07 Jan 2016 With Thunder & Hail: Hearing the Sounds
As we begin the book of Shemos, Sefer Ha’Geula, we find the Israelite nation deep in the Egyptian exile and enslavement. It was a time of back-breaking labor, a time of persecution and pain, it was a dark time when all hope seemed lost. And yet! All hope must never be lost….For when the precise moment had arrived, Moshe was summoned by Hashem, and charged with the task of ordering Pharaoh to set the Israelite slaves free, and then leading the people to freedom. After a week-long exchange between the Almighty and Moshe, there in the desert wilderness, as the bush burned but was not consumed, Moshe finally agreed to accept his mission.
He returned from Midyan to the Egyptian metropolis and gathered the people and said those ancient words of hope: ויאמן העם וישמעו כי פקד ה׳ את בני ישראל וכי ראה את ענים ויקדו וישתחוו – And the people believed, and they heard that Hashem had remembered the Bnei Yisrael, and that He saw their affliction, and they kneeled and prostrated themselves (Ex.4:31). The promise of Yaakov and the ancient promise of Yosef, פקד יפקד אלקים אתכם, Hashem will surely remember you, had been spoken! The longed for redemption was finally, after hundreds of years in Egypt, about to unfold.
And afterwards, Moshe and Aharon came to Pharaoh and they said to Pharaoh: So says Hashem, the G-d of Israel, send My nation and they will have a festival to Me in the desert!
ויאמר פרעה מי ה׳ אשר אשמע בקלו לשלח את ישראל? לא ידעתי את ה׳ וגם את ישראל לא אשלח – And Pharaoh said: Who is G-d that I should listen to His voice to send forth Yisrael? I do not know Hashem and furthermore, I will not send out the nation! (Ex.5:1-2)
Who is Hashem, that *I* should listen to Him!? I do not know this G-d of yours and no one is going free… Arrogant Pharaoh thought he did not have to listen to the voice of Hashem…Yet Pharaoh would soon learn that we all must listen to the voice of Hashem.
At the end of this week’s parsha, Parshas Va’era, we read of the plague of hail, a super-natural hail that was a unique combination of fire and water.
ויט משה את מטהו על השמים וה׳ נתן קלת וברד ותהלך אש ארצה… And Moshe stretched forth his staff towards the heavens, and Hashem gave forth thunder and hail, and fire came down to earth…(Ex.9:23).
Interesting that the Torah tells us of the thunder – the kolos Hashem – before it tells us about the hail.
It is not by accident that when Pharaoh calls Moshe to beseech Hashem and remove this devastating plague, he says: העתירו אל ה׳ ורב מהית קלת אלקים וברד – Entreat Hashem, and let it be enough of the Kolos Elokim and the hail! (Ex.9:28)
The arrogant one who thought he did not have to listen to the kol Hashem now heard the kol Hashem loud and clear. “Who is G-d that *I* shall listen to His voice?” was answered with the kolos Hashem that made sure Pharaoh heard the very Voice he desired to not hear. The will of Hashem will always be done and the Sounds of Hashem will always reach their target.
We must ask: Why did Hashem wait until the 7th plague of hail to teach Pharaoh this lesson?
The number seven represents teva, nature and the natural order of the runnings of the world. Sinful man may think that nature is nature and G-d is G-d, and that G-d is removed from the natural order of things, chalilah. Therefore, in the seventh plague, in the “natural” plague of hail, Hashem sent kolos Elokim, to teach Pharaoh – and us – that Hashem is in control of all: nature, miracles, and everything in between. For in reality, all of creation emanates from the kol Hashem. In the 7th plague specifically, Hashem introduces the very Kol that Pharaoh thought he would never hear.
May we always be humble and wise, attuned and attentive, and receptive and accepting, of the kolos Hashem – the Voice of Mercy – that surrounds us and our nation.
בברכת בשורות טובות ושבת שלום,