"וידבר אלקים אל משה ויאמר אליו אני ה'"
G‑d spoke to Moshe and said to him, ‘I am G‑d.’” (6:2)

QUESTION: This is the second pasuk of the sixth chapter, and it is a continuation of Hashem’s response to Moshe for his sharp criticism. Why does the first pasuk of the chapter start with the words “vayomer Hashem — “Hashem said [to Moshe]” — while this pasuk starts “vayedabeir Elokim”?

ANSWER: Moshe’s complaint to Hashem was twofold: 1) “Why have you done evil to this people; why have you sent me?” (5:22). Since I came things only got worse for them. 2) “You created a chilul Hashem — a desecration of Your Holy Name; since I came to Pharaoh ‘ledabeir bishmecha,’ to speak in Your Name, he did evil to this people. Hence, the world will not respect Your Eminence because they know that I spoke in Your Name and Pharaoh disregarded it and nothing occurred to him.”

The word “amar” — “said” — implies a mild form of speech, and the word “dabeir” — “spoke” — connotes a stronger form of speech. Hashem’s holy four letter name indicates mercy while the name Elokim denotes Hashem in His attribute of justice.

Consequently, the different terms used in the pesukim indicate the tone of Hashem’s response to both of Moshe’s complaints.

1) Regarding Moshe’s concern that a chilul Hashem had taken place, “Vayomer Hashem el Moshe” — “G‑d said to Moshe” — in a soft and gentle tone, “I appreciate your concern. However, you need not worry, because very soon ‘you will see what I shall do to Pharaoh, for through a strong hand will he send them out,’ (6:1) and there will then be a tremendous kiddush Hashem — sanctification of My Name.’”

2) Regarding Moshe’s other complaint, “Why have you done evil to this people; sending me to Pharaoh only made it worse for them,” “Vayedabeir Elokim” — He spoke like a judge — and admonished Moshe in a harsh tone for doubting His infinite love for the Jewish people and trustworthiness to redeem them.

(שמעתי מהרב יחיאל מ. ז"ל וויינגארטען, מישיבה דקראון הייטס)

"וארא אל אברהם אל יצחק ואל יעקב"
“I appeared to Avraham, to Yitzchak and to Yaakov” (6:3)

QUESTION: Rashi comments, “el ha’avot — “[I appeared] to the forefathers.”

It is already known that Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov are our avot. What does Rashi want to teach us with this comment?

ANSWER: The word avot stems from the word “ava” which means “want,” as in “velo avah” — “he did not want” (10:27). Rashi is telling us that Hashem said to Moshe, “I appeared to Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov because they wanted to have contact with me.” Every Jew can have Hashem appear to him if he wants.

(חתם סופר)

"והוצאתי...והצלתי...וגאלתי...ולקחתי...והבאתי אתכם אל הארץ...ונתתי אתה לכם מורשה"
“I will take you out...rescue you...redeem you...take you... bring you to the land, and give it to you as a heritage.” (6:6-8)

QUESTION: At the Seder table we drink four cups of wine in honor of the four expressions of redemption. Why don’t we drink a fifth cup for the fifth expression, “veheiveiti” — “I will bring you”?

ANSWER: The first four expressions of redemption are addressed to the entire Jewish community. However, the fifth expression, “I will bring you,” refers to the giving of Eretz Yisrael to the Jewish people and does not apply to the tribe of Levi, because they did not have their own portion of Eretz Yisrael. They only had 42 cities plus the 6 cities of refuge which were given to them by the other tribes (Bamidbar 35). Since “I will bring you” does not apply to everyone, we do not drink a fifth cup.

Nevertheless, a fifth cup is placed on the table and called “kos shel Eliyahu because he is the prophet who will announce the coming of Mashiach. When Mashiach comes, Eretz Yisrael will be divided into 13 portions (Bava Batra 122a), including one for the tribe of Levi. The tribes of Ephraim and Menashe will together have the one portion of the tribe of Yosef, and the 13th portion will be for Mashiach. Hence, it is appropriate to associate Eliyahu with the fifth cup, for through him all the Jews will be given a heritage in the land.

(הדרש והעיון)

"וידבר משה כן אל בני ישראל ולא שמעו אל משה מקצר רוח ומעבדה קשה"
“And Moshe spoke this to the Children of Israel; but they did not listen to Moshe for anguish of spirit and for cruel bondage.” (6:9)

QUESTION: Moshe brought them good tidings. Why didn’t they heed his words?

ANSWER: Originally, Hashem had told Avraham that his descendants would toil in bondage for a period of 400 years. However, Moshe appeared after they had been in Egypt only 210 years.

When the Jewish people asked him why he was coming early, Moshe answered that Hashem had sent him then for two reasons: 1) They had declined spiritually to the point where they were now in danger of assimilation and spiritual annihilation. 2) The Egyptians exploited them so cruelly that they had already endured the equivalent to 400 years of normal servitude.

Knowing that they were destined to be in Egypt for 400 years, they refused to accept Moshe’s explanation that his coming now was because of “kotzer ruach — their decline in spiritual status (“ruach” as in “ruchniut”) or avodah kashah” — intensively excessive labor imposed upon them.

(פרדס יוסף)

"הן בני ישראל לא שמעו אלי ואיך ישמעני פרעה ואני ערל שפתים"
“Behold, the Children of Israel have not listened to me; how then shall Pharaoh hear me when I am of uncircumcised (closed) lips?” (6:12)

QUESTION: Should he not have first said that he was “of uncircumcised lips,” and then that, if the Jews did not listen, Pharaoh would surely not listen?

ANSWER: Moshe loved the Jewish people and was very concerned about their well-being. Therefore, he said to Hashem, “The Jewish people have not listened to me. Unfortunately, they are not willing to leave the galut in Egypt and move to Eretz Yisrael, ve’eich — and what would be if — yishma’eini Paroh — Pharaoh grants my request — and agrees to let the Jewish people go, then ve’ani aral sefataim — my lips will be closed — for I will be unable to plead any longer for my brethren, who do not recognize their plight and who do not want to leave.”

(ר' יצחק מווארקא זצ"ל)

"אלה ראשי בית אבתם"
“These are the heads of their father’s houses.” (6:14)

QUESTION: Since the Torah wants to tell us the lineage of Levi because of Moshe and Aharon, it began to set out their genealogy in the order of their birth from Reuvain on (Rashi). Why is it necessary to trace and record their yichus — pedigree?

ANSWER: Contrary to the belief of the Christian world regarding their own leader, the Torah wants to emphasize that a Jewish leader is not one who is born in a supernatural way. He is a normal person who has a father and mother and who has elevated himself spiritually to be worthy of his rank. Every Jewish boy has the potential to become a Moshe Rabbeinu — a leader of the Jewish people in his generation.

(מעינה של תורה)

"ואלה שמות בני לוי לתלדתם גרשון וקהת ומררי"
“These are the names of the children of Levi: Gershon, and Kehat and Merari.” (6:16)

QUESTION: Why is the word shemot — “names” — mentioned only for Levi’s children while for all the others it simply says “the children of... are...”?

ANSWER: With the exception of the tribe of Levi, the children of all the tribes were enslaved in Egypt. Levi felt that although his children were not personally enslaved, they should participate in some way and remember the troubles which confronted their brethren. Therefore, he named his children in a way which would remind them of the exile.

The name “Gershon” (גרשון) means that the Jews were גרים בארץ לא להם — strangers in a land that was not theirs. The name “Kehat” (קהת) means that שיניהם קהות — their teeth became dull from the difficulties they endured. The name “Merari” (מררי) means וימררו את חייהם — [The Egyptians] embittered their lives.


"ויאמר משה אל ה' הן אני ערל שפתים"
“Moshe said to G‑d, ‘Behold, I am of uncircumcised (closed) lips.’” (6:30)

QUESTION: He was referring to the injury which he suffered when he touched his tongue with a burning coal. Why was his tongue injured and not his hand?

ANSWER: When Batya found the baby Moshe in the Nile River, she asked a number of Egyptian women to nurse him. Destined to speak with Hashem, “mouth to mouth” (see Bamidbar 12:8), Moshe refused their milk. However, during the process, some of the milk of the Egyptian nurses fell on his tongue and he spat it out immediately.

When non-kosher food comes in contact with a kosher utensil it needs “kashering.” This is normally done by immersing the utensil in boiling water or using fire to make it red hot so that it will expel whatever it had absorbed. Thus, Moshe’s tongue was burned in order to remove all traces of Egyptian milk.

(שפתי כהן)

"ויאמר משה אל ה' הן אני ערל שפתים...ראה נתתיך אלקים לפרעה ואהרן אחיך יהיה נביאך"
“Moshe said to G‑d, ‘Behold I am of uncircumcised (closed) lips’...‘See, I have made you master over Pharaoh; and Aharon your brother shall be your spokesman.’” (6:30-7:1)

QUESTION: How did the fact that Hashem had made Moshe a master over Pharaoh and had appointed Aharon his spokesman refute Moshe’s argument that his speech difficulty made him an unsuitable messenger?

ANSWER: Every nation has its own language. Usually, when heads of governments meet, each speaks his native tongue with an interpreter between them. An exception to this rule is a meeting between the head of a small country and the head of a major power. Then it is customary to speak the language of the larger country.

When Hashem told Moshe to deliver a message to Pharaoh, he assumed that he was to speak in the Egyptian language. He therefore told Hashem that since he had left Egypt at a young age and was now 80 years old, he lacked fluency in the Egyptian language and would have to stutter to find the proper words. (See Rashbam 4:10.)

Hashem told him, “I have appointed you a master over Pharaoh. Thus, he is your inferior, and you are the head of a major empire. Consequently, in accordance with proper protocol, you will address him in Lashon Hakodesh — Hebrew. Do not be concerned about his inability to understand Hebrew because Aharon will be your interpreter.”

(חתם סופר)

"ראה נתתיך אלקים לפרעה"
“See, I have made you a master over Pharaoh.” (7:1)

QUESTION: It should have said, “I will make you” (in the future tense).

ANSWER: In the famous incident during Moshe’s childhood, in which Pharaoh tested the young lad who had taken off his crown (see p. 14), Pharaoh was unable to discover that Moshe was the redeemer of the Jews, but Moshe injured his mouth, affecting his power of speech.

There is no event that occurs accidentally. Every incident is governed by Divine Providence. When the episode with Moshe and Pharaoh’s crown occurred, Hashem declared him Pharaoh’s master and took away from Pharaoh the power to harm him.

Now, eighty years later, Hashem said to Moshe, “I have already made you a master over Pharaoh for many years, and just as he was unable to do you any harm then, now too, efforts to harm you will be of no avail.”


"כי ידבר אליכם פרעה לאמר תנו לכם מופת"
“When Pharaoh will speak to you, saying: ‘Provide a wonder for yourselves...’” (7:9)

QUESTION: Pharaoh was speaking to Moshe and Aharon. Should he not have said: “tenu li mofeit” — provide me a wondrous sign?

ANSWER: Egypt was the headquarters for magicians and magic. When a magician performs a trick, he knows himself, of course, that the trick is only a deception.

Pharaoh told Moshe and Aharon, “Magic tricks are commonplace in Egypt. If you want to impress me, do a thing that will be considered wondrous even to you.”

(נועם אלימלך)

"וישלך אהרן את מטהו לפני פרעה ולפני עבדיו ויהי לתנין"
“Aharon threw his staff in front of Pharaoh and his servants, and it became a snake.” (7:10)

QUESTION: What message did Moshe and Aharon want to give Pharaoh?

ANSWER: Pharaoh claimed that the Jews had sinned and that they did not deserve to be taken out of Egypt. Moshe and Aharon responded that a person’s environment plays a very important role in his development. Even a holy staff can turn into a vicious snake in the company of Pharaoh. On the other hand, a “snake” in the company of Moshe and Aharon can transform itself into a holy staff.

(הרב מאיר ז"ל שאפירא מלובלין)

"כבד לב פרעה"
“Stubborn is the heart of Pharaoh.” (7:14)

QUESTION: The word “kaveid” means “heavy.” Would it not have been more appropriate to say that his heart was “kashah” — “hardened” — or “ikeish” — stubborn and unyielding?

ANSWER: In Hebrew “kaveid” also means “liver.” The longer meat is cooked, the softer it becomes. Liver must be broiled and the more it is broiled, the harder it becomes. Usually, when a stubborn person is beaten and punished, his heart softens and he begins to concede and yield.

The Torah is telling us that the heart of Pharaoh was like liver: the more plagues he received, the more stubborn he became.

(מיוסד על מדרש רבה שמות, ט,ח)

"ויאמר ה' אל משה אמר אל אהרן קח מטך ונטה ידך על מימי מצרים...ויהיו דם"
“G‑d told Moshe ‘Tell Aharon to take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters — there shall be blood.’” (7:19)

QUESTION: Rashi explains that since the river offered protection to Moshe when he was cast into it, it was not smitten through him. For the same reason, the plague of frogs, which had to do with water, was performed through Aharon. The third plague of lice was also performed through Aharon: when Moshe killed the Egyptian he buried him in the sand. Therefore, he did not strike the dust of the earth to bring lice over Egypt.

Why would these reasons preclude Moshe from delivering the plagues so many years later?

ANSWER: From this we can learn a very important lesson: Often, when someone does a favor, we forget it and fail to show gratitude. Hashem, in His instructions to Moshe, was conveying a lesson that one should remain thankful for a lifetime. Though the favor Moshe received from the waters had happened approximately 80 years earlier and Moshe had benefited from the earth approximately 70 years earlier, Moshe was told to be appreciative and not hurt them in any way.

If this is true in regard to water and earth, which are inanimate, how much more so must this apply to a human being who does a favor.

"ויהפכו כל המים אשר ביאר לדם והדגה אשר ביאר מתה"
“All the water in the river turned to blood, and the fish in the river died.” (7:20-21)

QUESTION: Is it not obvious that the fish would die, because they can only live in water?

ANSWER: The plague of blood might have occurred in one of two ways:

1) All the waters might have now been blood, and turned back into water only when a Jew filled a glass.

2) There could have been no change in the water except that when an Egyptian filled a glass, it became blood.

In reality it was the latter that occurred. Consequently, the Egyptians received a double punishment: The fresh water turned into blood when used by the Egyptians, and the fish in the river (of fresh water) died, making the water stink terribly.

It is necessary to explain it in this way because we are told that the Egyptians were compelled to purchase water from the Jews, who prospered thereby (Midrash Rabbah 9:9). If all the water had been transformed to blood, the Jews would have been unable to charge the Egyptians for water, because it is forbidden to derive benefit from a miracle. (See Ta’anit 24a.)

(פרדס יוסף)

"ויפן פרעה ויבא אל ביתו ולא שת לבו גם לזאת"
“And Pharaoh turned and went into his house, neither did he set his heart to this also.” (7:23)

QUESTION: Rashi explains that the word “also” refers to the wonder in which the staff turned into a snake and then back to a staff, swallowing all the staffs belonging to the Egyptian magicians. Why did Pharaoh now remind himself about that wonder?

ANSWER: Originally, Pharaoh and the magicians were flabbergasted when they noticed how Aharon’s staff swallowed their staffs. It is impossible to even imagine an object that lacks life being able to swallow. In all probability, the only way they were able to rationalize it to Pharaoh was that Aharon’s staff was a snake originally, then magically converted into a staff. It was thus able to swallow the other snakes.

The Gemara (Sanhedrin 67b) relates a story concerning Ze’iri, who purchased a camel in Alexandria, Egypt. When he wanted to give it water to drink, it turned into a plank of wood of a bridge. It was later determined that the camel was originally made through magic from a plank of wood of the bridge (and water possesses the power to nullify sorcery).

Since Aharon initiated the plague of blood by smiting the water, it proved with certainty that his staff had always been a staff, for had it originally been a snake, the water would have nullified the magic, and it would have reverted to a snake.

Now, by means of the blood plague, Pharaoh was convinced that the wonder with the staff and snakes was not related in any way to sorcery, but truly an act of Hashem. Nevertheless, he stubbornly disregarded it, paying no attention to both the miracle of the water transformed into blood and also the wonder of the staff.

(פרדס יוסף)

"וירא פרעה כי היתה הרוחה והכבד את לבו ולא שמע אלהם"
“But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart and did not listen to them.” (8:11)

QUESTION: When Pharaoh begged Moshe to take away the frogs he said, “va’ashalchah et ha’am” — “And I will send the people away” (8:4): Why didn’t he keep his word?

ANSWER: Pharaoh was uncertain whether Moshe was really Hashem’s emissary to redeem the Jews or merely a magician with unusual spiritual powers. Pharaoh was totally evil and had no intention of liberating the Jewish people. He thus decided to put Moshe through a test and determine the source of Moshe’s power.

Pharaoh called Moshe and lied, “If you remove the frogs, I will send away the people.” Pharaoh thought, “If Moshe is really Hashem’s messenger, he will know that I am lying and will not remove the frogs. If he does remove the frogs, then I will know that he is merely a great magician.” Pharaoh concluded that Moshe had failed the test and became even more adamant in refusing to free the Jewish people.

(ערבי נחל)

"ויאמרו החרטמים אל פרעה אצבע אלקים הוא"
“And the magicians said unto Pharaoh, ‘This is the finger of G‑d.’” (8:15)

QUESTION: Why was it that after the plague of lice the magicians finally conceded: “This is the finger of G‑d?”

ANSWER: After the wicked Titus burned the Beit Hamikdash, he blasphemed against Hashem. While returning to his city, his boat was threatened by strong waves, and he audaciously declared, “The power of the Jewish G‑d is only within the limits of water. Throughout history He has used water as a means of punishment. If He is really all-powerful, let Him meet me on dry land, and we shall see who will be victorious.” A voice emanating from Heaven said, “Wicked one, son of the wicked, I have a small creature in my world called a ‘yatush’ (a gnat) — come on dry land, and we will see who is stronger!” Titus arrogantly came on dry land, and a yatush entered his nose and bore through his brain till he died (Gittin 56b).

The first two plagues that struck Egypt were blood and frogs, which originated from the water. The magicians consoled Pharaoh, “Don’t worry, it appears that their G‑d is not omnipotent: His strength is limited to water.” Therefore, Hashem responded with the plague of lice, extremely minute creatures which come from the earth. Upon seeing this, the magicians were forced to concede that “This is the finger of G‑d, and if His finger is so powerful, He is indeed omnipotent.”

(שער בת רבים-ראשית בכורים)

"ומלאו בתי מצרים את הערב וגם האדמה אשר הם עליה"
“The houses of the Egyptians shall be full of the mixture of animals and also the ground upon which they are.” (8:17)

QUESTION: The words “and also the ground upon which they are” seem superfluous?

ANSWER: Among the animals of the world there is an extremely rare one found in the wild jungles of Africa and known as the “adnei hasadeh.” It has the face of a person, long hands that reach to its knees, and a very unusual relationship to its habitat.

It is always connected to the ground through a string that comes out of its navel. Although it is very dangerous and kills anyone who comes within its reach, there is one way to capture it: Shooting arrows at the string which connects it to the ground. As soon as it becomes detached, it screams bitterly and dies immediately.

Hashem brought upon the Egyptians a mixture of all the animals from the entire world, including the strange and vicious “adnei hasadeh.” In order that they not die before arriving in Egypt, they were brought together with the earth to which they were connected. Therefore, Moshe told Pharaoh, “The homes of the Egyptians shall be filled with the mixture of wild animals and also ‘adnei hasadeh’ will come, together with the ground (earth) upon which they are [attached].

(פנים יפות, ועי' כלאים פ"ח מ"ה ברע"ב ותפארת ישראל)

"ושמתי פדת בין עמי ובין עמך"
“I will make a distinction between My people and your people.” (8:19)

QUESTION: Concerning the plague of arov (harmful creatures), why did Hashem specify that there would be a distinction between the Jews and the Egyptians?

ANSWER: The plague consisted of a mixture of all the wild animals. Species of completely different natures roamed together throughout Egypt. One might have concluded therefore, that since Hashem removed all natural boundaries and distinctions, it was also proper for a Jew to intermarry with a Gentile.

Therefore, Hashem insisted, even in a time when mixture and confusion is prevalent in the world, it is forbidden for Jews to assimilate, and it is imperative to intensify all efforts to maintain the distinction between Jew and Gentile.

(כ"ק אדמו"ר)

"ושמתי פדת בין עמי ובין עמך למחר יהיה האת הזה"
“I will make a distinction between My people and your people: tomorrow this sign will take place.” (8:19)

QUESTION: Why is the word “pedut” (פדת) spelled without the letter "ו"?

ANSWER: The letter "ו" can be spelled fully in three ways:

1) "ואו," which has the numerical value of 13, the same numerical value of the word echad (אחד) — one. Thus, the letter "ו"represents Hashem, who is truly the only One.

2) "ויו," which has the numerical value of 22 and represents the Torah, which is written with the 22 letters of the alef-beit.

3) "וו," having the numerical value of 12, and representing the Jewish people, who consist of 12 tribes.

The Zohar (Vayikra 73) says, "קודשא בריך הוא אורייתא וישראל מתקשרין דא בדא" — “Hashem, the Torah and the Jewish people are all united as one.” While this is true at all times, when Mashiach will come the glorious unity of all three will be recognized by the entire world.

The pasuk is alluding to this by saying "ושמתי פדת" — “I will make a distinction” — the Jewish people are distinct from the entire world because they are one with Hashem and Torah. However, at present the letter "ו" is missing, because the glory of the Jewish people is not fully recognizable, but “lemachar” — tomorrow — when Mashiach will come — “yiyeh ha’ot hazeh” — the letter ",ו" which represents Hashem, Torah, and the Jewish people as one, will be in its fullest glory before the eyes of the entire world. (In Hebrew, ot means “letter.”)

(ר' דוד זצ"ל מלעלוב)

"ויצא משה מעם פרעה ויעתר אל ה'"
“And Moshe went out from Pharaoh and entreated G‑d.” (8:26)

QUESTION: Regarding the plague of a mixture of noxious animals, why does the Torah say, “vayetar” — “and he entreated” — while in connection with the plague of frogs it merely states “vayitzak Moshe” — “and Moshe cried out”?

ANSWER: The Gemara (Sukka 14a) compares the prayer of tzaddikim to a pitchfork. Just as the pitchfork transfers the harvest from one place to another, the prayer of tzaddikim converts Hashem’s attribute of judgment to mercy.

The word “vayetar” is used regarding the mixture of noxious animals, illustrating the fact that just as a pitchfork moves harvest from one place to the other, through Moshe’s prayers, the noxious animals were entirely removed from the land of Egypt. After Moshe’s earlier prayer, frogs still remained in the water, and those on land were gathered in heaps so that they stank. Thus the word “vayitzak” is used, rather than “vayetar.”

(חתם סופר)

"וימת כל מקנה מצרים וממקנה בני ישראל לא מת אחד"
“All the cattle of Egypt died, but not one of the cattle belonging to the children of Israel died.” (9:6)

QUESTION: In the following pasuk it is written that Pharaoh inquired and he found out "לא מת ממקנה ישראל עד אחד" — According to the literal translation “ad echad” means “except one” (see Midrash Rabbah 11:14). Thus, one of the cattle belonging to the Jews died. How do we explain this discrepancy?

ANSWER: According to halachah, when a Jewish woman marries a Gentile, the children are considered Jewish. This law took effect after the giving of the Torah. However, prior to the giving of the Torah, the child’s identity followed the father’s and he was considered a Gentile (Ramban, Vayikra 24:10).

Thus, prior to the exodus from Egypt, when Shlomit the daughter of Divri married an Egyptian and gave birth to a son, he was not considered to be one of the Children of Israel although his mother was Jewish.

During the plague of pestilence, her son’s animal, too, was killed. Pharaoh thought that, since his mother was Jewish and he grew up among the Jews, he should be considered a Jew as well. Therefore, when he inquired about the results of the plague and found out that an animal belonging to a Jewish owner died, he was convinced that Moshe’s threat of a severe epidemic striking the Egyptians was not realized. Consequently, his heart hardened and he did not send out the Jews.

* * *

The above clarifies another difficulty: The Torah says none of the cattle belonging to the B’nei Yisrael died. The report to Pharaoh was that “none died” — “mimikneih Yisroel” — “of the cattle of the Israelites” — “ad echad” — “except one” — and it does not say, “B’nei Yisrael.”

This is because the one animal that died belonged to the son of Shlomit. Regardless of the fact that Pharaoh considered him to be a Jew, he was really not a member of B’nei Yisrael — the children (the true descendants) of Israel.

(פרדס יוסף-שמן המור ח"ב סי' י"ג)

"כי בפעם הזאת אני משלח את כל מגפתי"
“For at this time I am about to send all My plagues.” (9:14)

QUESTION: Rashi says that from the phrase “kal mageifotai” — “all My plagues” — we can learn "שמכת בכורות שקולה כנגד כל המכות" — that “the plague of the killing of the firstborn was equal in severity to all the other plagues combined.”

We are now discussing the plague of hail. Why does Rashi discuss the plague of the firstborn?

ANSWER: Rashi is not referring to מַכַּת בְּכוֹרוֹת, the plague in which the firstborn were killed, but מַכַּת בַּכוּרוֹת, the plague of the ripened harvest. The Torah relates that the hail destroyed the flax and the barley, which were already fully ripened (Rashi 9:31). This plague was the worst one, because it caused a famine throughout the entire land of Egypt.


* * *

Alternatively, Rashi is referring to the plague of the firstborn (Siftei Chachamim). The reason that Rashi writes about the severity of the plague of the firstborn in connection with the plague of hail is the following:

Hashem told Moshe to warn Pharaoh that if he refused to permit the Jews to leave, “Behold, I will slay your firstborn son” (4:23). Rashi comments, “Though this was the last plague, He warned him about it at the beginning, because it was the most severe.”

If the plague of hail was as severe as all of the plagues together, then Hashem should have warned Pharaoh of it in the beginning. Therefore, Rashi concludes that if hail is referred to as “all My plagues” — because it was equal to all the others together — then obviously the plague of the killing of the firstborn, which he was warned of at the outset, was also equal to all other plagues and even more severe.

(חנוכת התורה)

* * *

The very early editions of Rashi, using an abbreviation, state, "שמ"ב" was equivalent to all plagues together.” The correct interpretation of "שמ"ב" is that "שמכת ברד" — “the plague of hail” — is compared to all other plagues. Later, an unlearned typesetter spelled out Rashi’s abbreviation incorrectly and wrote "שמכת בכורות" instead of ".שמכת ברד"

(חנוכת התורה)

"ויאמר אליו משה כצאתי את העיר אפרש את כפי אל ה'"
“Moshe said to him, ‘When I go out of the city, I will spread my hands [in prayer] to G‑d.’” (9:29)

QUESTION: Why only during the plague of hail, which was the seventh plague, did Moshe insist on praying outside of the city?

ANSWER: When Moshe warned Pharaoh of the coming plague of hail, he told him that the Egyptians should take in all the cattle from the fields because any man or animal in the fields would die. The Egyptians who took the warning seriously brought their cattle into their houses. Others, who did not regard the words of Hashem, left their servants and cattle out in the fields, where they were killed by the hail (9:19-21).

Egypt worshipped sheep. Therefore, during all other plagues, Moshe was willing to pray in the city since the sheep were normally out in the fields. However, during the plague of hail the city was filled with the sheep, so he went out of the city to pray because he did not want to pray in a place full of idols.

(ר' יהונתן אייבשיץ ז"ל)

"ואתה ועבדיך ידעתי כי טרם תיראון מפני ה' אלקים"
“As for you and your servants, I know that you are not yet afraid of G‑d.” (9:30)

QUESTION: Why did Moshe rebuke Pharaoh during the plague of hail that he was not G‑d fearing?

ANSWER: The Egyptians worshipped sheep. Pharaoh knew that Moshe would not pray to Hashem in the city because it was full of idols.

When Egypt was struck with hail, Pharaoh confessed, “I have sinned this time: G‑d is the Righteous One, and I and my people are the wicked ones” (9:27). Eager to be rid of the hail as quickly as possible, he pleaded with Moshe to make an exception and pray to Hashem while still in the city. He argued that according to halachah (Yoreh Dei’ah 146:7), a gentile can nullify an idol verbally. Consequently, through his proclamation, the idols were nullified and no longer prevented Moshe from praying within the city.

Moshe’s response was “terem tire’un (9:30) — You do not yet have true fear for Hashem — the nullification was done under duress. Hence, it is halachically invalid, and I will pray outside of the city.”

(אמרי שפר)