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This week's 10-Minute Torah (January 16, 2021): "Parashat Vaera" 5781

Parashat Vaera / פרשת וָאֵרָא

Read in the Diaspora on 16 January 2021 (3 Sh'vat 5781).

Parashat Vaera is the 14th weekly Torah portion in the annual Jewish cycle of Torah reading.

Torah Portion: Exodus 6:2-9:35

Hashem reassures Moses that together they will work to free the Israelites from bondage. Hashem reassures Moshe Rabbeinu that Hashem will 1) release the Israelites from bondage; 2) take them out of Egypt; 3) redeem them (by taking them through the Sea of Reeds; and 4) bring them to the promised land of milk and honey. It is these four events that we drink four (4) glasses of wine during our Passover seder.

There is a brief discussion of the family history of Jacob’s first couple of sons: Reuben and Simeon. There is then a discussion of Levi’s lineage up until Amram and Jochebed giving birth to Aaron and Moses (Miriam is not mentioned). Moses is said to be 80 years old and Aaron is 83. Hashem then directs Moses to confront Pharaoh again.

Moses and Aaron approach Pharaoh. Aaron throws down his staff, which then becomes a snake. Pharaoh has his magicians do the same. However, Aaron’s “snake” then swallows up the magicians’ snakes and then turns back into his staff. Pharaoh does not relent and hardens his heart.

The plagues then begin. Moses first meets Pharaoh in the morning as the latter goes out to the Nile. Moses stirs his staff in the river and the water turns to blood. The water is now undrinkable and the fish (the basis of the Egyptians’ diet) die. The magicians get some water and do the same. Once again, Pharaoh hardens his heart.

This goes on with the next six plagues: Frogs (some say Crocodiles), Boils, Lice, Wild Beasts roaming the city, cattle disease (ruining their ability to work or give their skins), boils and hail (that sometimes seemed like fire). Each time Pharaoh hardened his heart to Moses and Aaron’s pleas to release the Israelites.

During the first few plagues, Pharaoh’s magicians are able to duplicate the plague but then they can’t. Moses also has Pharaoh tell him when he wants the plague to end, and Hashem accommodates his request. During the last few plagues, Pharaoh at first says that he will release the Israelites, but then goes back on his word.

At this point, Hashem reacts in kind to Pharaoh hardening his heart and hardens his heart for him.

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