Progressive Belief

Friday, 8 January, 2016 - 1:33 pm

Blood. Frogs. Lice. Wild Animals. Pestilence. Boils. Hail. Locust. Darkness. Death of the Firstborn.

Seven of these famous plagues, which G-d brought upon Egypt, are discussed in this week’s parsha Va’eirah.  They are pretty severe. It is evident from the text that G-d wanted to continue bringing these plagues even after Pharaoh had made up his mind to let the Jews go. The Almighty ‘hardened Pharaoh’s heart’ in order to ensure the Jews didn’t leave just yet. He still needed to bring a few more plagues.

G-d wasn’t simply out for vengeance. 

Nor was the reason G-d prolonged the suffering merely to finish punishing the Egyptians.

Rather, G-d’s mission was to teach.  Hashem wished to transform the pagan Egyptians into believers of an infinite Creator. For this achievement, ten plagues would be necessary.

Interestingly, Hashem provides a reason for bringing the plagues four times.  Before the first plague (blood), G-d declares, “Through this you will recognize that I am God.” Preceding the fourth plague (wild animals), G-d warns, “Thus you will realize that I am God in the midst of the land.”  Prior to the seventh plague (hail), G-d announces, “Thus you will realize that I am God in the midst of the land.” Finally, just before the final plague (death of the firstborn), Hashem informs, “In order that you may know that God is differentiating between the Egyptians and Israel.”

G-d does not articulate any reasoning before implementing plagues 2, 3, 5, 6, 8, and 9. Why?

The commentaries point out that the plagues came in three stages. This, in order to teach Egypt three lessons. The first set of three plagues ingrained in Egypt’s inhabitants the belief in the existence of G-d.  The second set instilled in them faith in G-d’s providence. And the third series inculcated in them conviction in G-d’s power. The final plague was a measure aimed at actually releasing the Jews from Egypt, rather than teaching the Egyptians a lesson.


We may not be heathens.  Yet, the modern equivalent of Pharaoh is the culture around us that mocks our deeply-held beliefs.  Additionally, deep inside we each possess a Pharaoh of sorts. It’s the voice that casts doubt on our faith. The animal inside of us that wishes free itself of G-d’s Torah. It campaigns that we enslave ourselves to its own desires, rather than G-d’s desires.

So, what’s the strategy in dealing with the modern-day Pharaohs that lurch outside and within our own selves?

We, too, can utilize the three-point strategy.  Looking around the world we can observe three elements of G-d. His existence can be appreciated by taking in the beautiful world we live in.  We can experience His providence by reflecting on moments in our own lives where His hand has directed us and continues to guide us. We can also absorb His amazing power. Not only is He always there, but it’s always on His terms. Sometimes we recognize this and at other times we are forced to reckon with this when things go ‘His way’ instead of ours.

Instead of pondering how G-d changed the minds and hearts of nonbelievers into believers, my personal journey through the parsha will focus on how I might become stronger believer myself.

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