Questions and Concepts for Parsha Va'eirah
(Exodus 6:2-9:35)

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:

And God spoke to Moses, and said to him, I am YHVH; And I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, by the name EL SHEDDAI, but by my name YHVH was I not known to them.

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:

The process God uses to bring people back to His Torah, is the same one He has always used in returning those who have gone astray. This process can be broken down as follows:

  1. He reveals His truth to you ("as you are" -- and regardless of where you are)
  2. He takes you away from the confined place you are in (where you cannot truly serve Him)
  3. He replaces the error and fear of your previous way, instructing you in His Torah
  4. He makes you acceptable to Himself

His process for achieving this can be seen in how He dealt with those coming out of Egypt with Moses:

Exodus 6:6-7 - Therefore, say to the B'nei Yisra'el: "I am YHVH, and I WILL BRING YOU OUT (v'hotzeiti et'khem) from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I WILL FREE YOU (vhitzalti et'khem) from being slaves to them, and I WILL REDEEM YOU (v'ga'alti et'khem) with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I WILL TAKE YOU AS MY OWN PEOPLE (v'lakachti et'khem li l'am), and I will be your God..."

  1. He made them "free" through His revelation, they stopped serving Egypt even though they physically remained a bit longer in the land
  2. He physically took them out of Egypt (Egypt = "Mitzrayim" = confined place)
  3. He redeemed them by taking them through the waters and delivering the final crushing blow to the Egyptians when the waters annihilated them (thus giving them great confidence)
  4. He took them as His people to the promised land where they would be free to serve Him through His Torah

When Israel came out of Egypt, they stopped for water at a place called Marah. (Exodus 15:22-27) The water there was bitter however. God instructed Moses to take a certain tree and cast it into the water. The water then became sweet. God immediately followed this up by giving them additional statutes and ordinances, and saying He would test their obedience.

There are several lessons here:

  1. God was not "done" with Israel just because He revealed Himself to them and took them out of Egypt (though they may have had reason to believe He was, as the entire plan was not yet revealed). As soon as they get their new freedom, they immediately encounter a "problem."
  2. God immediately showed them that He wanted their relationship to continue and grow (through the miracle).
  3. The fact that a tree was used should not be overlooked, as it is a euphemism for the Torah.
  4. God immediately gives them more of His Torah (statutes and ordinances) as their means for deepening their relationship.
  5. He would then test and refine their faith/relationship to Him through their Torah obedience.

God is consistent. He uses the same process today for bringing people, including gentiles, to Torah:

  1. He makes you free by revealing Himself and His Messiah (often within an imperfect setting, i.e., "a church")
  2. He leads you away from where you cannot grow in His Torah (into Messianic Judaism)
  3. He teaches you the deeper truths of His Torah (taking on more of the Torah to learn of Him)
  4. He makes you acceptable to Himself