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A Mixture of Wild Beasts

A Mixture of Wild Beasts


The first three plagues with which G‑d punished the Egyptians were Blood, Frogs and Lice. When warning of the imminent fourth plague of wild animals, the Almighty declared:

"...And on that day I will make distinct the Land of Goshen in which my people live, in that there will be no mixture of wild animals there (Exodus 8:15).

When the first three plagues were discussed, why did the Torah not explicitly state they did not affect the Jews? If it is so obvious that it need not be specified — then why does the Torah take care to specify with regard to the fourth plague that the wild animals did not affect the Israelites?

Some commentators explain that the first three plagues did indeed affect the lsraelites.1 Others, however, maintain that this could not be the case, for if the Jews and the Egyptians were suffering equally from the plagues, how would Pharaoh be forced to conclude that he should send the Jews out of Egypt?2

According to the famed commenter Rashi, the plain meaning of the text suggests that the Jews did suffer the first three plagues! The purpose of the first two plagues (blood and frogs) was to strike at the Egyptians' deity. It was therefore essential that the plague be unlimited, affecting the Nile wherever it flowed, even in the Jewish settlement of Goshen. For had the "Nile god" not been smitten there, Pharaoh might think that the Nile in Goshen, etc. was more powerful than G‑d.3

The same reasoning applies also to the third plague of lice, whose stated purpose was to show Pharaoh and his sorcerers that the plague was not the work of magicians, but an act of G‑d. Had the lice affected only certain parts of the land, the sorcerers would have thought it to be the limited achievement of human sorcerers (Moses and Aaron).

The fourth plague, the mixture of wild animals, was not intended primarily to show the impotence of Egypt's deities and sorcerers, so it was not necessary that it affect all inhabitants alike. Here G‑d declared "...I will make distinct the Land of Goshen etc..."

With the advent of the plague of mixture of wild animals it might have appeared to some that the Almighty had removed all natural barriers, boundaries and distinctions. Animals of completely different natures, some inherently inimical to each other, were now roaming around together; could not this mean that the inherent distinction between Jew and non-Jew had also been abolished?

To utterly negate this supposition, G‑d declared "I will make a separation between my people and your people,"4 not only between Pharaoh and Moses, but between every Egyptian and every Jew — even those Jews who did not want to leave Egypt!

The lesson for our age is clear. There is a plague of "mixture" and confusion in the world. Natural boundaries and distinctions have been broken. The catastrophic of assimilation, the demarcation line between our nation and others. Never before has there been a more urgent need to intensify the distinction between Jew and non-Jew, to implement the Almighty's declaration.5

Ibn Ezra on Exodus 7:24,29.
Ridvaz on Exodus 8:13 and others.
c.f. Rashi on Exodus 14:2.
Ibid: 19.
Based on excerpts of a talk by the Lubavitcher Rabbe, dated Vaeira 5732.
Rabbi Yitschak Meir Kagan was associate director of the Lubavitch Foundation in Michigan. An innovative educator and author, he compiled A Thought for the Week adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Rabbi Kagan taught chassidic philosophy at various universities in Michigan, untill his tragic passing in a car accident in 2001.
From A Thought for the Week, reprinted with permission of Lubavitch of Michigan.
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Tim Elkhart, IN/USA January 21, 2009

wild beasts The scriptures familiar to me do not mention wild beasts as one of the ten plagues. Where might one find the mention of this plague? Are the english translations mis translating flies instead of beasts in Shemoth 8:22? Reply