Parshas Va’era

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By Rabbi Shloimie Lindenbaum

ויצעק משה אל ה’ על דבר הצפרדעים (פרק ח פסוק ח)

There are many times throughout the מכות that Pharoah asked Moshe to daven and remove the מכה. The wording describing Moshe’s prayer, however, is unique by the מכה of צפרדע. Every other time that Moshe davened, the פסוק uses the word “ויעתר”, only by צפרדע do we find a different expression, that of צעקה. The חתם סופר explains based on the גמרא in סוכה that discusses the etymology of the word “ויעתר” when used in the context of prayer. The גמרא there says that an עתר is actually a pitchfork, used to turn over piles of grain. When describing prayer, the word is meant to connote a prayer similar to a pitchfork- a prayer that turns the מדת הדין (Divine Judgement) into a מדת הרחמים (Divine Mercy). Therefore, by nearly all of the מכות this was a very apt description of Moshe’s prayer. After all, he was begging Hashem for undeserved total mercy on the Egyptians. By צפרדע, however, we find that even after the מכה finished the Egyptians still suffered from it’s aftermath. The פסוק says that the land of Egypt was filled with putrid dead צפרדע. Therefore, although there was an element of mercy that removed the intensity of the מכה, the prayer did not result in a totally merciful approach and it would therefore be inappropriate to describe Moshe’s prayer as “ויעתר”.

והברד ומטר לא נתך ארצה (פרק ט פסוק לג)

After Moshe davened that Hashem remove the מכה of ברד, the hail stopped immediately, even freezing pieces of hail in midair. R’ Moshe Feinstein asks, why was this נס important? Why did Hashem stop the מכה in this miraculous fashion? He answers that Hashem was trying to instill in everyone a lesson of אמונה. We usually view the world as running with certain rules of nature because that’s what makes sense in our understanding of physics. For example, we assume that heavy objects will immediately fall towards the ground because a force of gravity necessitates it. Hashem was showing that everything in this world is His will and that we understand things in the way that He presents them to us. The instant that Hashem desires that the hail not continue it’s descent, it will cease, and we will be find new ways to “explain” an occurrence. There are no rules of physics controlling nature, rather Hashem is controlling nature and the rules of physics are fashioned around His will.

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