring the plagues on Pharoh and the Egyptians.
How was this staff obtained? The Medrash relates that when Adam was driven out of the Garden of Eden he took the staff with him. Eventually Noach received it, and after taking it with him onto the ark, he passed it on to his son Shem. Our forefather Avraham received and passed it on to his son Yitzchok and then to Yaacov. When Yaacov came to live in Egypt he gave the staff to his son Yosef.
Yisro was one of Pharoh’s three trusted advisers, and when Pharoh tried to implement ways to stop the birth rate of the Jews, Yisro abruptly left his position and fled Egypt, taking with him the staff which had been in the palace since Yosef’s reign.
When Yisro arrived in Midyan, he stuck the staff into his garden, and it became impossible to pull out.
Years later, when Moshe fled for his life from Egypt and settled in Midyan he pulled the staff out of the ground. Upon seeing Moshe’s greatness, Yisro gave his daughter Tziporah to Moshe in marriage.
Moshe took this staff with him while shepherding Yisro’s flock, and when G-d appeared at the Burning Bush to instruct Moshe to lead the Jews, He told Moshe to throw the staff to the ground where it turned into a snake.
The staff was called the Mateh Elokim – the staff of G-d. Upon it was etched a special 72 letter name of G-d, the names of our three forefathers and six matriarchs, the names of the tribes, and the first letters of each of the ten plagues – this is mentioned in the Hagadah when we say – ‘Detzach, Adash, Be’echav.’
The Talmud relates that the weight of the staff was equivalent to the amount of water required for a ritual Mikvah – 40 Sa’ah, which is approximately 120 gallons! The question raised is what does the weight or dimensions of the staff have to do with the amount of water needed for a ritual Mikveh?
Firstly, we see the staff had plenty to do with water. When our forefather Yaacov was crossing the Jordan River, the staff split the waters for him. This staff was used by Moshe’s brother Aaron, to cause the first plague of water to turn to blood and for the frogs to emerge from the Nile River during the second plague.
Moshe was instructed to raise the staff at the splitting of the Red sea, and he also used it to hit the rock which provided the Jews with water during their travels in the desert.
We can connect the staff which had many miracles associated with water to the specifications of the water of a Mikveh, because essentially, when one immerses in a Mikvah at the appropriate time, they are transformed and achieve a status of purity in a seemingly miraculous way.
Additionally, each time G-d instructed Moshe to appear before Pharoh, He told him to take the staff with him. The Egyptians were steeped in sorcery, witchcraft and the occult. Just as a magician performing a trick, knows quite well that it is just sleight of the hand, the Egyptians also knew the deception and mere imagery of their sorcery. Moshe’s staff symbolizing the purity of a Mikveh clearly demonstrated that all the plagues and miracles that were brought upon the Egyptians were from a pure source.
What prevented Pharoh from admitting to the clear reality that all the plagues came from G-d? He would have certainly been better off letting the Jews go, for then he would have had at least a country left to rule over, which he didn’t at the end.
One answer given is that when one has a personal agenda to disregard G-d’s existence and authority, he can detach himself from reality to such degree that he will lose everything.
There was something positive that came out of the plagues as well. The brilliant and awesome miracles had a strong impression upon the Jews. Through them, they developed a firm and undoubting belief in G-d and His direct Hand in all events. This belief in G-d’s interface with humanity and nature was concretized in Egypt and is sustained whenever we recall the exodus of Egypt, which we do in connection with many of the Mitzvos we perform, and especially when we reenact and discuss it as a family each year at our Passover Seder.
Wishing you a restful, peaceful and inspirational Shabbos!
Rabbi Dovid Saks