Addressing the Jewish slaves through his messenger Moshe, G-d promises to lead them out of Egypt. But they do not want to listen to the prophet "because of impatience and hard work."

Moses is instructed to go to Pharaoh and demand that he let the Jews go into the desert for three days to offer sacrifices to G-d. Moshe and Aaron demonstrate in the Pharaoh's palace a unique sign confirming their Divine mission: they turn the staff into a snake, but the court sorcerers copy the "trick", and the Egyptian ruler does not obey the demand. Then G-d proceeds to executions. The first two executions - the widespread transformation of water into blood and the spread of toads - are repeated by sorcerers, although on a smaller scale. But after the third plague - the spread of lice - they are forced to admit that "this is the finger of God." Of all the executions (seven out of ten are described in today's section), only the Egyptians suffer, and not the Jews living in the province of Goshen. After the lice, new punishments follow: the invasion of wild animals, the loss of livestock, skin boils and hail with fire. These terrible disasters ruin the Egyptian empire, however, despite the warnings of Moses and his repeated offers to stop the series of executions in exchange for the release of the sons of Israel, the pharaoh continues to persist.


“And the magi did the same with their charms, and brought out frogs into the land of Egypt” (8:3).

When you read about the plagues of Egypt, you get the impression that nothing else happened in this country during that period, and its people lived only in catastrophes sent by Gd as punishment for the pharaoh's refusal to let the sons of Israel go. This is not true. The midrash says that during the invasion of frogs between the Egyptians and their southern neighbors, the Kushites, a real war broke out over the disputed border territory. These two countries could not manage to agree on the exact passage of the border.

The dispute was settled by frogs. When G-d commanded them to fill Egypt, they spread only to Egyptian territory, and the true border became visible to all. The conflict was over.

However, the Egyptian sorcerers wanted to add additional living space to their country. To do this, they tried to spread the frogs in the territory of Kush.

But G-d frustrated their plans, as the verse in today's section says, "And the frogs rose up in the land of Egypt...". Even those frogs that the Egyptian sorcerers tried to influence only spread "in the land of Egypt" and not in the land of Cush.

Unity of opposites

“And I will make a boundary between my people and your people” (8:19).

The Ten Plagues is the culmination of the whole epic of the Exodus. They occupy a central place not only in today's section "Vaera" and the next "Bo", but in the entire book "Shemot". There is no doubt that G-d could immediately put such unbearable pressure on the pharaoh and his country that they would immediately release the Jews. But the Creator had a different plan: the process of liberation developed in stages, giving the Egyptians the opportunity to come to their senses, to recognize that behind the series of misfortunes that follow each other with cinematic inevitability, there is the Chief Director, the Creator of all events. The Jews had to be convinced that Moses was right and, despite the hardships and the obvious hopelessness of slavery, believe in a speedy salvation. Other nations received an object lesson for many centuries to come, that the Jews, no matter how weak, vulnerable they may seem, remain invincible if they are supported by the Creator of the Universe, who cannot be defeated in open confrontation, outwitted, or bribed.

The punishment of the Egyptians lasted exactly one year. The same amount of time was allotted for the destruction of the vicious generation of Noah by the Flood, and the same period for the purification of the souls of sinners in Gehenom - hell.

On the fifteenth day of Nisan, exactly one year before the Exodus, Moshe first appeared before G-d by a burning but not burning bush (Shemot 2:2), and then, at His direction, returned to Egypt to demand from Pharaoh in the Name of the Creator: “Shlah et ami ve-yaavduni" - "Let My people go, that they may serve Me."

Pharaoh did not listen, and then the executions began. Each execution lasted seven days, and each was preceded by a 24-day period of warnings and threats. On Rosh Hashanah, the Jews stopped working for the Egyptians, and on Nisan 15, the night we annually celebrate with the Passover Seder, they entered "eternal freedom."

The severity of executions increased gradually. The first two executions were reproduced by Egyptian sorcerers, but already the third execution, lice, went beyond their witchcraft capabilities.

Before inflicting the fourth plague on the Egyptians, the wild beasts, G‑d says, “And I will make a boundary between my people and your people” (8:19).

This execution has a strange name: "arov" - literally translated "mixing". Why are all the other executions named exactly according to their essence - “blood”, “toads”, etc., and the fourth execution is so strange: “mixing”, instead of a more precise definition - “predatory animals”?

The fact is that the Almighty is able not only to form integral, absolute phenomena, but also to connect opposites, creating unthinkable physical combinations.

The execution by blood consisted not only in turning all Egyptian water into blood, but also in the miraculous deliverance of the Jews from this scourge. Even if we assume that the Jew and the Egyptian drank water through a straw from the same glass, that part of the water that the Jew drank would remain water, and for the Egyptian the water would condense into a blood mass. Such an incredible combination of media would happen in the same glass!

In the same way, during the execution by darkness, which is described in the next section "Bo", all the Egyptians were shrouded in a physically tangible substance of darkness, which prevented them not only from seeing, but also from moving, strangling them. And the Jews had light in their dwellings. In the execution by hail (the seventh in a row and one of the heaviest) there was also a mixture of environments: “And there was hail and fire, engaged in the city” (9:24). Inside each ice hailstone, a tiny fire blazed. Just like Pushkin in the second chapter of "Eugene Onegin": "They came together ... ice and fire."

In other words, during the ten plagues, the Almighty demonstrated not only His ability to arbitrarily change the laws of nature, but also, leaving them unchanged, to bring together essentially opposite phenomena. The miracle called "ares" was that wild animals attacked only the Egyptians, and not each other. They came in "mixed" packs, not succumbing to the natural instinct of mutual antagonism.

"And I will make a boundary between my people and your people." The fourth plague was a turning point in the life of the Jewish people. Although during the two hundred and ten years of their stay in Egypt, they were deeply and, it seemed, forever sucked into the soulless quagmire through the vicious Egyptian society, G-d performed a miracle - he separated them from the Egyptians, like blood from water, like light from darkness, like ice from fire. And at the same moment he brought an execution called "mixing", demonstrating his unique ability: by separating the inseparable, to connect what cannot be in natural unity - a wolf and a lion, a snake and a scorpion. G-d is the ruler of the frontiers. God is the lord of confusion.

By the way, do you know why “evening” in Hebrew is “erev” (this word consists of the same letters as “ars”)? Because "erev" is a "mixture": in the evening twilight, day and night, light and darkness are indistinguishably mixed.