In this week’s Parsha, Parashat Vaeira, the first six plagues descend on Egypt. The Pharaoh responds in kind, creating the dramatic and suspenseful story that will culminate in G-d redeeming the Israelite slaves from Egypt. The plagues read like a high drama, a fast-moving movie, just without the fake special effects.
Blood. Frogs. Lice. Insects. Pestilence. Boils. Doesn't your skin crawl and scalp itch just reading about this batch of creepy, crawly, infectious plagues? The six plagues in Vaeira come in two sets of three plagues each, (blood, frogs and lice, then insects, pestilence and boils). In each set, Pharaoh is told about the first two plagues and surprised by the third. After each set, he still refuses to free the Israelites, which honestly kind of sucks! However, we are the ones celebrating our survival thousands of years later, aren’t we?
In any case, Pharaoh’s stubborn refusal is what we often remember from this series of events. As it turns out, G-d Himself hardened Pharaoh’s heart, as the verse says “The Lord said to Moses, When you go back to Egypt see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders which I have put in your power; but I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go.” (Exodus 7, 21). Why would G-d want Pharaoh to not let the Jewish people go? Did G-d want to bring the plagues on Egypt?
At the very end of this parashah, we read G-d’s words, “Nevertheless I have spared you for this purpose: in order to show you My power, and in order that My fame may resound throughout the world” (Exodus 9:16). G-d’s motive is brilliant and clear. The plagues are not only intended to crush the Egyptian slave masters and cruel king into submission in order to free the slaves, but they also provide evidence of G-d’s power to an enslaved people.
But why would the Jewish people need to see G-d’s hand and might?
At this point the Jewish people had been slaves for over 400 years. They are accustomed to oppression and all that comes with it — lack of freedom, choice and probably faith. They are certainly not used to the concept of a G-d and organized religion. So, how could this nation move forward? How could they trust G-d so much that they would abandon their lives, albeit an enslaved one for an abstract promised land? How could they dare cross the Sea of Reeds and how could they commit to receiving the Torah?
The Jews, maybe even more than Pharaoh and the Egyptians, desperately needed proof of G-d’s power and might. The plagues unite them and gives them a glimmer of hope. It gives them the inspiration, faith, and guidance that they will need to move forward with their freedom and glorious future.
Just as the Jews in those times required motivation and inspiration, we too need such moments in our lives as well, especially given the troubled times we live in. We may not see plagues from G-d, but we do have the power and strength of our BBYO community. We often sing this refrain, “lean on me when you’re not strong.” Whenever problems come up in our region, we have always pushed through with vitality. Our region (CVR) has done this for the past 60 years and after the next 60 years, we can say that we pushed each other to great heights for as long as Moses lived (120 years!)
Am Yisrael Chai
CVR Shlichim, Samantha Hass and Jared Linder
Read commentary on this week's Parsha from BBYO teens around the world.
All views expressed on content written for The Shofar represent the opinions and thoughts of the individual authors. The author biography represents the author at the time in which they were in BBYO.
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