Hashem tells Moshe to inform the Jewish People that He is going to take them out of Egypt, but the Jewish People do not listen. Hashem commands Moshe to go to Pharaoh & ask him to free the Jewish People. Although Ahron shows Pharaoh a
sign by turning a staff into a snake, Paro’s magicians copy the sign, emboldening Paro to refuse the request.
Hashem punishes the Egyptians & sends plagues of blood and frogs, but the magicians successfully copy these miracles (albeit on a smaller scale), again encouraging Pharaoh to remain obstinate.
After the plague of lice, Pharaoh’s magicians cannot duplicate the miracle & so concede that only G-d could be performing these events. Only the Egyptians, & not the Jews living in Goshen, suffer during the plagues. The onslaught against
Egypt continues with wild animals, pestilence, boils & fiery hail. However, despite Moshe’s offers to end the plagues if Pharaoh will let the Jewish People leave, Pharaoh continues to harden his heart & refuses to release Am Yisrael.
Haftora: Yechezkel 28:25.
DVAR TORAH: THE RELUCTANT HERO
RABBI S. WEISS
Moshe is nothing if not a reluctant hero. He tries valiantly to convince Hashem that he is not the right person for the job; he practically begs that some other savior be appointed in his place. But G-d simply won’t hear of it.
Hashem tries to reassure Moshe by revealing the end of the story, telling him straight away that it will all turn out well. “I will rescue & redeem you; take you out of Egypt & into Israel,” He promises. You’d think that this would buoy Moshe up. And yet, even after hearing the good news, Moshe says: “If the Jewish People will not listen to me, then how can I, of ‘uncircumcised
lips,’ possibly convince Paro?!”
Interestingly, G-d does not answer Moshe’s question directly. It could very well be that Moshe was speaking rhetorically, addressing not Hashem, but himself. He is humble – perhaps even to a fault – & so he doubts his own greatness, his ability to accomplish this most challenging of missions. He may also fear that as a prince of Egypt, the Israelites may look upon him not as a brother, a fellow Jew, but rather as “one of them,” an agent of the Pharoah.
And so Hashem wisely addresses both these concerns by breaking into the narrative of the story and chronicling the lineage of Moshe. The next 13 p’sukim review just where Moshe comes from, with specific emphasis on the tribe of Levi. By doing this, G-d is telling Moshe: “Do you think that your royal bearing derives from your connection to Batya & Paro?! No, you are
indeed a prince, but not by virtue of Egypt! You are a Jewish prince! You are the offspring of the Avot & Imahot; you come from Levi, the spiritual center of the nation. That is who you are; you belong to the nation, & the nation belongs to you.”
It is not by coincidence that Moshe keeps referring to “uncircumcised lips.” A Brit/ circumcision, is the primary link between the
generations. Indeed, say Chazal, it is only when a father brings his own son to be circumcised that he affirms the brit that was once performed on him, when he himself was a baby, & so had no say in the matter. Therefore it is davka at the brit when, by tradition, the child’s name is given, further linking this newest member of our people to those who came before him.
It is also not by coincidence that we refer to Jewish circumcision by the term “Brit MILA.” The word “mila,” of course, also can mean “word.” Our word is our bond; we declared from the very moment of our birth as a people that we would be loyal to Hashem, & He gave us His word that He would stand by us throughout history, come what may. It is this bond which strengthens Moshe; he now approaches Paro not merely as one, lone individual, but with a whole nation standing behind him.
So it is with the Jewish People; we are One continuum from Avraham to Moshiach – and beyond. So when we make national decisions, we must factor in our ancestors as well as our descendants. And when we face crises, we know that we never face them alone. That, and Hashem’s promise to take us to our final destiny, is the real secret behind our strength and survival.
Written by Rabbi Weiss