At the onset of the Bnei Yisrael’s journey through the midbar, we read in this week’s parshah that the Bnei Yisrael’s complaint was for food to eat. Hashem responded that He would send “lechem min hashamayim” (also known as mun), and that the Bnei Yisrael would collect each day’s portion according to the number of members of his household.
“For I have made heavy his heart and the heart of his servants in order that I should put these signs of mine in his midst and in order that you should relate in the ears of your son and your son’s son how I dealt with Egypt, and you should know that I am Hashem” (10:1-2).
After a “natural” disaster, people speak with reverence. Even arrogant individuals, after living through a hurricane, tidal wave, or earthquake, have a sense of humility. Their reality has been changed, and they view life differently. Yet, when Pharaoh and Mitzraim experienced the makkos, that wasn’t their reaction.
In this week’s parshah Hashem instructs Moshe to tell the Bnei Yisrael that each household should take for themselves, on the 10th of Nissan, a lamb or a kid within its first year for the korban pesach.
After Hashem commanded Moshe and Aharon to be the emissaries to free the Jewish people, the Torah lays out their lineage. At the conclusion, the Torah repeats the names of Aharon and Moshe, this time in reverse order, with Aaron mentioned before Moshe.
“And Amram took Yocheved.... And she bore to him Aharon and Moshe” (6:20).
The names that were given in Egypt were not repetitions of previous names but were original expressions of genuine devotion to Hashem.
The parshah of Va’eira begins with some fateful words. It would not be too much to say that they changed the course of history because they changed the way people thought about history. In fact, they gave birth to the very idea of history. Listen to the words:
In this week’s parshah (Shemos 6:6) the pasuk reveals the four leshonos of geulah: v’hotzeisi, v’hitzalti, v’ga’alti, and v’lakachti. Rashi, in his commentary to Pesachim 99b, tells us that the four cups of wine that we are commanded to drink on Pesach at the Seder correspond to the four leshonos of geulah mentioned above.
Yaakov Avinu spent the final seventeen years of his life in Mitzrayim. While there he lived in peace for the first time in many years and remained in that state for the rest of his life. Near the end of his days he called in his beloved son Yosef and made an impassioned request: “Please do not bury me in Mitzrayim.”
The opening pasuk in this week’s parshah states: “Vayechi Yaakov be’eretz Mitzrayim sheva esrei shanah… – Yaakov lived in Mitzrayim for 17 years…” The Gemara in Kiddushin 82a says that Avraham Avinu kept the entire Torah, even the mitzvos that may not have applied.
For most of his life, Yaakov Avinu suffered tests, trials and tribulations. It seems his days were spent moving from adversity to crisis. Clearly he didn’t have it easy, and the suffering took its toll.
What do porcupines do in winter? asked Schopenhauer. If they come too close to one another, they injure each other. If they stay too far apart, they freeze. Life, for porcupines, is a delicate balance between closeness and distance. It is hard to get it right and dangerous to get it wrong. And so it is for us.
Looking back in time it is amazing to realize that every so often we encounter a 24-hour period with a timeless impact on the trajectory of human history. These periods, though short in actual time, through the convergence of multiple factors, produced historic decisions—decisions that arguably affected humankind forever after.