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April 2, 2020 8:46 am at 8:46 am #1845806abukspanParticipant
Meriting Miracles: Great Lesson from the Last Three Makos
ולמען תספר באזני בנך ובן בנך את אשר התעללתי במצרים ואת אתתי אשר שמתי בם וידעתם כי אני ה’: ויבא משה ואהרן אל פרעה ויאמרו אליו כה אמר ה’ אלקי העברים עד מתי מאנת לענת מפני שלח עמי ויעבדני: כי אם מאן אתה לשלח את עמי הנני מביא מחר ארבה בגבלך
“And so that you may relate in the ears of your son and your son’s son that I have amused Myself with Egypt and My signs that I placed among them — that you may know that I am Hashem.” Moshe and Aharon came to Pharaoh and said to him, “So said Hashem, G-d of the Hebrews: Until when will you refuse to be humbled before Me? Let My people go, that they may serve Me! For if you refuse to send forth My People, behold, tomorrow I shall bring locust-swarm into your border” (Shemos 10:2-4).
One purpose of the ten makkos was to convince Pharaoh to let Bnei Yisrael leave Mitzrayim. They also contained an element of punishment, as many Midrashim illustrate the nature of the middah k’neged middah involved in all ten plagues. These two factors make for a good case that the primary point of the makkos was for the Egyptians.
If we look into it more deeply, we will understand that the plagues were also instructive — and therefore important — for Bnei Yisrael: to see firsthand and become ever more aware of the nature and infinite power of the Al-mighty. In Chochmas HaTorah (ad loc.) Rav Shlomo Kluger provides us with a new insight into how the makkos, primarily the last three, were beneficial not only for those who witnessed them, but for their descendants, as well.
First, some questions, cited in the sefer Vavei Ha’Amudim: Why only now, when warning about makkas arbeh, the eighth plague, did Hashem say that the Jews will be able to tell their descendants how He made a mockery of the Egyptians? Did the first seven plagues not make a mockery of them? What aspect of the last three plagues in particular must be passed on to our children and grandchildren?
Upon closer examination, there is something curious about the purpose of the last three plagues. The first seven were administered to compel Pharaoh to let the people go. Just before the eighth, the plague of locusts, he relented and permitted only the adult males to leave and serve Hashem, and nobody else (Shemos 10: 10-11). If he allowed only the men to go after being warned regarding the locusts, it stands to reason that the next plague, that of darkness, for which there was no warning, was needed to compel release of the children and animals. It did work — halfway. After makkas choshech was over, Pharaoh agreed to free the children, yet all the while insisting that the animals remain (ibid. v. 24). This leads to the conclusion that the entire purpose of the ultimate plague was only to coerce release of the animals! Why was this, the greatest of the makkos, used to free the cattle and sheep? Wasn’t this a case of overkill, on behalf of the lowly animals?
In the process of answering these questions, Rav Shlomo Kluger informs us that the primary purpose of the makkos was not to force Pharaoh to send the Jews out, but to show and teach us that we should never lose hope and think that we may not be worthy of redemption. The makkos can serve as a nechamah, a means of consoling us through the winter of any future galus. If He did miracles for the Jews then, He can and will do them for us now!
Hashem knew that the adults leaving Egypt would not be entering Eretz Yisrael; only the young children who had left Egypt would make it there. Upon entering Eretz Yisrael, these children-cum-adults may have thought that they were unworthy of miraculous intervention and Divine miracles — that Hashem performed the miracles in Egypt only in the merit of their parents and grandparents, who had since perished in the midbar. To dispel this notion, Hashem brought makkas choshech upon the Egyptians just for the children. Through this action, He also showed us, the descendants of those who lived through the Exodus, that there is light for us, as well.
Yet perhaps a future generation, coming right at the end of the galus, may feel especially unworthy, thinking that though Hashem brought makkas choshech in order to save the children, we are not even on that level. Perhaps we may think that we are like lowly animals when compared to previous generations. This is as it says in the Gemara (Shabbos 112b), “Im rishonim bnei malachim anu bnei anashim ve’im rishonim bnei anashim anu ka’chamorim — If the early generations are characterized as sons of angels, we are the sons of men. And if the early generations are characterized as the sons of men, we are akin to donkeys.” With this thought in mind, later generations can say: If we are not even considered human in comparison to earlier generations, who’s to say that Hashem will do miracles for us?
To do away with this concern, makkas bechoros came along, to reinforce our faith in the geulah ha’asidah, the ultimate redemption — to teach us that there is never a reason to give up. The last plague was a guidepost for the future; Hashem performed a miracle just to save the animals, for by then the people were free. Even if we are like animals compared to previous generations, we are still no worse than those animals. If Hashem brought makkas bechoros for their sake, He will certainly do miracles for us!
This, then, is the mockery and amusement HaKadosh Baruch Hu made of Pharaoh and the Egyptians, beginning with makkas arbeh. At that point, Pharaoh felt he was denying us something in his refusal to let the children leave. After makkas choshech, he felt he was withholding the animals to our detriment. But the joke was on him. Little did he know that his obstinacy would be a source of gold for Bnei Yisrael in future exiles. With his refusal, we saw that Hashem’s love and care are such that He will perform additional wonders for the sake of the young and spiritually undeveloped children, and even for lowly animals.
In his attempt to harm or deny us, Pharaoh played right into HaKadosh Baruch Hu’s hands. He thought he still held some cards but the tables were turned; he lost it all and we gained so much. And this is a message worth passing down to our descendants. Try as our enemies might, and in whatever state we are, Hashem will be there for us, perennially turning the tables on our enemies.
Rav Shlomo Kluger brings a homiletic proof to further bolster this point, from a later pasuk (v. 26) in this perek: “Ve’gam mikneinu yeileich imanu lo sisha’er parsah ki mimenu nikach laavod es Hashem Elokeinu va’anachnu lo neida mah naavod es Hashem ad bo’einu shamah — And our livestock, as well, will go with us; not a hoof will be left, for from it we shall take to serve Hashem, our G-d, and we shall not know how we shall serve Hashem until our arrival there.”
Moshe was telling Pharaoh that the final plague, whose main purpose was to allow the animals to leave, would be something from which to take comfort and strength to serve Hashem in the future: “Ki mimenu nikach laavod es Hashem — For we will take from it solace to serve Hashem.”
The pasuk goes on: “Va’anachnu lo neida mah naavod es Hashem.” This is even though: “we do not know how sincerely we will worship Hashem, nor at what spiritual level we will be.”
Yes, Hashem will still be there for us, in all times and all situations. Hence, we must never abandon hope, no matter how far we have strayed or how low we have fallen.
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