Rabbi's Blog
Dec 31st, 2021

Torah Reading: 

Exekiel 28:25-29:21

Triennial #3
Aliyah #1: 8:16 - 23
Just as God promised, the punishment of the Egyptians is now at hand. Prior to this Aliyah, God and Moshe had already brought the plagues of blood, frogs, and lice. Each plague was rejected by Pharaoh  as signs from God. Pharaoh’s magicians are able to replicate the first two plagues, but the third they could not deny—nevertheless, Pharaoh remains unimpressed.

In this Aliyah, God and Moshe bring about the forth plague: insects. Swarms fill Egypt but stop short of the land of Goshen—the land where the Israelites dwell. This causes a distinct separation between the Egyptians and the Israelites and finally begins to get through to Pharaoh. Pharaoh goes to Moshe and Aharon and permits the Israelites to sacrifice to God. Not willing to do so in Egypt, Moshe bargains again for the 3-day journey, which Pharaoh agrees to. 

Aliyah #2: 8:24 - 28
Upon reaching a successful agreement, Moshe goes to God and asks for the swarms to dissipate. Unfortunately, when they do, Pharaoh hardens his heart and refuses to uphold his end the of bargain—once again forbidding the departure of the Israelite people.

Aliyah #3: 9:1 - 7
With four plagues down and still no success, we see the fifth plague: cattle disease. Moshe warns Pharaoh that if he does not change his mind then all of the Egyptian livestock will die, and when Pharaoh does not release the Israelites this is precisely what happens. The Israelite livestock remain completely unharmed—furthering the proof that God is with the people. Nevertheless, this fifth plague fails to break Pharaoh’s stubbornness.

Aliyah #4: 9:8 - 16
The plagues on the land have failed, and God and Moshe turn to plagues on the people themselves. Moshe is instructed to throw soot into the air, which infects the Egyptians with boils. The text shares that even Pharaoh’s magicians can't present themselves before Moshe due to their infection. Moshe returns to chastise Pharaoh the next morning, pointing out that these plagues on the Egyptians are all a show of strength by God and easily remediable if Pharaoh will let the Israelites go.

Aliyah #5: 9:17 - 21
Moshe has a compassion for life and warns Pharaoh and the Egyptians that the next plague will rain down a hail unlike anything seen in Egyptian history—any man or beast caught outside in such a hail will be killed. Moshe urges the Egyptians to fear God and take shelter from the impending storm. Those among the Egyptians and Pharaoh’s court who take Moshe seriously take shelter while others ignore the warning and remain outside.

Aliyah #6: 9:22 - 26
True to his word, Moshe is instructed by God to reach his staff heavenward as God begins to cast down thunder and hail and fire from the skies over Egypt. It kills man, beast, crop, herb, and tree alike and devastates the land. Similar to the previous plagues, the land of Goshen and the Israelites is unaffected by the weather.

Aliyah #7: 9:27 - 35
This sixth plague of hail seems to be the first to truly frighten Pharaoh as he pleads to Moshe and Aharon to end it. Pharaoh declares God righteous and himself wicked and promises to release the Israelite people for good. Moshe agrees, and God ends the hail. We are also given a rough timeline at this point in the text as we learn that the flax and barley crops were destroyed since they were in bloom, but not the wheat or spelt which are crops that grow later in the season. Nevertheless, when Pharaoh sees that the thunder and hail had ceased, he once again hardens his heart and refuses to let the people go.