In this week’s parsha, Va’era, G-d told Moses about his promise to let the Israelites have a home in the land of Canaan and his plan to help the Israelites leave Egypt. G-d asked Moses to speak to Pharoah, and Moses responded “וְאֵיךְ֙ יִשְׁמָעֵ֣נִי פַרְעֹ֔ה וַֽאֲנִ֖י עֲרַ֥ל שְׂפָתָֽיִם” “How then will Pharaoh hearken to me, seeing that I am of closed lips?” Moses admitted to G-d twice that he did not feel comfortable speaking, so G-d told him to have his brother Aaron speak for him. Despite Moses’ imperfections, (including impulsively killing an Egyptian), G-d still chose him to be the leader of a new nation. G-d told Moses that he also made the promise of Canaan to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. These men were also not perfect: Jacob took advantage of his brother, Isaac favored one of his sons over the other, and Abraham laughed at G-d when G-d said he and Sarah would have a child. Just as the characters in the Torah are imperfect, none of us is perfect either.
And so Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh to free the Israelites. They threatened to send plagues to the land of Egypt, and Aaron turned his staff into a snake, but Pharaoh was still stubborn.
“וַֽיֶּֽחֱזַק֙ לֵ֣ב פַּרְעֹ֔ה וְלֹ֥א שָׁמַ֖ע”
“Pharoah’s heart stiffened” the Torah says many times, to show how Pharoah still felt no sympathy for the Israelites. The plagues kept coming, and still Pharaoh did not let the Israelites leave Egypt and be free.
The plagues occur in order from least damaging to most severe. I think G-d wanted to do the least amount of damage possible to the Egyptians. First, the water of the Nile River turned into blood. Since Pharaoh did not let the Israelites go, the second plague hit. Frogs infested everywhere.
“וַיִּקְרָ֨א פַרְעֹ֜ה לְמשֶׁ֣ה וּלְאַֽהֲרֹ֗ן וַיֹּ֨אמֶר֙ הַעְתִּ֣ירוּ אֶל־יְהֹוָ֔ה וְיָסֵר֙ הַֽצְפַרְדְּעִ֔ים מִמֶּ֖נִּי וּמֵֽעַמִּ֑י וַֽאֲשַׁלְּחָה֙ אֶת־הָעָ֔ם וְיִזְבְּח֖וּ לַֽיהֹוָֽה”
Pharoah told Moses and Aaron that if they made the frogs go away, they would be able to pray and sacrifice to their G-d. The frogs went away, but Pharaoh changed his mind, and the Israelites were not allowed to leave Egypt. The same thing repeated itself again in the next plague, the plague of lice. Pharaoh again promised freedom, but then changed his mind.
Pharaoh made a big mistake. Every time he said “No,” the plagues got worse. Although everybody makes mistakes, and nobody is perfect, you can always change. Abraham lost faith only for a short time. Jacob realized trickery was bad, once he ran away, and Moses felt very bad, once he impulsively killed the Egyptian. But Pharaoh did not change. He could have, but he didn’t.
As 2018 starts, we should all recognize when we make a mistake, and always try to do better next time.
Henry Goldstein, Grade 4, is a current Schechter student.