Oneg Vaera

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    1. What is a good way of remembering how many plagues are found in which parsha?

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    OnegShabbosNorth West London's Weekly Torah and Opinion Sheets

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    9th January 2016 "

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    RAISE THE BATON

    Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky

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    In this weeks parsha, once again, Hashem sent Moshe and Aharon to Pharaoh in a second effort to sway his heart and have him change his mind to let the Bnei Yisrael leave Egypt. Unlike the unembellished appeal in last weeks portion, this time they were equipped with more than pleas - this time they came armed with miracles. Standing in front of the mighty king, Aharon threw his stick down and it turned into a snake. Pharaoh was not impressed. He countered with a little magic of his own. His sorcerers matched the miraculous stick-to-snake act by having his spooks throw down their sticks and by transforming them into snakes.

    Aharon one-upped the Egyptian magicians as his stick swallowed all of their sticks. But that obviously was not enough. Pharaohs heart

    was once again hardened and he refused to let the Jews leave Egypt. And so, Hashem decided that the benign miracles would not be effective with the stubborn king. It was time for the heavy artillery -- the ten plagues.

    Hashem commands Moshe: Go to Pharaoh in the morning -- behold! He goes out to the water -- and you shall stand opposite him at the rivers bank, and the staff that was turned into a snake you shall take in your hand (Exodus 7:15).

    I am bothered by a simple question. Moshe had only one special stick. There are various Midrashic explanations as to its origin, but everyone agrees it was a unique one. It was a special one with special powers. Moshe may have been a leader of many hats, but he only carried one stick. Why did Hashem need to define the stick as the one that turned into a snake? He could have simply asked Moshe to come with his stick. Moshe would surely have known exactly which stick Hashem wanted him to take.

    We tend to look at the world and forget that routine natural events are also replete with awe-inspiring miracles and supernatural properties. We become acclimated to the mundane miracles of life so that we also shrug when Hashem turns proverbial sticks into proverbial snakes. We feel we can do that too!

    Therefore, before orchestrating the largest insubordination of natural law in world history, by turning the flowing Nile into a virtual blood

    bath, Moshe is told to bring with him the stick that Pharaoh only considered to be capable of performing minor miracles. Moshe is told that the same stick that was not able to impress Pharaoh has the ability to shatter the Egyptian economy and with it the haughty attitude that kept the Bnei Yisrael enslaved.

    Sometimes our marvel of Hashems wonders is dulled by the scoffing of the naysayers. They lead us to forget that the same Power behind the minor miracles of life is also the generator of great miracles that we can hardly fathom and surely not anticipate! Even the incomprehensible miracle of life itself is blunted by its ongoing regularity. Our emotions become bored and our intellect spoiled with the majestic events that are considered trite by their regular reoccurrence. And when we fail to see the greatness of genius in the wonderful world in which we live, we expect Hashem to send us a more prominent message. But we must never forget that even the most awe-inspiring message comes from the same Hand and Stick that bring us the simplest benign worms!

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    2. The second plague was tzefardaia. Which animal was this?

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    PARSHAHTHE TRUE TEST OF GREATNESS

    Rabbi Yehonoson GefenRabbi for Keter HaTorah

    2

    Shemos, 6:26-27 This was Aharon and Moshe to whom HaShem said: Take the Children of Israel out of Egypt according to their legions. They were the ones who spoke to Pharaoh, King of Egypt, to take the Children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; this was Moshe and Aharon.

    Rashi, Shemos, 6:27 sv. This was Moshe and Aharon: They were steadfast in their shlichus and in their righteousness from the beginning until the end.

    Rashi quotes a Gemara in Megilla that enumerates verses demonstrating the consistency of great people. Only one other person is mentioned in a similar vein as being steadfast in his righteousness from the beginning until the end; Avraham Avinu.1 Why are these the only people about whom the Torah gives this particular form of praise?

    It seems that these three people were, more than anyone else, placed in situations that were so challenging that anyone not on the highest level would have succumbed to the difficulties and not maintained their incredibly high standards of conduct. Avraham Avinu, already at the age of three years old reached greatness in recognising HaShem from that time on he faced incredible pressure to reject his newfound beliefs in favour of the predominant idolatry. Yet he remained steadfast, willing to give up his own life in the furnace in Ur Kasdim. HaShem continued to test him in areas that conflicted with his incredible sense of kindness, such as expelling his own son Yishmael, and of course the Akeida where he was instructed to kill his beloved son, Yitzchak. In all these tests he could have faltered slightly, wondering why HaShem was telling him to perform a deed that contradicted the beliefs that he had sacrificed so much to uphold.2 Yet he stood firm, maintaining the incredible levels that he reached as a child.

    Moshe and Aharon, in their more than forty year long role as saviours of Klal Yisrael also faced many challenges and tests that could easily have caused them to falter, beginning with their initial failed attempt to improve the lot of the Jews in their slavery. It continued with the numerous instances where the Jewish people turned against them, accusing them of bringing them to die in

    1 Megilla, 11a. The Gemara also lists a number of reshaim who were consistent in their evil; Esav, Dassan and Aviram, Achashverosh and Achaz.

    2 Indeed Chazal tell us that the Satan made several attempts to persuade him not to go through with the Akeida.

    the desert, and even coming close to killing them on occasion3. Moreover they endured extreme tragedies in the various episodes of the Exodus such as the consequences of the sin of the spies. Yet at no time did they weaken in their determination to fulfill the role that HaShem had forced upon them at the very beginning. Thus, Chazal tell us that they remained as righteous at the end of the long and difficult saga of Yetzias Mitzrayim as they were in the beginning.

    Of course we cannot aspire to the level of steadfastness that Avraham, Moshe and Aharon attained in maintaining their spiritual level in the midst of all their challenges, however, their example teaches us a vital lesson. It is praiseworthy for a person to act with good character traits and Emunah when his situation is stable, but the true test of his righteousness is when he is placed in difficult situations is he then able to keep to his values or does his yetzer hara take over?

    Two examples serve to illustrate this point:

    The Chazon Ish in his work on Bitachon, suggests a case of a person, lets call him Reuven who is constantly expressing his Emunah and how everything that he has is from HaShem; he proclaims his recognition that his livelihood emanates purely from HaShem and that there is no need for anxiety. However, when Shimon opens a business that rivals that of Reuven, suddenly, all his Emunah fades away and he worries constantly over the future, he even begins to complain about his new rival, and perhaps plots unethical ways to cause Shimon to close down. Reuvens Emunah seemed to be strong when everything was going smoothly, but when he was put to the test, he failed to show sufficient Bitachon.4

    A second example is offered by the saying of Chazal that the true measure of person is known by how he acts with regard to money, how he behaves when he is inebriated, and - most pertinent here - to how he acts on occasions that arouse anger.5 The fact that he acts calmly most of the time does not indicate that he is a true baal middos.6 His true level is only revealed when he can maintain his composure at times where he is put under great pressure.

    We have seen from the examples of Avraham, Moshe and Aharon how true greatness is measured by ones behaviour in difficult times may we all aspire to emulate them on our own level.

    3 As was the case with Aharon at the sin of the Golden Calf.4 See Emuna and Bitachon of the Chazon Ish, Ch.2, Part 2.5 Eruvin, 65b.6 The term for someone who has sterling character traits.

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