Torah Weekly

For the week ending 1 January 2011 / 24 Tevet 5771

Parshat Vaera

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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G-d tells Moshe to inform the Jewish People that He is going to take them out of Egypt. However, the Jewish People do not listen. G-d 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. G-d punishes the Egyptians and sends 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 G-d 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.


What Have You Done For Me Lately?

“Say to Aaron, ‘Stretch out your staff and strike the dust of the land…” (8:12)

Two men walking toward each other in the street.

As they draw alongside, a smile spreads across the face of one of them. Excitedly, he says to the other: “Izzy, Izzy, it’s me. Moishe. Don’t you recognize me?”

Izzy furrows his brow, trying to bring to the surface of his consciousness some deep forgotten memory. “...Moishe? ...Moishe?”

Unfazed, the other continues, “You remember me, Izzy! It’s Moishe. Once I loaned you $25,000 interest free for 10 years.”

“Yeah...” replies Izzy.

“But Moishe, what have you done for me lately?”

Unlike the other plagues, G-d commanded only Aaron to initiate the plague of lice by hitting the earth — Moshe was not commanded.


When Moshe killed an Egyptian who was beating a Jew, Moshe hid the body of the Egyptian in the earth. Thus, he had a debt of gratitude to the earth and could not strike it.

However, that killing became known and Pharaoh tried to kill Moshe, forcing him to flee the country.

So what really was Moshe’s debt to the earth? He had to flee for his life anyway. The earth hadn’t really done anything for him in the end.

Gratitude is not quantified by results. When someone does something for us, even if it turns out to be unsuccessful or unnecessary, we owe him as much gratitude as if he had just loaned us $25,000 interest-free for 10 years.

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