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Vaera – A thought for the week by Mike Lewis

“Words fail me” is something we often say.  It is usually exasperation when those to whom you are speaking fail to understand what you are trying to explain. It could be used to describe the Parasha this week where we are told of the first plagues. Was Pharaoh not listening or were the Jews not listening?  Was it also exasperation by God when Moses keeps making excuses for his own doubts and capabilities?


In Bereishit, whatever God commands is carried out without question:

  • Adam and Eve are told to go out and multiply and they do

  • Noah is told to build an ark and he does

  • Abraham is told to go forth to the land I will show you and he does

  • Isaac is told not to go down to Egypt and he obeys

Moses questions.


As for the children of Israel, they were exhausted. To quote the text

מִקֹּ֣צֶר ר֔וּחַ
They had “shortness of breath”

Rashi took this literally because of their hard labour. Samson Raphael Hirsh thought that they were so drained and spiritless that they did not understand the vision being brought by Moses. Mired in struggles of their own day to day reality they could not see the hope that God had promised.


The Parasha begins with promises made by God:

"I will free you           (v'hozeiti) from the labours of the Egyptians

“I will deliver you     (v'hizalti) from their bond

 “I will redeem you    (v'ga'alti) with an outstretched arm

I will take you          (v'lakahti) to be My people

“I will bring you        (v'heiveiti) to the land


Words may fail but faith and hope hold us together. There is the famous epigram, often attributed to others but actually written by William Hewer:

How odd of God to choose the Jews. And the response set down as: Not so odd, the Jews chose God
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