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הנני ממטיר כעת מחר ברד כבד מאד ... שלח העז את מקנך ... כל האדם והבהמה אשר ימצא בשדה ... וירד עליהם הברד ומתו ... הירא את דבר ד ... הניס את עבדיו אל הבתים ... ואשר לא שם לבו אל דבר ד ויעזב את עבדיו

Behold, at this time tomorrow, I shall rain a very heavy hail… and now send, gather in your livestock… All the people and the animals that are found in the field… the hail shall descend upon them and they shall die … Whoever feared Hashem chased his servants to the houses. And whoever did not take the word of G-d to heart he left his servants. (9:18,19,20,21)

Makas Barad, the plague of hail, begs elucidation. Horav Baruch Dov Povarsky, Shlita, presents us with a number of questions concerning this plague. Moshe Rabbeinu pinpointed to Pharaoh the exact time when the plague would commence by making a mark on the wall. He explained that when the sun would reach this mark, it would begin to hail. Afterwards, he told Pharaoh to have all his servants and possessions remanded indoors or else they would die or be destroyed. Why did Hashem warn them? The purpose of the plague was to punish the Egyptians. Why give them an exit strategy…

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ושרץ היאר צפרדעים ... ובאו בביתך ... ובעמך ובתנוריך ובמשארותיך

The river shall swarm with frogs, and they shall ascend and come into your palace … and of your people and into your ovens and into your kneading bowls. (7:28)

The frogs were a hardy bunch who swarmed all over Egypt. No place was considered off limits to them. Even the burning hot ovens did not prevent them from fulfilling Hashem’s command. When the Almighty said, “Go,” they went. It took enormous mesiras nefesh, self-sacrifice, for those frogs to enter the burning oven. For all intents and purposes, it spelled certain death. In the end, they were the only frogs who did not die. Whoever carries out Hashem’s mitzvah comes to no harm. Chazal (Yoma 85:b) teach that years later Chananyah, Mishael and Azaryah entered the fiery cauldron, motivated by…

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ויעשו כן חרטמי מצרים בלטיהם

The necromancers of Egypt did the same by means of their incantations. (7:22)

Pharaoh did not heed Moshe Rabbeinu’s warning. Hashem instructed Moshe to have Aharon strike the Nile and stretch out his hand to bring the plague of dam, blood, all over the land. The reaction of Pharaoh and his magicians defies comprehension: they also demonstrated the magical ability to transform the water into blood. Is this sane? Imagine a fire breaks out in a city inhabited primarily by imbeciles. So what do the imbeciles do in reaction to the fire that has broken out in one end of the city? They start another fire in the other end of the city!…

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ולא שמעו אל משה מקצר רוח ומעבודה קשה

But they didn’t listen to Moshe from impatience of spirit and from hard labor. (6:9)

One would think that, if someone were to appear at the domicile of a down-trodden slave to inform him that the end of his bondage is near and he would soon be a free man, his immediate reaction would be joy – overwhelming joy. Instead, when Moshe Rabbeinu informed Klal Yisrael that Pharaoh would no longer be their Master, they seemed impatient and not really interested in hearing his message of liberation. The Torah explains that they were victims of kotzer ruach, which Sforno interprets as: l’hisbonein, to comprehend, think it over; in short, they were plagued with an inability…

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וימתו הצפרדעים מן הבתים מן החצרת ומן השדת... ויסר הערב מפרעה מעבדיו ומעמו לא נשאר אחד

The frogs died from the houses, from the courtyards, and from the field… He removed the swarm of wild beasts from Pharaoh, from his servants, and from his people – not one remained. (8:9,27)

The frogs (most of them) died. The arov, wild beasts, and arbeh, locust, did not. Kli Yakar explains that Hashem sought to teach that one who gives himself up for Kiddush Hashem, to sanctify Hashem’s Name, will be saved. Thus, those frogs that climbed into the burning hot ovens belonging to the Egyptians – lived. The other frogs, who did not enter the ovens, but rather “chose” to invade the country, the fields, the homes – died. The ones that risked death for the glory of Hashem were spared; the others were not. It was this lesson that Chananyah, Mishael…

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אמר אל אהרן קח מטך ונטה ידך על מימי מצרים

Say to Aharon, “Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt.” (7:19)

So begins the Ten Plagues that shook up the underpinnings of Egyptian arrogance and obstinacy. Hashem instructed Aharon to strike the waters; later, he struck the water from which emerged the frogs and then the earth which produced the lice. Why Aharon, and not Moshe? Chazal explain that the Nile River had protected Moshe Rabbeinu when he was an infant. It would have been wrong for him to serve as the instrument to inflict a plague on it. Likewise, the earth concealed the Egyptian that Moshe had slain. The Torah considers it wrong to show ingratitude even to an inanimate…

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לך אל פרעה בבקר הנה יצאה המימה

Go to Pharaoh in the morning – behold! He goes out to the water. (7:15)

Rashi explains the purpose of Pharaoh’s daily jaunt to the Nile as going to the place in which he regularly relieved himself. Pharaoh pretended to be a god, and he would say that he has no need to relieve himself – as humans do. He would, therefore, arise early in the morning, go out to the Nile River and secretly tend to his body’s needs. We derive from here, comments Horav Gamliel Rabinowitz, Shlita, the strength of the power of the yetzer hora, evil inclination. Pharaoh lied to his entire country. He sold the lie that he was a god…

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אלה ראשי בית אבתם בני ראובן בכר ישראל... ובני שמעון... ואלה שמות בני לוי לתלדתם גרשון וקהת ומררי

These were the heads of their fathers’ houses: the sons of Reuven… the sons of Shimon… These are the names of the sons of Levi in order of their birth: Gershon, Kehas and Merari. (6:14,15,16)

The Shlah HaKadosh wonders why, concerning Reuven and Shimon, the Torah states simply: Bnei Reuven u’Bnei Shimon, the sons of Reuven and the sons of Shimon, while with regard to Levi it says, V’eileh shemos Bnei Levi, “And these are the names of Bnei Levi.” Why does it not simply say Bnei Levi – why the extra word – shemos – names of? The Shlah explains that Levi knew that his shevet, tribe, would not be subjected to the Egyptian slavery. He was quite aware that while the rest of the nation would be suffering under the cruel subjugation of…

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וידבר ד' אל משה ואל אהרן ויצום אל בני ישראל ואל פרעה מלך מצרים להוציא את בני ישראל מארץ מצרים

Hashem spoke to Moshe and Aharon and commanded them regarding Bnei Yisrael and regarding Pharaoh, king of Egypt, to take Bnei Yisrael out of Egypt. (6:13)

Easier said than done. Hashem commanded Moshe and Aharon to take the Jews out of Egyptian bondage. Two problems surfaced: Pharaoh has to agree, and the Jews have to want to — and believe that they actually can — leave. Moshe Rabbeinu had earlier voiced his concerns, but Hashem told him not to worry. The Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh explains how this played out. Hashem told Moshe, “I have appointed you to be their ruler.” That is wonderful. Who says that the nation that had been enslaved body and soul, for 210 years, was prepared to accept Moshe’s leadership? How did…

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ואלה שמות בני לוי לתלדתם גרשון וקהת ומררי

These were the sons of Levi in order of their birth: Gershon, Kehas and Merari. (6:16)

Shevet Levi was the one tribe that was excluded from the Egyptian bondage. They studied Torah all day, while their brethren slaved for Pharaoh. One should not think for a moment that they had it “easy,” since they did not work. Pharaoh was no fool. He knew that, as long as a segment of the Jewish People maintained its bond with the Torah, the nation would survive. In order to break Levi’s bond with the Torah, Pharaoh decreed that only those who worked were entitled to food: no work; no food. He thought that he could starve the Leviim into breaking…

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