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Parshat Va-era

Shabbat Mom has a secret passion for plastic frogs--she has collected dozens over the years to add color, context, and whimsy to her crowded seder table. The cheerful one above represents not only Va-era--the start of the cataclysmic Ten Plagues--but also the pre-school Passover ditty that Shabbat Mom's kids used to sing on repeat: "Frogs here, frogs there, frogs were jumping everywhere....even in Pharaoh's underwear...."

G-d instructs Moses to address the Israelites in His name, telling the people that He will free them from bondage and deliver them to the land that G-d has promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. G-d confides in Moses that He will deliberately "harden Pharaoh's heart, that I may multiply My signs and marvels in the land of Egypt." Moses, still painfully humble, referring to himself as a man "of impeded speech", brings his brother Aaron when he approaches Pharaoh to plea for his people's freedom. Consider that at this point, Moses was 80, and Aaron, 83. (Shabbat Mom's middle-aged mind is blown by this throwaway reference.)

But Pharaoh says no go. The Nile turns to blood. Then come the frogs. An infestation of lice (Shabbat Mom's personal bugaboo, pun intended). Swarming get the idea. Moses negotiates with Pharaoh to allow the Israelites a three-day respite to "sacrifice to the Lord our G-d as He may command us."

Pharaoh agrees, and the plagues are lifted. But the equivocating Egyptian changes his mind

Again.. Next a pestilence wipes out the Egyptian livestock--yet not one animal belonging to an Israelite is touched. "...Yet Pharoah remained stubborn, and he would not let the people go." Now come the boils. Then the hail, though not exactly everywhere: "Only in the region of Goshen, where the Israelites were, there was no hail." Pharaoh begs Moses to intervene with G-d to end the plagues. If so:

"I will let you go."

Obviously, he does not. Bad move for the Egyptians, for whom the worst is yet to come. But for the Israelites? In the end, the best is yet to be.

Shabbat Shalom!

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