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January 10, 1992 - Image 36

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1992-01-10

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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36

FRIDAY, JANUARY 10, 1992

RABBI RICHARD C. HERTZ

Special to The Jewish News

T

his sedra continues the
story of the plagues
that hit Egypt as
Pharaoh refused to allow the
Israelites to leave. The series
of plagues were to establish
for all time the theme of God's
omnipotence and the folly of
defying God's will. As this
sedra opens, hail and locusts
blight the food supply, follow-
ed by total darkness and the
climax to the series of
plagues, the death of the first-
born.
Events of these plagues
become part of the collective
memory of the people of Israel
and a permanent part of the
folk stories transmitted from
generation to generation. The
plagues were to show how the
natural disasters brought
about by Moses left the
Pharaoh even more uncom-
promising than ever until the
final blow.
In each case a certain pat-
tern or design can be seen
about the plagues. The first
three come, then the next
three continue on an inten-
sified level. Pharaoh's reac-
tions swing back and forth er-
ratically. God's policy of
hardening Pharaoh's heart is
brought out. Pharaoh's stub-
bornness is consistently
represented. Pharaoh's ar-
rogance had to be humbled so
that the all-powerful reality
of God's superiority might be
revealed.
What the Israelites did in
retelling these stories was to
deify the power of God. They
showed that God was superior
in might to the stubborn
Pharaoh. The blotting out of
the light of the sun for three
days must have sent a power-
ful symbolic message to the
Egyptians, for the sun was
their supreme god.
The plague of darkness
must have had a devastating
psychological effect, too, but
not quite the power of the
final announcement of the
10th plague, the over-
whelming blow of the death of
the firstborn. Then the Torah
interrupts the story of the
plagues with a different
theme in Chapter 12.
Chapter 12 reviews all of
the details concerning the
unleavened bread, the matzot
and the Festival of Passover to
be celebrated for seven days.
Jews are commanded to

Dr. Hertz is rabbi emeritus of
Temple Beth El in
Birmingham.

rehearse the story of the Ex-
odus every year at the
Passover seder. The laws con-
cerning the feast of Passover
are now set forth in elaborate
detail:
"This day shall be to you
one of remembrance. You
shall celebrate it as a festival
to the Lord throughout the
ages. You shall celebrate it as
an institution for all times,"
declaring this to be a night of
redemption.
The story of the plagues
and the miraculous
deliverance of the Israelites
from Egyptian slavery has
been the source of much
midrashic embellishment as
the stories were told and
retold generation after
generation.
Various interpretations of
the series of plagues arose,
some of which found their
way into the Haggadah. The
Midrash enlarges upon the

Shabbat Bo
Exodus 10:1-13:16
Jeremiah 46:13-28

rationale of the plagues so
that with time the plagues
become even more marvelous
and more miraculous as the
validity of each plague
became more intensified as a
way of spreading the fame of
God's power, in contrast to the
stubbornness of Pharaoh's
hardened heart.
Pharaoh was forced to yield
concessions to the Israelites
until the last plague. The
death of the firstborn brought
about the complete release of
the Israelites.
The plagues served to
demonstrate that Moses and
Aaron were the true
messengers of God and that
the plagues, while appearing
to be natural occurrences,
were actually intended to
bring about the deliverance of
the Israelites from their af-
fliction. ❑

SYNAGOGUES

B'nai Moshe
Hosts Discussion

Congregation B'nai Moshe
will hold Shabbat services, a
luncheon and discussion Jan.
25 at the synagogue.
The discussion leader will
be Leonard Wanetik on Par-
sha Yitro. Participants are
asked to do preparatory
reading from the commen-
taries; call the synagogue of-
fice for a copy. There is a
charge for the luncheon.

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