Vaera: It Took A While

Moshe was frustrated. Having been coerced by G-d to redeem the Jewish people, things were not going as planned. As Moshe confronted Pharaoh, demanding—as G-d had instructed—that he let them go free, Pharaoh worsened the conditions for the Jewish people. Moshe could not take it and cried out, “O Lord, why do You mistreat Your people? Why did You send me? As soon as I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he made things worse for these people, and You have not saved Your people” (Shemot 6:27). 

VaEra: The Sons of Korach

The initial meeting between Moshe and Pharaoh did not go well. The workload placed on the poor Jewish slaves was increased, and more importantly, the people's morale was shattered. Whereas initially, "the people believed, and they heard that G-d had remembered the people of Israel" (Shemot 4:31), as conditions worsened, "they did not listen to Moshe from shortness of breath and hard work" (Shemot 6:9).

Vaera: When the Going Gets Tough

The story of the slavery and subsequent redemption of the Jewish people focuses almost entirely on Moshe, Aharon and Pharaoh. Strangely, the thoughts, feelings, and actions of both the Egyptian and Jewish people are barely noted. Although we are privy to the suggestions of Pharaoh's advisors throughout the plagues, we hear nothing of the reaction of the populace. Did they support Pharaoh’s intransigence?  Did they see the plagues as the hand of G-d?  Did they even know that Moshe had forewarned them about the plagues?

Va'era: Searching for G-d?

"G-d spoke to Moshe, and said to him, 'I am the Lord. I revealed myself to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob as G-d Almighty, but My name YHVH I did not allow them to know'" (Shemot 6:2). While the exact meaning of this verse is not easily understood--after all, the name YHVH is used often in sefer Breisheet--what is most clear is that G-d was about to reveal himself in a manner that was hitherto unknown.

VaEra: The Right Reason

Sometimes the reason why one does something can be even more important than what was actually done. While our Sages note that one should strive to perform mitzvoth even for the wrong motives, the commentaries note exceptions to this rule (see, for example, a fascinating responsa of the Netziv, Meisheev Davar 1:46, in which he notes that the opening of new synagogues in an established neighbourhood is generally forbidden). It appears that such an exception is at work during the Exodus.

VaEra: Status Quo

"And they did not listen to Moshe, from short spirit and hard work" (7:9). Moshe had a daunting dual task before him. Not only did he need to demonstrate to Pharaoh that he must free his slaves, he needed to convince the Jewish people that they would be better off following him into the desert. And the latter was a prerequisite for the former.

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