Torah Commentary

Why So Many Plagues?

January 11, 2021Rabbi Mary Zamore

In the past few months, we have experienced many extraordinary catastrophes. From raging fires up the Pacific Coast that have blocked out sunlight to waves of hurricanes that have flooded the Southeast – all of this in addition to the

What It Takes to Fulfill the Promise

January 25, 2020Rabbi Stephanie M. Alexander

There is a section of Parashat Va-eira that might sound familiar to those who have experienced a Passover seder: It's a list of five promises God makes to the Children of Israel: I will free you..., and deliver you...; I will redeem you...;  I will take you to be My people; and , I will bring you into the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob... (Ex. 6:6-8).

Shortness of Breath, Shortness of Spirit

January 13, 2018Rabbi Sarah Bassin

In Va-eira, Moses tries to speak with the Israelites, who cannot listen due to their kotzer ruach, which can mean “shortness of breath” or “crushed spirit.” Both are results of debilitating work that prevents the Israelites from looking up to see new possibilities. 

The True Purpose of the Plagues

January 28, 2017Ana Bonnheim

Parashat Va-eira is all action: the first six plagues descend on Egypt, and Pharaoh responds in kind, creating the dramatic and suspenseful story that will culminate in God redeeming the Israelite slaves from Egypt. The plagues are high drama, a fast-moving blockbuster film.

Blood. Frogs. Lice. Insects. Pestilence. Boils. My skin crawls and my scalp itches just writing about this batch of creepy, crawly, infectious plagues. The six plagues in Va-eira come in two sets of three plagues each (blood, frogs and lice; insects, pestilence and boils). In each set, Pharaoh is forewarned about the first two plagues and surprised by the third.And after each set, he refuses to free the Israelites.