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B"H

  Shalom and Bracha!

  This week we read the portion of Vaeyra and bless the month of Shevat. The portion describes the first seven of the ten plagues that preceded the exodus from Egypt. The ten plagues were more than a punishment for the Egyptians for their evil ways, and more than a demonstration of Hashem’s might. Each of them cleansed a different aspect of the negativity of Egypt. This is also why the plagues were in the number ten; Hashem created the world with ten utterances and the impurity of Egypt defiled every aspect of the world. It was therefore necessary for the purification to be in ten steps. Each of the plagues teaches us lessons in life. In the first plague all of the waters in Egypt turned to blood. Water is cold, whereas blood is warm. To overcome negativity we me serve Hashem with fervor and warmth.
 

  The second plague was frogs. The Torah stresses that the frogs went everywhere, including the ovens. Unlike the destructive plagues, like the wild animals and the locusts, the frogs simply made noise. Nevertheless, they were ready to go into ovens, endangering themselves. Sometimes, we feel our Mitzvah or our contribution to the future of the Jewish people is not very significant, and therefore not worthy of sacrifice or excess effort. The frogs teach us the opposite. Whatever we do for Hashem, and whatever we do to advance His plan, must be done with total devotion and self sacrifice.
 

  The third plague was lice. During the first three plagues, Pharaoh summoned magicians to imitate the plagues. They succeeded with the first two. When it came to the plague of lice, the magicians couldn’t imitate the plague and admitted this is the Finger of G-d. Rashi explains that magic can’t work on things that are so small. This is a lesson for all of us in our approach to the Torah. Often, we can grasp the general lesson of a particular Mitzvah. However, when it comes to the minute details, they make no sense to us. Seemingly, if a Mezuzah is affixed to my doorpost, constantly reminding me of Hashem’s presence, what difference does it make if a letter is missing or damaged? Similarly, I can perceive that a pig is a filthy animal and shouldn’t be eaten. What difference is there however what utensils I use? The answer is that this is the Finger of G-d. Only Hashem, who created the world with all of its intricacies, can fathom the minor details of creation. Similarly, only His unfathomable wisdom can grasp the meaning of the minute details of a Mitzvah. By fulfilling the exact details, we reach the Finger of G-d.

 
The fourth plague was the mixture of animals entering the homes. Hashem distinguished between the Egyptian and the Israelite homes and the animals only entered the homes of the Egyptians. This teaches us that we must distinguish between human behavior and animalistic behavior. Our homes must be free from any lowly and animalistic influences from society. Imagine how absurd it would be for a boar to be sitting on a couch. Animalistic behavior should be equally unthinkable.

 
The fifth plague was the pestilence that killed the cattle of the Egyptians. The cattle were Egyptian deities. We must learn from this not to idolize animalistic pursuits. Our physical needs and pleasures are a tool to better our lives and better serve Hashem, not goals to be idolized.

 
The sixth plague was boils. Aharon took ash and threw it to the sky. It spread over the entire Egypt and afflicted all of the people and animals. Sometimes we feel that our acts are insignificant. We must realize that one Mitzvah can spread over the entire world and bring healing and good. Similarly, one negative act can cause great pain and destruction.

 
The seventh plague was that of hail. The hailstones were filled with flickering flames. Hashem prefaced this plague by saying “Behold, I will send all of my plagues upon your heart.” Why is this plague referred to as all of the plagues? The Kli Yakar explains that this miracle was totally beyond comprehension and Pharaoh could have no doubt that this was the Hand of Hashem. This would force him to reconsider all of the previous plagues and recognize the Hand of Hashem, placing all of the plagues upon his heart at once. This is a powerful lesson. When we see a miracle, we must reflect on everything we have experienced and will experience and realize this too is the Hand of Hashem.

 
Before the Jewish people entered the land of Israel, Moshe began to expound the Torah in depth and lucidity on Rosh Chodesh Shvat. When Moshiach comes, we are assured he will reveal a new dimension in the depth of Torah. May we celebrate this Rosh Chodesh Shevat hearing the new dimensions of Torah from Moshiach united in the land of Israel.

  Shabbat Shalom and Chodesh Tov,

 Rabbi Biggs
Dedicated in memory of Geri Fessler on the occasion of her Shloshim

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