Torah Weekly

For the week ending 13 January 2024 / 3 Shvat 5784

Parshat Vaera

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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Hashem tells Moshe to inform the Jewish People that He is going to take them out of Egypt. However, the Jewish People do not listen. Hashem commands Moshe to go to Pharaoh and ask him to free the Jewish People. Although Aharon shows Pharaoh a sign by turning a staff into a snake, Pharaoh's magicians copy the sign, emboldening Pharaoh to refuse the request. Hashem punishes the Egyptians, sending plagues of blood and frogs, but the magicians copy these miracles on a smaller scale, again encouraging Pharaoh to be obstinate. After the plague of lice, Pharaoh's magicians concede that only Hashem could be performing these miracles.

Only the Egyptians, and not the Jews in Goshen, suffer during the plagues. The onslaught continues with wild animals, pestilence, boils and fiery hail. However, despite Moshe's offers to end the plagues if Pharaoh will let the Jewish People leave, Pharaoh continues to harden his heart and refuses.


Turn It Up To ELEVEN!!

“And I shall take out My legions – My Children of Yisrael – from the land of Egypt, with great judgments.” (7:4)

The phrase “Turn it up to eleven!” was symptomatic of the overindulgent sixties culture. But it unwittingly recognized that this world is indeed bounded by the number ten.

Ten is a magical number. It represents the completion of a series.

Eleven is the beginning of the system of ten once again.

The number ten features prominently in the Torah. The universe was created with statements – “Let there be…” (By the way, if you count them, you’ll only find nine, but the deeper sources understand the very first word in the Torah, Bereishis, is in itself a creation: the creation of ‘beginning.’)

There are the Ten Plagues and there are Ten Commandments (or more accurately, Ten Statements).

It cannot be that this theme of ten is coincidental. What is the link between these three sets of ten?

A fruit is covered by a shell. The shell prevents the fruit from being damaged before it is ripe, but it also prevents access to the fruit. On a deeper level, the Ten Statements were ‘the fruit’ of creation encased in its shell. It took the Ten Plagues to break the casing of this spiritual ‘fruit’ and this allowed the fruit to emerge on Mount Sinai with the giving of the Torah and the Ten Commandments.

The entire universe was created with letters and the words they form. But this reality is hidden from us – that is the idea of the Ten Statements encasing the secrets of existence. Each of the Ten Plagues was like a ‘nutcracker’ that revealed in each of the Ten Statements its essence – and what resulted was the Word of Hashem revealed at Sinai – the Ten Commandments.

*Sources: Based on Sfat Emet in Iturei Torah

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