Torah Reflections; Lessons in the weekly Torah portion and topics of Judaism, spirituality, observance and tradition

Torah Reflections from Torah Readers

Divrai Torah, weekly Torah portion summaries, lessons and essays on topics of Judaism, spirituality, observance and tradition.

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Parashat Va'eira

For the week of Fri 20th Jan 2023 - כ״ז בְּטֵבֵת תשפ״ג
Parashat Vaera

The God who acts in History

There is nothing natural about the exodus. No logic can give rise to hope; no law of History charts a path from slavery to redemption, exile to return. The entire sequence of events has been a prelude to a single most formative moment in the History of Israel: The intervention of God in History

Did you know that...

Pharaoh is shaken after the first plagues but this is nothing compared to the alarm that seizes him after the plague of hail. Pharaoh says, "I have sinned this time; God is righteous and I and my people are wicked." What was different about the plague of hail to exact such a drastic response from Pharaoh?

Firstly we must understand that Pharaoh grew up as a god. He felt that he was above all earthly, moral and ethical responsibilities - therefore his ability to commit genocide against the Hebrews without a second thought. When a person grows up under the impression that He is a God, this also colors his understanding of the nature of justice. Whatever he wants, is by definition the embodiment of justice.

When the plague of hail arrived Pharaoh was witness to something he had never seen before - hail. Egypt is a land where hail is a very rare occurrence, specifically hail with thunder and lightning - this is probably something that Pharaoh has never seen. At this point he reaches a revelation and understands that his power is limited.

When Pharaoh reaches this conclusion, he is now forced to adopt a new attitude to his whole life. He must now re-examine and reassess all of his past actions. Obviously we know that at this point in time Pharaoh did not let the children of Israel go and this is due to the fact that not only was Pharaoh evil, he was part of an establishment that was rotten from the core for many generations. When Pharaoh repented, he repented for the wrong reasons and not in a way that would prevent him from committing the same sin again.

Parasha Summary

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In this parasha we find the first seven plagues that God bought upon the Egyptians. Moses and Aaron come before Pharaoh and ask to

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The name of the Parshah, "Va’era," means "and I appeared" and it is found in Exodus 6:3.

G‑d reveals Himself to Moses. Employing the “four expressions of redemption,” take out the Children of Israel from Egypt, deliver them from their enslavement, redeem them, and acquire them as His own chosen people at “Mount Sinai”; He will then bring them to the land He promised to the Patriarchs as their eternal heritage.

Moses and Aaron repeatedly come before Pharaoh to demand in the name of G‑d, “Let My people go, so that they may serve Me in the wilderness.” Pharaoh repeatedly refuses. Aaron’s staff turns into a snake and swallows the magic sticks of the Egyptian sorcerers. G‑d then sends a series of plagues upon the Egyptians.

The waters of the Nile turn to blood; swarms of frogs overrun the landlice infest all men and beasts. Hordes of wild animals invade the cities; a pestilence kills the domestic animals; painful boils afflict the Egyptians. For the seventh plague, fire and ice combine to descend from the skies as a devastating hail. Still, “the heart of Pharaoh was hardened and he would not let the children of Israel go, as G‑d had said to Moses.”

Second Opinion

Opinions, Essays, Cultural Observances

Seeing is believing

To most of us, Seeing is Believing. Vaera “and I made Myself seen”, with which Hashem describes His relationship with the Patriarchs, and which give our Parashah its name in the Torah. The presence of Etzba Elokim, The finger of G-d, is “seen” in our parashah, when things, which are beyond our understanding and capabilities happen.

The Last Word

Social Religous, Cultural and Political Commentary

Artificial intelligence and plagues of Egypt

Following publications in the media about artificial intelligence software (chatGPT) that is capable of conducting intelligent conversation at a high level, I decided to try it. What can we learn from the plagues of Egypt that apply to this new technology?
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