Forethoughts and Afterthoughts.
Commentary on the weekly Torah reading.
In memory of Father, Yosef Ben Zelig.
March 25th 1911 - May 2nd 2008
In memory of Mother, Nechama Bas Tzvi Hirsh.
June 9th 1925 - April 16th 2003
In memory of Uncle, Moshe Binyamin Ben Tzvi Hirsh.
December 12 1929 - February 2nd 2010
In Loving Memory of Moreinu Horav Shmuel Yaakov Weinberg, Rosh HaYeshiva Ner Yisroel
Chukas (Numbers 19-22)
Bo (Exodus 10-13)
12:1 And G-D said to Moshe (Moses) and Aharon (Aaron) in the land of Egypt, saying.
12:2 This month shall be for you the head of months. It is first for you of (the) months of the year.
12:3 Speak to the assembly of Israel saying, "And they shall take on the tenth of this month, each man a lamb for a father's family, a lamb for the household."
12:6 And it shall be (in their home during that time) for them to examine (for blemishes) until the fourteenth day of this month. And all the congregation of the assembly of Israel shall slaughter it in the noon.
These verses are recorded after the Torah presents the plagues of locust and darkness.
The Talmud says that the scripture does not always follow the order of events as they occurred (Pesachim 6b).
According to the following teaching from the Chasam Sofer, as recorded in Toras Moshe - Va'era - LeShabbos Rosh Chodesh, we shall see that this appears to be another example.
The plague of blood lasted one month. This includes either three weeks of warning and one week of the plague itself, or one week of warning and three weeks of the plague itself (Medrash Tanchuma Va'era 13 and Medrash Rabah 9:12).
The commentaries view this timing as a model for most of the other plagues. That is, the period for each plague, up to and possibly including locusts, was a full month.
The Toras Moshe understands the Medrash Rabah to be saying that the plagues brought the servitude to an end. We do know that the servitude ended on the first day of the month of Tishrei (Rosh Hashanah 10b). Therefore, we know that the plague of blood began on Rosh Hashanah, the first of Tishrei.
The Toras Moshe uses this as a basis to list the following timings for the rest of the plagues:
Frogs occurred on the first of Cheshvan; Lice on the first of Kislev; Beasts on the first of Teves; Pestilence on the first of Shevat; Boils on the first of Adar I; Hail on the first of Adar II; Locusts, the eighth plague, occurred on the first of Nisan.
The tenth plague, the killing of the first-born, occurred on the fifteenth of Nisan. We therefore need to fit in the ninth plague, darkness.
The Toras Moshe writes that the plague of darkness occurred right before the Exodus.
This corresponds to a teaching of the Anaf Yosef commentary on the Medrash Tanchuma, cited above. He observes that the certain plagues, including the plague of locusts, appeared to end quickly due to Moshe's prayers. However, as the Medrash states, they lasted for a week. This was because Pharaoh was given the rest of the week to fulfill his pledge to let the Jewish people leave. The obligation to release the Jewish people together with the trauma that came from the plagues hovered over Egypt for the remainder of that week.
As the locusts came on the first of Nisan and the plague with its lingering effects lasted for seven days, the plague of locust occurred on days one through seven of the month of Nisan.
Now, we know that the plague of darkness lasted for at least six days in Egypt, as commentaries write that the seventh day was reserved for the splitting of the sea. It was also unlikely that the lights were out for the Egyptians on the fourteenth of Nisan, the day before the exodus itself. I assume that the Jewish people were very busy borrowing items from their Egyptian neighbors.
Therefore, the plague of darkness had to occur on days eight through thirteen. Day fourteen gave the Egyptians a chance to recover and get ready for the grand finale, while emptying out their homes. And the final plague occurred that night.
This timeline sheds an interesting light on the plagues of locust and darkness.
Moshe was charged on the first of the month to tell the Jewish people to take a lamb on the tenth of the month, to be slaughtered on the fourteenth. I assume that Moshe told them on that same day.
The lamb was Egypt's national god. It was an outright insult to the entire Egyptian theo-political-social establishments for the Jews to do this.
Recall when Pharaoh suggested that the Jewish people do their sacrifices in Egypt. Moshe responded, "… It is improper to do this, for we are going to slaughter the god of Egypt to Hashem our G-D. Won't they stone us if we slaughter the god of Egypt before their eyes? (8:22)"
It was therefore natural for the Jewish people to not want to risk their lives and get into a brawl over Egypt's national religious culture, no matter how beat-up Pharaoh and the Egyptians were.
Then again, the plague of locusts came on the day we were charged to take that very dangerous step. The plague distracted the Egyptians.
But the plague of locusts was short-lived and every single bug was flushed down the Nile by the third of Nisan.
And so the time marched on, towards that fateful tenth of Nisan.
I assume that days four through seven Nisan were filled with great debate and anxiety within the Jewish people. Some said "No Way! That's crossing the red line." Others declared that if G-D gave us the charge to do this then He will protect us.
Many were ready to bite the bullet, no matter what. And that was all that Heaven wanted to hear. "Give me an opening the size of a needle's eye and I shall make for you an opening the size of the doorway into the Great Hall."
And so, despite the fact that the other plagues had a twenty-one day respite, the lights went out for Egypt a mere eight days after being whopped by locusts.
On the tenth of Tishrei, the day that everybody dreaded, Egypt was in the middle of a paralyzing darkness, making them totally clueless on what the Jewish people were doing to their god.
Those who opted to tie the lamb to their bedpost were on their way out of the darkness of the Egyptian culture and religion. They were onto a journey to the greatest light that was ever shown upon humanity.
It is a sad and unfortunate fact that not everybody wanted to leave Egypt. Many perished during the plague of darkness so that the Egypt wouldn't witness their shortcoming.
From the above discussion, the plague of darkness should have been written in the Torah after Moshe's charge for the tenth of Tishrei.
Perhaps a reason for the Torah recording the plague of darkness before the commandment to take the lamb was so that it be obvious that many of us had failed, despite the cover of darkness.
May we all soon be worthy to see the great lights everyone is waiting for.
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