Friday, January 15, 2010

Parshat Va'eira - פרשת וארא

"וַיֹּאמֶר, לְמָחָר; וַיֹּאמֶר, כִּדְבָרְךָ--לְמַעַן תֵּדַע, כִּי-אֵין כַּיהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ - And he said: 'Against tomorrow.' And he said: 'Be it according to your word; that you may know that there is none like the Lord our God."
(Sh'mot 8:6)

After the plague of frogs, Pharaoh calls in Moshe and begs him to get HaShem to remove the frogs. Interestingly, Pharaoh asks that the frogs be removed 'tomorrow.' Why not immediately - if the plague of frogs is so bothersome, why on earth, when asking for the plague to be brought to a premature end, did Pharaoh ask for it to continue one last day?

The Ib'n Ezra explains that Pharaoh thought that the plague was a result of a heavenly constellation of stars, and that perhaps the frogs were going to leave that very day anyway. As such, he asked Moshe to remove the frogs tomorrow, because if the frogs were to leave that same day, Pharaoh would make Moshe look foolish.

Here we see the extent of Pharaoh's stubborness. Pharaoh had already experienced the plague of blood and was now seeing frogs take over his land. Moshe had warned him that these frogs would come and yet Pharoah still wants to cling on to the security of believing that there is no Power above him. So he creates his own reality; one in which 'a star sign created the plague,' despite all indications to the contrary.

When faced with even the most plain evidence that he had no control, Pharaoh refused to believe - maybe Pharaoh's heart was already hard before it was famously "hardened" later on in this week's Parsha.

While we might read this passage and think that Pharaoh's beahaviour was rather stupid, or that his logic was so clearly flawed as to cause us to wonder how on earth he arrived at the conclusion that he could "trick" Moshe and fool him, we must take a step back. All too often, we read events in Torah, and history at large, as events that simply happened. We need to understand that there were logical processes behind everything, and that the characters who play roles in these stories were not idiots. Maybe their knowledge of science, for example, pales in comparison to ours, but their intellects weren't necessarily any less.

With this in mind, we must remind ourselves that Pharaoh genuinely thought that the constellations above controlled the events of this world. His thought process wasn't stupid - he merely fitted the events as they turned out to his conception. From here we may learn a genuinely relevant lesson in our time; that we must not kid ourselves. All too often, we think that we know better than what other people tell us. We only trick ourselves, and eventually end up falling flat on our faces. Pharaoh would have done well to have learned from the notably humble Moshe. Let's hope that we learn from his mistake and accept reality as it is, not as we would like it to be.

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom!
*Adapated from a D'var Torah by Daniel Fine on*


  1. Or it could be more along the lines that he wanted them gone by tomorrow. Sort of like, his mind can't conceptualize the idea of the frogs being gone immediately, so he's giving Moshe a 'reasonable' timeframe.

  2. Hi 'Anonymous!'

    That certainly makes sense, too. There's always more than one way to read what's being described in the Torah.

    P.S. Feel free to leave your name or a nickname - it's nice to know who's reading ;)