The last time Moses talked with Pharaoh the Pharaoh decided to make the Jews maintain their quota of bricks, but did not supply the straw so they had to glean their straw all night, but still work all day making bricks.
The people weren’t too impressed with Moses at that time.
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Moses returns to Pharaoh, and now begins God’s judgment on Pharaoh and all the Egyptians through the wonders and miraculous acts that are still considered astounding, even today.
Moses does the staff-to-snake thing, which the Egyptian magicians duplicate, although the snake of Moses eats up the Egyptian snakes.
Next, Moses has Aaron smite the waters of the Nile and the Nile turns to blood. After a week of a bloody Nile, the frogs came out and infested the entire land, followed by the plague of gnats.
With the gnats, this is the first time the magicians were not able to duplicate the acts that God had performed, and they were convinced that Pharaoh should let the people go.
But the Pharaoh refused.
The next plague was of flies, but now something else changed- God raised the bar by having all of Egypt infested, all except the land of Goshen where God’s chosen people resided. This time Pharaoh said if Moses takes away the flies, they could go to sacrifice (but not too far away.) However, once the flies were removed Pharaoh reneged on his promise.
After the flies, God sent a plague to kill all the cattle in Egypt, to cause boils to break out all over the bodies of every person in Egypt, and then the hail that turned to fire when it hit the ground. The hail also caused all the existing crops to be destroyed.
As Egypt is being destroyed, the Jews living in Goshen are not affected by any of these plagues.
Pharaoh pleads with Moses to stop the hail and promises that the people can go worship, but as before, once the plague was ended, Pharaoh reneged on his promise to let the people go.
This is where this parashah ends.
There is so much to work with here; I mean, really? Where do I start, and how can I end?
Don’t worry- what I feel I should talk about today won’t take that long.
Have you ever heard someone say that the Old Covenant is all about punishment and violence, but the New Covenant is all about love?
I have; too many times, in fact, and I try to point out to the Christians who say this (Jews don’t say this because they don’t consider the New Covenant valid) there is no “God of the Old Covenant” verse a “God of the New Covenant” because it is the same God.
God is just and holy, and yes- he is so compassionate and loving that a human being cannot even fathom the depth of God’s love for everyone, even those who curse and reject him. And it is precisely because God is just, loving, compassionate, and holy that he MUST punish the guilty!
He makes the rules and he abides by them, even to his own chagrin when he has to harm his creation.
For instance, in today’s parashah, Exodus 9:11-22, God tells Pharaoh (through Moses) that so far he has demonstrated his power, but has not destroyed all the people so that Pharaoh might see that he is fighting a power against which he cannot win. God is, in a way, actually pleading with Pharaoh to give in to God’s demands before everything and everyone in Egypt is destroyed.
In Exodus 9:19, God even warns Pharaoh against the next plague, saying:
Therefore, send and hurry to bring indoors all your livestock and everything
else you have in the field. For hail will fall on every human being and animal
left in the field that hasn’t been brought home, and they will die.
Here God is showing his compassion for all his creation, even those who do not know him. He tells Pharaoh to save the people, and the rest of this passage tells us that the Egyptians who recognized God’s power and authority did as he told them to do, but the ones who refused to listen stayed in their fields, and they and their cattle all died.
There is a midrash in the Talmud, in Megilla 10B, which states that when the Egyptian army was drowning in the sea the angels wanted to sing songs of praise and joy, but God rebuked them, saying:
“My creations are drowning and you are singing before me?”
God doesn’t want to destroy anyone or anything, and he tells us in Ezekiel 18:23 that he doesn’t desire the death of anyone (spiritual or physical), but because God is holy and trustworthy and he said that the guilty will be punished, he has no choice but to punish them.
The truth is, if we can’t trust God’s promise to punish the wicked then we can’t trust God’s promise to forgive our sins!
That is a very uncomfortable statement, but the truth of it is undeniable- God is compassionate and loving, but because he is holy and trustworthy we can expect that he will do terrible things to those who ignore his commandments.
The only real difference between the Old and New Covenant is that Yeshua taught the deeper, more spiritual understanding of the existing commandments. The letters from Shaul, Yakov, and Yochanon were not new commandments from God, and they were certainly not meant to teach people to reject the Torah. What those letters were meant to do is to help Gentiles who now accepted Yeshua as their Messiah to slowly adjust, step-by-step, to the lifestyle God demands of us all, which he outlines in the Torah.
When you reject the Torah, you reject God. Period! That’s all she wrote! End of line! Das ist alles! Don’t let the door hit your butt on the way out!
God has no choice other than to punish those who reject him, but you do have a choice- you can obey what God says to do in the Torah, or you can listen to what your religion tells you to do, but know this for certain: if what your religion says is different from what the Torah says, that means you will be standing unprotected in the field when the hail falls.
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That’s it for this week: Happy New Year and Shabbat Shalom!