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Va'era

“This time I have sinned; the Lord is righteous and I and my people are wrong-doers” Exodus 9:27

    At some point in antiquity, the custom arose read the Torah in weekly portions, segmented along natural conceptual fault-lines. It seems somewhat curious that Va’era stops after the seventh of ten strikes against Egypt.

    The ten strikes occur in a pattern of threes. The first three are designed to show that God really exists (7:17) and strike from the ground (or water). The middle three demonstrate His control over the world (8:18) and strike at the level of animal and human. The final three attest that there is nothing like Him (9:14) and strike from the skies. The tenth stands apart as the act of releasing Israel.

    The question is glaring: why break the sidrah after number seven? What is thematically attained then, sufficient to prompt an override of the natural division?

    A compelling approach, offered by Rabbi Matis Weinberg, focuses on two unique aspects of the hailstorm. After each strike Pharaoh capitulates on grounds of divine power; after the hailstorm, it is on grounds of ethical standing, “the Lord is righteous, I and my people are wrong-doers”. Secondly, the destruction of the hailstorm bombardment was avoidable — had Pharaoh followed Moses’s advice and brought the cattle into shelter (9:19).

    Pharaoh was simply unable to issue the instruction because he was unable to admit he was not in control. The ensuing devastation served as a proverbial mirror, forcing Pharaoh to recognise that his own addiction to power had contributed to his downfall. Pharaoh gained a dawning recognition that perhaps his power-play had been wrong all along. Perhaps a civilisation based on domination and enslavement of other was indeed a violation of humanity. That achievement was the goal all along. Va’era can stop there. Next week we can worry about the Exodus itself.

Sidrah

Lech Lecha

Rabbi Daniella Kolodny

Lech Lecha
Sidrah

Chol Hamo'ed

Rabbi Mark Solomon

Chol Hamo'ed
Sidrah

Nitzavim

Rabbi Larry Tabick

Nitzavim
Sidrah

Noach

Rabbi Dr Benjamin Elton

Noach
Sidrah

Ha'azinu

Rabbi Daniel Roselaar

Ha'azinu
Sidrah

Ki Tavo

Maureen Kendler

Ki Tavo
Sidrah

Bereshit

Rabbi Joseph Dweck

Bereshit
Sidrah

Vayelech

Dr Lynndy Levin

Vayelech
Sidrah

Ki Tetzei

Rabbi Mark Solomon

Ki Tetzei