Paro is warned about the plague of locusts & agrees to release only the men; Moshe insists everyone must go. Paro calls Moshe & Aharon to stop the locusts, admitting he has sinned. G-d ends the plague but hardens Paro’s heart; yet again Paro fails to free the Jews. Egypt is then engulfed in palpable darkness.
Paro tells Moshe to take all the Jews out of Egypt but to leave their animals behind. Moshe tells him that not only will they take their own flocks but Paro’s, too. Moshe tells Paro that Hashem will bring 1 more plague, the death of the firstborn, & then the Jews will leave Egypt.
Nissan is designated as the 1st month. Bnei Yisrael is told to take a sheep on the 10th of the month & guard it until the 14th when it will be slaughtered as a Pesach offering. Its blood is put on their door-posts & its meat eaten roasted. The blood is a sign that these homes will be passed over when Hashem strikes the firstborn of Egypt. Hashem sends the final plague, killing all firstborn, & Paro finally sends the Jews out of Egypt. Laws of the Pesach offering, Chametz & Matza, Pidyon HaBen & Tefilin are given.
The Haftora (Yirmiyahu 46) presages yet another defeat of Egypt – this time by Babylonia and Nebuchadnezar – but vows that while Israel may suffer punishment, we will eternally live on. “For I am with you….of you I shall not make an end,” says Hashem.
DVAR TORAH: WHEN WILL I BE LOVED?
RABBI S. WEISS
Can you picture a Jewish People, an Israel, loved & admired by the world at large? An Israel that perennially wins the “Most Admired” prize in international voting? Can you see our Israeli ambassador in the United Nations getting a standing ovation from the standing-room only crowd at the General Assembly? Seems like quite a stretch, doesn’t it? Considering the way we’re
typically portrayed in the media, & the level of anti-Israel diatribe out there, such a scenario sounds pretty far-fetched. And yet, this is the challenge, the goal, the dream – and the Divine promise – that lies ahead of us.
As Israel prepares to leave Egypt, the Pasuk tells us: “And Hashem caused the Jewish People to be viewed favorably by the Egyptians; Moshe, too, was admired as a great man in the eyes of Pharoah’s servants and the people of Egypt.” (11:3)
What a stunning, amazing statement! We surely would have expected a far different reaction! After years of anti-Jewish incitement and demonization by the Pharoahs, after 10 Plagues that decimated the Egyptian landscape, economy &
daily routine, we’d have thought the Jews would be utterly detested and ridden out of Mitzrayim on a rail. Instead, we left b’Yad Rama, with hand held high, showered with lavish gifts! Earlier (5:21), Bnei Yisrael had complained to Moshe that they were so detested that “even our very scent is abhorrent to the Egyptians!” What happened so that now we came out smelling like a rose?!
I suggest the Egyptian’s perception of us radically changed when our own perception of ourselves changed! As long as we saw ourselves as a pitiful, pitiable people, others viewed us likewise, & their pity soon turned to contempt. If we had no pride in who we were, if we ourselves had no self-respect, how could we possibly expect others to respect us?
Moshe changed all that. The first task assigned to him by G-d (6:6-7) was to take us out of “sivlot Mizrayim.” The word “sivlot” can mean “burden,” but it can also mean “tolerance,” the tolerance of being brutally mistreated by Egypt and simply accepting it, doing nothing to stop it. Moshe taught us to stand up for ourselves, to fight back, to view ourselves and conduct ourselves as an Am Segula, not as a degraded slave people. Our defining moment came when we were commanded to take a lamb – the Egyptian deity – and offer it to the One, true G-d. Tough? Absolutely. But – no guts, no glory! We would gather up our courage and proudly declare that we are Hashem’s first-born and that we fear Him and Him alone.
Hashem promises that one day we shall be looked up to by the world as a model for holiness in human form. While that seems so very far away, we have recently been granted a glimpse of what the future holds for us. When the Emirates broke
ranks with other Arab-Muslim nations and established diplomatic and economic relations with us, they expressed their whole-hearted admiration and respect for Israel and the Jewish People. This was truly a prophecy come to life.
The longest journey begins with the 1st step. And that first step is to stand straight & walk tall, clothed in Midot & Mitzvot, secure in our role as G-d’s treasured nation.
ASK THE RABBI: WHEN WAS OUR CALENDAR ETERNALLY FIXED?
In our Sedra, Nisan – in deference to it being the month of our liberation from Egypt and our start as a nation – is declared by Hashem to be the first month in the Hebrew year. This is despite the strong opinion that the world was created in Tishrei (there is a minority opinion that the world was created in Nisan). In ancient and classical times, the months of the year began
with the observation by at least two witnesses of the crescent moon; leap months could be added by the Yerushalayim authorities as the need arose. The fixing of the calendar by human means is derived from the phrase, Ha-Chodesh hazeh lachem; “this month is for YOU” (i.e. humanity is empowered to declare and coordinate the calendar). The permanent, fixed calendar, attributed to the 4th-century sage Hillel II, is based on a mean month of 29d, 12h, 44m and 3 1/3s. The average year length is 365.2468 days, which is slightly longer than the mean tropical year. On account of the discrepancy between solar
and lunar years, Pesach – which must be celebrated in the Spring – would often occur more than a month after the vernal equinox; and so the 19-year Metonic cycle comprises 7 leap years, each containing 13 months. In this fixed calendar, common years have 353-355 days, leap years have 383-385 days, and Pesach never begins on a Monday, Wednesday, or Friday. Additionally, Rosh Hashana can never come out on a Sunday, Wednesday or Friday. The details of the fixed calendar were finalized by the 10th century.
Written by Rabbi Weiss