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Va'eira, Va'era, or Vaera (וארא — Hebrew for “and I appeared” the first word that God speaks in the parshah, in Exodus 6:3) is the fourteenth weekly Torah portion (parshah) in the annual Jewish cycle of Torah reading and the second in the book of Exodus. It constitutes Exodus 6:2–9:35. Jews in the Diaspora read it the fourteenth Sabbath after Simchat Torah, generally in January.

Martin, John - The Seventh Plague - 1823

The Seventh Plague (1823 painting by John Martin)

Summary

Tissot Moses

Moses (watercolor circa 1896–1902 by James Tissot)

God spoke to Moses, identified Himself as the God of the Patriarchs, and acknowledged hearing the moaning of the Israelites. (Exodus 6:2–4.) God instructed Moses to tell the Israelites that God would free them, make them God’s people, and bring them to the Promised Land. (Exodus 6:6–8.) But the Israelites would not listen. (Exodus 6:9.) God told Moses to tell Pharaoh to let the Israelites go, but Moses complained that Pharaoh would not heed him, a man of impeded speech. (Exodus 6:10–12.)

The text interjects a partial genealogy of Reuben, Simeon, and finally Levi, including Moses and his family. (Exodus 6:14–25.)

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Levi
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Gershon
 
Kohath
 
Merari
 
Jochebed
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Amram
 
Izhar
 
Hebron
 
Uzziel
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Miriam
 
Aaron
 
Moses
 
 
 
Schnorr von Carolsfeld Bibel in Bildern 1860 048

Aaron Cast His Rod Before Pharaoh and It Became a Serpent (woodcut by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld from the 1860 Die Bibel in Bildern)

God placed Aaron in the role of Moses’ prophet, to speak to Pharaoh. (Exodus 7:1–2.) God intended to harden Pharaoh’s heart, so that God might show signs and marvels. (Exodus 7:3.) God told how Aaron could cast down his rod and it would turn into a snake, and Aaron did so before Pharaoh. (Exodus 7:9–10.) Pharaoh caused his magicians to do the same, but Aaron’s rod swallowed their rods. (Exodus 7:11–12.) Pharaoh’s heart stiffened. (Exodus 7:13.)

The plagues of Egypt

Tissot Water Is Changed into Blood

Water Is Changed into Blood (watercolor circa 1896–1902 by James Tissot)

God began visiting ten plagues on Egypt. God told Moses to go to Pharaoh at his morning bath, demand of him to let the Israelites go to worship in the wilderness, and have Aaron strike the Nile with his rod and turn it into blood. (Exodus 7:14–18.) Moses and Aaron did so, and the fish died and the Nile stank. (Exodus 7:20–21.) But when the Egyptian magicians did the same, Pharaoh’s heart stiffened. (Exodus 7:22–23.) Seven days later, God told Moses to have Aaron hold his arm with the rod over the river and bring up frogs, and they did so. (Exodus 7:25–8:2.) The magicians did the same. (Exodus 8:3.) Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron to plead with God to remove the frogs; Moses did so, but Pharaoh became stubborn. (Exodus 8:4–11.)

God told Moses to have Aaron strike the dust with his rod, to turn it to lice throughout the land, and they did so. (Exodus 8:12–13.) The magicians tried to do the same, but they could not. (Exodus 8:14.) The magicians told Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God!” But Pharaoh’s heart stiffened. (Exodus 8:15.)

Tissot The Plague of Flies

The Plague of Flies (watercolor circa 1896–1902 by James Tissot)

God loosed swarms of insects against the Egyptians, but not Goshen, where the Israelites dwelt. (Exodus 8:16–20.) Pharaoh told Moses and Aaron to go sacrifice to God within Egypt, but Moses insisted on going three days into the wilderness. (Exodus 8:21–23.) Pharaoh agreed, in exchange for Moses’ prayer to lift the plague. (Exodus 8:24.) But when God removed the insects, Pharaoh became stubborn again. (Exodus 8:27–28.)

God struck the Egyptian’s livestock with a pestilence, sparing the Israelites’ livestock. (Exodus 9:1–6.) But Pharaoh remained stubborn. (Exodus 9:7.)

God told Moses to take handfuls of soot from the kiln and throw it toward the sky, so that it would become a fine dust, causing boils on man and beast throughout Egypt, and he did so. (Exodus 9:8–10.) But God stiffened Pharaoh’s heart. (Exodus 9:12.)

God told Moses to threaten Pharaoh with hail. (Exodus 9:13–19.) Those who feared God’s word brought their slaves and livestock indoors. (Exodus 9:20.) God sent thunder and hail, which struck down all exposed in Egypt, but did not strike Goshen. (Exodus 9:23–26.) Pharaoh confessed his wrong, agreed to let the Israelites go, and asked Moses and Aaron to pray to end the hail. (Exodus 9:27–28.) Moses did so, but Pharaoh reverted to his guilty ways. (Exodus 9:33–34.)

In inner-biblical interpretation

Exodus chapters 7–12

The description of the 10 plagues exhibits patterns and progressions, as follows:

Cycle Number Plague Verses Was There

Warning?

Time Warned Introduction Actor Rod? Israelites

Shielded?

Did Pharaoh

Concede?

Who Hardened

Pharaoh’s Heart?

First 1 blood Exodus 7:14–25 yes in the morning לֵךְ אֶל-פַּרְעֹה

Go to Pharaoh

Aaron yes no no passive voice
2 frogs Exodus 7:26–8:11

(8:1–15 in KJV)

yes unknown בֹּא אֶל-פַּרְעֹה

Go in to Pharaoh

Aaron yes no yes passive voice
3 gnats or lice Exodus 8:12–15

(8:16–19 in KJV)

no none none Aaron yes no no passive voice
Second 4 flies or

wild beasts

Exodus 8:16–28

(8:20–32 in KJV)

yes early in the morning וְהִתְיַצֵּב לִפְנֵי פַרְעֹה

stand before Pharaoh

God no yes yes Pharaoh
5 livestock Exodus 9:1–7 yes unknown בֹּא אֶל-פַּרְעֹה

Go in to Pharaoh

God no yes no Pharaoh
6 boils Exodus 9:8–12 no none none Moses no no no God
Third 7 hail Exodus 9:13–35 yes early in the morning וְהִתְיַצֵּב לִפְנֵי פַרְעֹה

stand before Pharaoh

Moses no yes yes passive voice
8 locusts Exodus 10:1–20 yes unknown בֹּא אֶל-פַּרְעֹה

Go in to Pharaoh

Moses yes no yes God
9 darkness Exodus 10:21–29 no none none Moses yes yes yes God
10 firstborn Exodus 11:1–10;

12:29–32;

yes unknown none God no yes yes God

Psalms 78:44–51 and 105:23–38 each recount differing arrangements of seven plagues. Psalm 78:44–51 recalls plagues of (1) blood, (2) flies, (3) frogs, (4) locusts, (5) hail, (6) livestock, and (7) firstborn, but not plagues of lice, boils, or darkness. Psalm 105:23–38 recalls plagues of (1) darkness, (2) blood, (3) frogs, (4) flies and lice, (5) hail, (6) locusts, and (7) firstborn, but not plagues of livestock or boils.

In classical rabbinic interpretation

Exodus chapter 6

Rabbi Simai found evidence for the resurrection of the dead in the words, “And I also have established my covenant with them (the Patriarchs) to give them the land of Canaan,” in Exodus 6:4. Rabbi Simai noted that Exodus 6:4 does not say “to give you” but “to give them,” implying that God would give the land to the Patriarchs personally, and thus that God would resurrect them so as to fulfill the promise. (Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 90b.)

Schnorr von Carolsfeld Bibel in Bildern 1860 044

The Egyptians Afflicted the Israelites with Burdens (woodcut by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld from the 1860 Die Bibel in Bildern)

A Baraita deduced from Exodus 6:6 that the Israelites’ bondage in Egypt ended on Rosh Hashanah. The Baraita noted that Exodus 6:6 uses the word “burden” to describe the end of the Israelites’ bondage in Egypt, and Psalm 81:7 uses the word “burden” to describe the end of Joseph’s imprisonment, and the Baraita deduced that the two events must therefore have occurred at the same time of year. The Baraita further deduced from the words, “Blow the horn on the new moon, on the covering day for our festival . . . He appointed it for Joseph for a testimony when he went forth,” in Psalm 81:4–6 that Joseph went forth from the prison on Rosh Hashanah. (Babylonian Talmud Rosh Hashanah 11a–b.)

Rabbi Nehemiah cited the use of the words “will bring you out” in Exodus 6:6 to demonstrate that using the word hamotzi in the blessing over bread would mean that God “will bring forth” bread from the land — not that God “has brought forth” bread from the land. Rabbi Nehemiah thus read Exodus 6:6–7 to mean: “I am the Lord, the One Who will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.” The Gemara reported that the Rabbis of a Baraita, however, read Exodus 6:6–7 to mean: “When I shall bring you out, I will do for you something that will show you that I am the One Who brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.” (Babylonian Talmud Berakhot 38a.)

The Jerusalem Talmud cited the four promises of salvation in Exodus 6:6–7, (1) “I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians,” (2) “I will deliver you from their bondage,” (3) “I will redeem you with an outstretched arm,” and (4) “I will take you to Me for a people,” as one reason why Jews drink four cups of wine at the Passover seder. (Jerusalem Talmud Pesachim 10:1; see also Exodus Rabbah 6:4; Genesis Rabbah 88:5.) And thus the Mishnah taught that “On the eve of Passover, . . . even the poorest man in Israel must not eat until he reclines; and they (the overseers of charity) should give him not less than four cups of wine.” (Mishnah Pesachim 10:1; Babylonian Talmud Pesachim 99b.)

A Baraita taught that Rabbi Simai deduced from the similarity of the phrases “And I will take you to me for a people” and “And I will bring you in to the land” in Exodus 6:7 that the Israelites’ Exodus from Egypt occurred under circumstances similar to their entry into the Land of Israel. Rabbi Simai thus deduced that just as only two out of 600,000 (Caleb and Joshua) entered the Promised Land, so only two out of every 600,000 Israelites in Egypt participated in the Exodus, and the rest died in Egypt. Raba taught that it will also be so when the Messiah comes that only a small portion of Jews will find redemption, for Hosea 2:17 says, “And she shall sing there, as in the days of her youth, and as in the days when she came up out of the land of Egypt,” implying that circumstances upon the coming of the Messiah will be similar to those upon the Israelites’ entry into the Land of Israel. (Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 111a.)

The Gemara asked why the Tannaim felt that the allocation of the Land of Israel “according to the names of the tribes of their fathers” in Numbers 26:55 meant that the allocation was with reference to those who left Egypt; perhaps, the Gemara supposed, it might have meant the 12 tribes and that the Land was to be divided into 12 equal portions? The Gemara noted that in Exodus 6:8, God told Moses to tell the Israelites who were about to leave Egypt, “And I will give it you for a heritage; I am the Lord,” and that meant that the Land was the inheritance from the fathers of those who left Egypt. (Babylonian Talmud Bava Batra 117b.)

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Levi
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Kohath
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Amram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Izhar
 
 
 
Hebron
 
 
 
Uzziel
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Miriam
 
Aaron
 
Moses
 
Korah
 
Nepheg
 
Zichri
 
Mishael
 
Elzaphan
 
Sithri
 
 
Tissot Moses Speaks to Pharaoh

Moses Speaks to Pharaoh (watercolor circa 1896–1902 by James Tissot)

A midrash taught that Korah took issue with Moses in Numbers 16:1 because Moses had (as Numbers 3:30 reports) appointed Elizaphan the son of Uzziel as prince of the Kohathites, and Korah was (as Exodus 6:21 reports) son of Uzziel's older brother Izhar, and thus had a claim to leadership prior to Elizaphan. (Midrash Tanhuma Korah 1.)

Moses and Aaron before Pharaoh

Moses and Aaron before Pharaoh (painting by Benjamin West)

Rabbi Simeon noted that in nearly every instance, the Torah mentioned Moses before Aaron, but Exodus 6:26 mentioned Aaron before Moses, teaching that the two were deemed equivalent. (Tosefta Keritot 4:15.) The Gemara taught that the use of the pronoun “he (hu)” in an introduction, as in the words “These are (hu) that Aaron and Moses” in Exodus 6:26 signifies that they were the same in their righteousness from the beginning to the end. Similar uses appear in Chronicles 1:27 to teach Abraham’s enduring righteousness, in Samuel 17:14 to teach David’s enduring humility, in Genesis 36:43 to teach Esau’s enduring wickedness, in Numbers 26:9 to teach Dathan and Abiram’s enduring wickedness, in 2 Chronicles 28:22 to teach Ahaz’s enduring wickedness, and in Esther 1:1 to teach Ahasuerus’s enduring wickedness. (Babylonian Talmud Megillah 11a.)

Exodus chapter 7

The Tosefta cited Exodus 7:1, where the lesser Aaron spoke for the greater Moses, for the proposition that in synagogue reading, a minor may translate for an adult, but it is not honorable for an adult to translate for a minor. (Tosefta Megillah 3:21.)

Figures The Rods of Moses and the Magicians Turned into Serpents

The Rods of Moses and the Magicians Turned into Serpents (illustration from the 1728 Figures de la Bible)

Rabbi Aibu bar Nagri said in the name of Rabbi Hiyya bar Abba that the words “with their enchantments” in Exodus 7:11 refer to sorcery without exogenous assistance, while the words “with their sorcery” in Exodus 7:22 refer to magic through the agency of demons. (Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 67b.)

Abitol the barber, citing Rab, said that the Pharaoh whom Moses addressed was a puny fellow, a cubit tall, with a beard as long as he was tall, embodying the words in Daniel 4:14 that “the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and . . . sets up over it the lowest of men.” And Abitol the barber, citing Rab, deduced from the words “Pharaoh . . . goes out to the water” in Exodus 7:15 that this Pharaoh was a magus who went to the water to perform sorcery. (Babylonian Talmud Moed Katan 18a.)

Tissot The Rod of Aaron Devours the Other Rods

The Rod of Aaron Devours the Other Rods (watercolor circa 1896–1902 by James Tissot)

A midrash cited Exodus 7:20 as one proof for the proposition that God does all things together: God puts to death and brings to life at the same time; God wounds and heals at the same time. And thus the midrash noted, in Exodus 7:20, “all the waters that were in the river were turned to blood,” and later, the blood became water again. (Exodus Rabbah 28:4.)

The Gemara deduced from the use of the word for fish, dagah, in the phrase “And the fish that were in the river died” in Exodus 7:21 that the word dagah applies to fish both large and small. (Babylonian Talmud Nedarim 51b.)

A midrash taught that the frogs were the most grievous of the ten plagues. The midrash taught that the frogs destroyed the Egyptians’ bodies, as Psalm 78:45 says “frogs . . . destroyed them,” and the frogs emasculated the Egyptians, as Exodus 7:28 says that the frogs would “come into . . . [the Egyptians’] bed-chamber, and upon [their] bed.” The midrash taught that the frogs told the Egyptians that the coinage of their gods was abolished, and the Egyptians’ own coinage — their ability to procreate — was also rendered invalid. The midrash reasoned that as the word “destroyed” in Genesis 38:9 applied to checking procreation in the passage about Onan’s seed, as “he destroyed it on the ground,” so the midrash reasoned that Psalm 78:45 means to convey that the Egyptians’ procreation was checked as well when it says, “frogs . . . destroyed them.” And the midrash deduced that the frogs spoke because Exodus 8:8 says, “concerning the frogs,” and the words for “concerning,” al debar, may also be read, “because of the words of.” (Exodus Rabbah 25:27.)

Simeon Solomon - Shadrach Meshach Abednego

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah) (painting by Simeon Solomon)

Thaddeus of Rome taught that Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah (also known as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego) delivered themselves to the Fiery Furnace to sanctify the Divine Name in Daniel 3:8–30 because they deduced from Exodus 7:28 that the frogs of the plague, which had not been commanded to sanctify the Divine Name, nonetheless jumped into hot ovens at God’s behest. So Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah reasoned that people, whom Leviticus 22:32 does command to sanctify the Divine Name, should be willing to bear hot ovens for that reason. Thaddeus of Rome deduced that the ovens into which the frogs jumped were hot from the proximity of the words “ovens” and “kneading troughs” in Exodus 7:28, reasoning that kneading troughs are found near ovens when ovens are hot. (Babylonian Talmud Pesachim 53b.)

Jollain The Plague of Frogs

The Plague of Frogs (1670 engraving by Gerard Jollain)

The Tosefta deduced from Exodus 1:8 that Pharaoh began to sin first before the people, and thus as indicated by Exodus 7:29 and 8:4, God struck him first and then the people. (Tosefta Sotah 4:12.)

Exodus chapter 8

Rabbi Eleazar taught that when Exodus 8:2 reports that “the frog came up, and covered the land of Egypt,” it was initially just one frog, which bred prolifically and filled the land. The Tannaim disputed the matter. Rabbi Akiba said that one frog filled the whole of Egypt by breeding. But Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah chastised Akiba for dabbling in aggadah, and taught that one frog croaked for others, and they joined the first frog. (Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 67b.)

A midrash interpreted the words of Proverbs 29:23, “A man’s pride shall bring him low; but he that is of a lowly spirit shall attain to honor,” to apply to Pharaoh and Moses, respectively. The midrash taught that the words, “A man’s pride shall bring him low,” apply to Pharaoh, who in Exodus 5:2 haughtily asked, “Who is the Lord that I should hearken to His voice?” and so, as Psalm 136:15 reports, God “overthrew Pharaoh and his host.” And the midrash taught that the words, “but he that is of a lowly spirit shall attain to honor,” apply to Moses, who in Exodus 8:5, humbly asked Pharaoh, “Have this glory over me; at what time shall I entreat for you . . . that the frogs be destroyed,” and was rewarded in Exodus 9:29 with the opportunity to say, “As soon as I am gone out of the city, I will spread forth my hands to the Lord [and] the thunders shall cease, neither shall there be any more hail.” (Numbers Rabbah 13:3.)

Rabbi Eleazar deduced from the magicians’ recognition of “the finger of God” in Exodus 8:15 that a demonic spirit cannot produce a creature less than a barleycorn in size. Rav Papa said that a spirit cannot even produce something the size of a camel, but a spirit can collect the elements of a larger object and thus produce the illusion of creating it, but a spirit cannot do even that with a smaller object. (Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 67b.)

Rabbi Jose the Galilean reasoned that as the phrase “the finger of God” in Exodus 8:15 referred to 10 plagues, “the great hand” (translated “the great work”) in Exodus 14:31 (in connection with the miracle of the Reed Sea) must refer to 50 plagues upon the Egyptians, and thus to a variety of cruel and strange deaths. (Mekhilta of Rabbi Ishmael Beshallah 7; Mekhilta of Rabbi Simeon 26:6; see also Exodus Rabbah 5:14, 23:9.) And Rabbi Phinehas ben Hama reasoned that as the phrase “the finger of God” in Exodus 8:15 referred to 10 plagues, “the hand of God” in Job 19:21 (in connection with Job’s poverty) must refer to 50 plagues. (Babylonian Talmud Bava Batra 116a; see also Exodus Rabbah 23:9.)

File:Martin The Seventh Plague.jpg

Exodus chapter 9

A midrash taught that when God perceived that Pharaoh did not relent after the first five plagues, God decided that even if Pharaoh now wished to repent, God would harden Pharaoh’s heart in order to exact the whole punishment from him. Thus Exodus 9:12 reports that “the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh.” And the midrash explained that the reference in Exodus 9:12, “as the Lord had spoken to Moses,” referred to God’s prediction in Exodus 7:3 that “I will harden Pharaoh's heart.” (Exodus Rabbah 11:6.)

Holman The Plague of Hail

The Plague of Hail (illustration from the 1890 Holman Bible)

In Exodus 9:12, Pharaoh's heart is hardened. A midrash catalogued the wide range of additional capabilities of the heart reported in the Hebrew Bible. The heart speaks (Ecclesiastes 1:16), sees (Ecclesiastes 1:16), hears (Kings 3:9), walks (2 Kings 5:26), falls (1 Samuel 17:32), stands (Ezekiel 22:14), rejoices (Psalm 16:9), cries (Lamentations 2:18), is comforted (Isaiah 40:2), is troubled (Deuteronomy 15:10), grows faint (Deuteronomy 20:3), grieves (Genesis 6:6), fears (Deuteronomy 28:67), can be broken (Psalm 51:19), becomes proud (Deuteronomy 8:14), rebels (Jeremiah 5:23), invents (1 Kings 12:33), cavils (Deuteronomy 29:18), overflows (Psalm 45:2), devises (Proverbs 19:21), desires (Psalm 21:3), goes astray (Proverbs 7:25), lusts (Numbers 15:39), is refreshed (Genesis 18:5), can be stolen (Genesis 31:20), is humbled (Leviticus 26:41), is enticed (Genesis 34:3), errs (Isaiah 21:4), trembles (1 Samuel 4:13), is awakened (Song of Songs 5:2), loves (Deuteronomy 6:5), hates (Leviticus 19:17), envies (Proverbs 23:17), is searched (Jeremiah 17:10), is rent (Book of Joel 2:13), meditates (Psalm 49:4), is like a fire (Jeremiah 20:9), is like a stone (Ezekiel 36:26), turns in repentance (2 Kings 23:25), becomes hot (Deuteronomy 19:6), dies (1 Samuel 25:37), melts (Joshua 7:5), takes in words (Deuteronomy 6:6), is susceptible to fear (Jeremiah 32:40), gives thanks (Psalm 111:1), covets (Proverbs 6:25), becomes hard (Proverbs 28:14), makes merry (Judges 16:25), acts deceitfully (Proverbs 12:20), speaks from out of itself (1 Samuel 1:13), loves bribes (Jeremiah 22:17), writes words (Proverbs 3:3), plans (Proverbs 6:18), receives commandments (Proverbs 10:8), acts with pride (Obadiah 1:3), makes arrangements (Proverbs 16:1), and aggrandizes itself (2 Chronicles 25:19). (Ecclesiastes Rabbah 1:36.)

The Pharisees noted that while in Exodus 5:2 Pharaoh asked who God was, once God had smitten him, in Exodus 9:27 Pharaoh acknowledged that God was righteous. Citing this juxtaposition, the Pharisees complained against heretics who placed the name of earthly rulers above the name of God. (Mishnah Yadayim 4:8.)

Commandments

According to Maimonides and Sefer ha-Chinuch, there are no commandments in the parshah. (Maimonides. Mishneh Torah. Cairo, Egypt, 1170–1180. Reprinted in Maimonides. The Commandments: Sefer Ha-Mitzvoth of Maimonides. Translated by Charles B. Chavel, 2 vols. London: Soncino Press, 1967. ISBN 0-900689-71-4. Sefer HaHinnuch: The Book of [Mitzvah] Education. Translated by Charles Wengrov, 1:93. Jerusalem: Feldheim Pub., 1991. ISBN 0-87306-179-9.)

Ezekiel

Ezekiel (painting by Michelangelo)

Haftarah

Generally

The haftarah for the parshah is Ezekiel 28:25–29:21.

Connection to the Parshah

Both the parshah and the haftarah describe God’s instructions to a prophet to confront the Pharaoh of Egypt and bring on Israel’s redemption. Both the parshah and the haftarah address God’s judgments (shefatim) against Pharaoh and Egypt. (Exodus 7:4; Ezekiel 28:26.) A monster (tannin) plays a role in both the parshah and the haftarah: In the parshah, God turns Moses’ rod into a monster (Exodus 7:15); the haftarah describes Pharaoh as a monster. (Ezekiel 29:3.) In both the parshah and the haftarah, God attacks the river (Exodus 7:17–19; Ezekiel 29:10) and kills fish. (Exodus 7:20–21; Ezekiel 29:4–5.) In both the parshah and the haftarah, God’s actions would cause the Egyptians to know (ve-yade’u) God. (Exodus 7:5; Ezekiel 28:26; 6, 16, 21.) And in both the parshah and the haftarah, God proclaims, “I am the Lord.” (Exodus 6:2; Ezekiel 29:21.)

On Shabbat Rosh Chodesh

When the parshah coincides with Shabbat Rosh Chodesh (as it does in 2010, 2013, and 2017), the haftarah is Isaiah 66:1–24.

Haggadah 14th cent

A page from a 14th century German Haggadah

In the liturgy

Reading the Passover Haggadah, in the magid section of the Seder, many Jews remove drops of wine from their cups for each of the ten plagues in Exodus 7:14–12:29. (Menachem Davis. The Interlinear Haggadah: The Passover Haggadah, with an Interlinear Translation, Instructions and Comments, 51. Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, 2005. ISBN 1-57819-064-9. Joseph Tabory. JPS Commentary on the Haggadah: Historical Introduction, Translation, and Commentary, 94–95. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 2008. ISBN 978-0-8276-0858-0.)

Next, the Haggadah recounts the reasoning of Rabbi Jose the Galilean that as the phrase “the finger of God” in Exodus 8:15 referred to 10 plagues, “the great hand” (translated “the great work”) in Exodus 14:31 must refer to 50 plagues upon the Egyptians. (Davis, at 51–52; Tabory, at 95.)

And the haggadah in the magid section quotes Exodus 9:3 to elucidate the term “a mighty hand” in Deuteronomy 26:8, interpreting the “mighty hand” to mean the plague of pestilence on the Egyptian livestock. (Davis, at 49; Tabory, at 94.)

Further reading

The parshah has parallels or is discussed in these sources:

Biblical

Early nonrabbinic

  • Ezekiel the Tragedian. Exagōgē. 2nd Century B.C.E. Translated by R.G. Robertson. In The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: Volume 2: Expansions of the “Old Testament” and Legends, Wisdom and Philosophical Literature, Prayers, Psalms, and Odes, Fragments of Lost Judeo-Hellenistic works. Edited by James H. Charlesworth, 814. New York: Anchor Bible, 1985. ISBN 0-385-18813-7.
Philon

Philo

Josephus

Josephus

Classical rabbinic

  • Mishnah: Pesachim 10:1; Shevuot 5:3; Yadayim 4:8. Land of Israel, circa 200 C.E. Reprinted in, e.g., The Mishnah: A New Translation. Translated by Jacob Neusner, 249, 630, 1131. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988. ISBN 0-300-05022-4.
  • Tosefta: Megillah 3:21; Sotah 4:12; Keritot 4:15. Land of Israel, circa 300 C.E. Reprinted in, e.g., The Tosefta: Translated from the Hebrew, with a New Introduction. Translated by Jacob Neusner, 649, 848, 1571. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Pub., 2002. ISBN 1-56563-642-2.
  • Jerusalem Talmud Pesachim 10:1. Land of Israel, circa 400 C.E.
  • Genesis Rabbah 1:15; 5:7; 18:5; 19:7; 37:3; 46:1, 5; 82:3; 88:5; 92:7; 96, 97. Land of Israel, 5th Century. Reprinted in, e.g., Midrash Rabbah: Genesis. Translated by H. Freedman and Maurice Simon, 1:14, 37–38, 144, 153, 296, 389, 392; 2:754, 816, 853, 898, 929. London: Soncino Press, 1939. ISBN 0-900689-38-2.
  • Mekhilta of Rabbi Ishmael Beshallah 7. Land of Israel, late 4th Century. Reprinted in, e.g., Mekhilta According to Rabbi Ishmael. Translated by Jacob Neusner, 1:169–70. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1988. ISBN 1-55540-237-2. And Mekhilta de-Rabbi Ishmael. Translated by Jacob Z. Lauterbach, 1:166. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1933, reissued 2004. ISBN 0-8276-0678-8.
  • Mekhilta of Rabbi Simeon 2:1–2, 5; 3:1; 15:4–5; 16:1, 4; 19:4; 21:4; 22:6; 26:3, 6; 35:1; 47:2. Land of Israel, 5th Century. Reprinted in, e.g., Mekhilta de-Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai. Translated by W. David Nelson, 5–7, 9–11, 50–51, 54, 56, 78–79, 89, 93, 114, 117, 150, 209. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 2006. ISBN 0-8276-0799-7.
First page of the first tractate of the Talmud (Daf Beis of Maseches Brachos)

Talmud

Medieval

  • Rashi. Commentary. Exodus 6–9. Troyes, France, late 11th Century. Reprinted in, e.g., Rashi. The Torah: With Rashi’s Commentary Translated, Annotated, and Elucidated. Translated and annotated by Yisrael Isser Zvi Herczeg, 2:53–90. Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, 1994. ISBN 0-89906-027-7.
  • Judah Halevi. Kuzari. 1:25; 2:2. Toledo, Spain, 1130–1140. Reprinted in, e.g., Jehuda Halevi. Kuzari: An Argument for the Faith of Israel. Intro. by Henry Slonimsky, 46, 86. New York: Schocken, 1964. ISBN 0-8052-0075-4.
Thomas Hobbes (portrait)

Hobbes

  • Exodus Rabbah 5:14, 6:1–12:7, 23:9, 25:27, 28:4. 10th Century. Reprinted in, e.g., Midrash Rabbah: Exodus. Translated by S. M. Lehrman, vol. 3. London: Soncino Press, 1939. ISBN 0-900689-38-2.
  • Zohar 2:22a–32a. Spain, late 13th Century. Reprinted in, e.g., The Zohar. Translated by Harry Sperling and Maurice Simon. 5 vols. London: Soncino Press, 1934.

Modern

Thomas Mann 1937

Mann

  • Thomas Mann. Joseph and His Brothers. Translated by John E. Woods, 788. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005. ISBN 1-4000-4001-9. Originally published as Joseph und seine Brüder. Stockholm: Bermann-Fischer Verlag, 1943.
  • Ziony Zevit. “Three Ways to Look at the Ten Plagues: Were They Natural Disasters, A Demonstration of the Impotence of the Egyptian Gods or an Undoing of Creation?” Bible Review 6 (3) (June 1980).
  • Aaron Wildavsky. Assimilation versus Separation: Joseph the Administrator and the Politics of Religion in Biblical Israel, 14. New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers, 1993. ISBN 1-56000-081-3.
  • John E. Currid. “Why Did God Harden Pharaoh’s Heart?” Bible Review 9 (6) (Nov./Dec. 1983).
  • William H.C. Propp. Exodus 1–18, 2:261–354. New York: Anchor Bible, 1998. ISBN 0-385-14804-6.
BarackObama2005portrait

Obama

  • Barack Obama. Dreams from My Father, 294. New York: Three Rivers Press, 1995, 2004. ISBN 1-4000-8277-3. (Moses and Pharaoh).
  • Marc Gellman. “The Pharaoh and the Frog.” In God’s Mailbox: More Stories About Stories in the Bible, 36–43. New York: Morrow Junior Books, 1996. ISBN 0-688-13169-7.
  • Bernhard Lang. “Why God Has So Many Names.” Bible Review 19 (4) (Aug. 2003): 48–54, 63.
  • Jeffrey H. Tigay. “What’s in a Name? Early Evidence of Devotion Exclusively to Yahweh.” Bible Review 20 (01) (Feb. 2004): 34–43, 47–51.
  • Marek Halter. Zipporah, Wife of Moses, 245–49. New York: Crown, 2005. ISBN 1400052793.
  • Lawrence Kushner. Kabbalah: A Love Story, 78. New York: Morgan Road Books, 2006. ISBN 0-7679-2412-6.

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