Past Weekly Shabbat Message
Rabbi Dovid Saks
(Torah Portion Va'eirah) Global Warmth!
The Torah relates that the first three plagues, blood, frogs and lice were brought about by Aaron striking with his staff.
The question raised is why weren't these plagues brought about through Moshe, as he was the one who generated the rest of the plagues?
We know that Moshe was placed in a floating basket in the Nile River and thus he was saved through the water. So too, when Moshe killed the Egyptian taskmaster through a Divine utterance he then buried him in the ground, thus the ground saved Moshe's life by hiding the evidence.
Our Sages tell us that since the first three plagues were generated by hitting the waters or the ground with a staff, it wasn't proper for Moshe to hit the waters or the ground - because they saved his life.
G-d did not want Moshe to strike even inanimate objects such as the water and the ground and make it appear that he was ungrateful towards something that had saved him.
Likewise, years later, when the Jews were about to enter the Land of Israel, G-d commanded Moshe to wage war against the evil Nation of Midyan. The Torah relates that Moshe appointed his nephew Pinchas to lead the war. The reason for this is that when Moshe ran for his life from Egypt he found refuge in Midyan. Since Moshe had a personal debt of gratitude towards Midyan it wasn't appropriate for him to lead the war against them.
The common denominator here is that G-d is particular that we do not do things that display a sense of ungratefulness to a person or an object that assisted in saving or aiding us.
With this said, there is a major question concerning G-d's appointment of Moshe as leader to speak to and warn the Pharoh of the impending plagues. We have learned that Moshe was raised from infancy in the palace of the Pharoh. Moshe now stood in the same palace that he was nurtured and sustained. How was he the vehicle through which G-d brought the plagues upon Pharoh? Wasn't that a display of ungratefulness on Moshe's part?
I came across a very interesting answer. The Torah tells us that the Jewish slavery began when a new Pharoh came to power. The new Pharoh "Did not know Yosef." This new king turned a blind eye on all the good that Yosef did for the Pharoh and Egypt during his 80 year reign as viceroy. Yosef had saved the people through his planning for the years of famine. The Egyptian treasury became astronomically wealthy under Yosef's tenure through land purchases and tax codes that Yosef implemented; and even so, the new king blatantly ignored Yosef's accomplishments and bitterly enslaved Yosef's people.
When G-d was ready to redeem His nation from Egypt, he specifically chose Moshe, for G-d exacts punishment measure for measure. Moshe standing in front of the Pharoh in the same palace that he was raised sent a subtle message to Pharoh. Here is Moshe who grew up in this palace and it would have been expected of him and his morals not to be the one to bring upon the plagues. Yet G-d felt that since the Pharoh disregarded his sense of gratitude towards Yosef, Moshe would ignore his sense of gratitude towards the Pharoh and be the one to stand up to him.
With all this said, Moshe didn't have carte blanche to do everything in his power against the Pharoh. Moshe continually warned and tried negotiating with Pharoh so that no harm would befall him or his nation if he would give in.
Interestingly, when the Torah speaks of conversion, it makes provisions for citizens of certain nations. For example, the males of the nations of Amon and Moav who are flawed in basic traits of kindness, can convert but they and all their male descendants must marry fellow converts; thus they are never allowed to fully join the Jewish Nation.
However, if an Edomite or Egyptian converts, he or she and two future descendants must marry a convert but the third generation is allowed to marry a full Jew. By this time, their inborn bad traits will have dissipated.
The Torah explains that the Egyptians have this dispensation and can eventually fully join is because they were host to us when we were in Egypt. Even though they killed our firstborn - they were still our hosts and to a certain degree we are indebted to them.
If we internalize this concept and ideal of gratefulness, it will bring about a greater amount of Shalom in our homes, community, nation and across the universe!
Wishing you a most enjoyable & uplifting Shabbos, Rabbi Dovid Saks