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Wednesday, Tevet 25 5783 (Hakhel Year) / January 18, 2023


In this week's Parsha, Va'eira, we read about seven of the ten plagues which G-d brought upon the Egyptians. They are: 1) Blood; 2) Frogs; 3) Lice; 4) Wild beasts; 5) Pestilence; 6) Boils; 7) Hail.


Q.  Our sages tell us that G-d's punishments are measure for measure.  How do these seven plagues measure up, “measure for measure,” for Pharaoh's enslavement of the Jewish people?


A.  “Blood” - "The waters of the [Nile] river turned to blood and the fish that were in the river died" (Gen. 7:20-21).  This was in punishment for Pharaoh's decree, "Every male born shall be thrown into the river."  In Yaakov's blessing to his grandchildren, he used the expression "V'yidgu" - "you shall multiply like fish" (Gen. 48:16).  Pharaoh's decree violated Yaakov's blessing that the children of Israel multiply like the fish and thus the fish in the Nile died.


“Frogs”- "And the river shall swarm with frogs which will go up and come into your house... and into your ovens.”  This served a lesson to Pharaoh for saying, "Who is the L-rd thatI shall listen to His voice to let Israel go? I do not know the L-rd and I will not let Israel go" (Gen. 5:2). By sending the frogs into the hot ovens to fulfill G-d's command, G-d proved to Pharaoh that He is the L-rd and all of creation must listen to His commands.


“Lice”- When the Egyptians enslaved the Jews, they caused them to suffer from lice, as a result of their constant sweat.  The Egyptians were now punished measure-for-measure, to suffer a similar fate.


“Wild beasts”- Yaakov, in his blessings to his children before his passing, compares their qualities to various animals. Thus, G-d punished the Egyptians for enslaving the descendants of Yaakov, measure-for-measure through a variety of animals.


“Pestilence”- This plague killed the animals in the fields as well as the shepherds attending to them.  In Parshat Vayigash (Gen. 47:4) we find that when Yaakov and his family came to Egypt, Pharaoh asked Yaakov's sons what their occupation is. They replied, "Your servants are shepherds, both we and our ancestors." This punishment was for enslaving the Jews, taking them away from attending to their flock.


“Boils” - Pharaoh's excuse for enslaving the Israelites was because, "The children of Israel were fruitful and increased abundantly and multiplied and the land was filled with them."  Pharaoh said to his people, "The children of Israel are too many... come let us deal with them, lest they multiply."  Pharaoh enslaved them in order to restrict their "Multiplying and being fruitful".  The plague of Boils, which covered their bodies, was a punishment to them so they couldn't have marital relations.


“Hail”- The Torah describes this plague, "And the L-rd sent thunder and hail and there was fire flashing amidst the hail."  When Pharaoh begged Moshe to take away the plague he said, "Pray to the L-rd, enough of this mighty thundering and hail..."  The unbearable noise of the mighty thundering and hail was a punishment, measure-for-measure, for Pharaoh's claiming, "Who is the L-rd that I shall listen to His voice."