|Questions and Concepts for Parsha Va'eirah
Aside from study of the spiritual development of Moses and the Children of Israel, there is another character whose path we should take note of - that being Pharaoh. Now the Pharaoh who lived at Joseph's time was fairly quick to recognize the righteousness of Joseph and to some degree, his God. This is not the case with the Pharaoh of Moses' time, who chooses the "hard path."
The Bible does not tell us what inevitably happened to this Pharaoh, but Hebrew Midrash tell of a "happy ending" for him. It states that he ended up becoming the ruler of Ninevah - the city God sent Jonah to in order to pronounce its judgment. Upon "seeing" that Jonah was sent from the same God that Moses was, the former Pharaoh quickly had his entire population repent - and thus the city was spared.
Another tidbit from Hebraic literature is that this Pharaoh had three key advisors; Jethro, Job and Balaam. When he asked what to do with the Hebrews, Jethro recommended he set them free, for which he was; 1) banished and ended up in Midian, and 2) was given Moses as a son-in-law. Job took more of a middle ground, which may explain why he undergoes some chastisement at a later time. Balaam recommended that Pharaoh drown the male children, which Pharaoh went along with.
It is also taught that Balaam specifically chose drowning as he believed that God punished "measure for measure" (midah k'negged midah) and having promised to never flood the earth again, Egypt would be safe. This of course proved to be a miscalculation. God does punish midah k'negged midah. He first bloodied their waters and then drowned their army in water. The series of plagues "constrained" Egypt - punishment for their constraining Israel from serving their God. (Egypt is called Mitzrayim in Hebrew, meaning a place of constraint.)
While in Egypt Pharaoh took the path of the "natural" man who attained the greatest of heights in the physical realm along with some skills in the "lower spiritual world" (the realm of the psyche, angels and souls, called Yetzirah in Hebrew). This was the extent of his spiritual growth however, and when Moses and Aaron arrived, coming with power from the "upper spiritual world" (Beriah - "Creation" - the realm of the Throne of God) Pharaoh failed to recognize what he was dealing with.
The level of knowledge/power that God ordained Moses with is seen in 6:2-3:
The name YHVH, given to Moses connects him and the Children of Israel to God in a "more direct" fashion, linking them all to the very Throne Room of God, the world of Beriah.
God does give Pharaoh several opportunities. The first chance Pharaoh is given to see the difference between the power of his magicians and that of Moses and Aaron comes with the rods turning into snakes in 7:8-13. Here we see that Pharaoh's magicians did hold some type of power. The ability to "perform magic" is rooted in the world of Yetzirah. It is quite likely that these magicians had the ability to cause everyone present to see the "form" of a snake (Yetzirah = world of Formation).
The snake produced by Moses/Aaron would have appeared no different to the "untrained spiritual eye." However when the snakes were turned back into rods, the rod of Aaron "swallowed" those of the magicians showing that the power of Moses/Aaron was from a higher source than that of the magicians. This was of the miraculous, not magic. It wasn't until after the magicians could not replicate the third plague that they realized it was "the finger of God."
Pharaoh's magicians were able to replicate the rods turning into snakes as well as the first two plagues of blood and frogs. Seen from the Hebraic kabbalistic point of view, this shows that their power was limited to the spiritual aspect of the physical world (Asiyyah in Hebrew) and the lower part of the world of Yetzirah, that associated with demons. The waters of Egypt are associated with the source of power the magicians drew from, and the frogs coming from the waters, their demonic manifestations. (Compare with Revelation 16:13-14.) Hebrew Midrash alludes to Pharaoh being "king of the frogs" (i.e., master of the demonic realm).
It is only through purity of motive - serving the God of the Bible - that one can attain spiritual knowledge/power beyond the level of "magic." (Something Balaam and Pharaoh lacked.) Here again, as mentioned in our previous Parsha studies, comes the emanation of God called Yesod (foundation) which is associated with purity as well as the "link" between the physical and spiritual realms (i.e., the extent of the powers of the Egyptians). Demons (i.e., the frogs) work between the physical and spiritual realm, having characteristics of both but not being solely of one or the other. Note also as previously mentioned that Yesod is associated with Joseph (i.e., purity and dreams) and the dreams (especially "impure ones") are often the means that demons make inroads into the lives of human beings.
In 6:6-7 God outlines his "redemptive plan" in stages. These stages are the same that occur with every person who turns to God. The following is from our article, Torah Etz Chaim found at: http://www.yashanet.com/library/etzchaim.htm:
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