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Vol. 21 No. 15
Naomi Nina (Freedman) bas David Yosef z"l
The Plague of Locusts
(Adapted from the Oznayim la'Torah)
"And Par'oh hurried to call Moshe and Aharon, and he declared 'I have sinned to your G-d and to you!'" (10:16).
The question arises, says the Oznayim la'Torah, why Par'oh was in a hurry? The concept of hurrying is not mentioned by any of the other plagues, except for Makas Bechoros, where the Egyptians hurried to send the Jewish people out as quickly as possible - and for good reason. On the contrary, by each of the other plagues, he points out, starting with the plague of frogs, Par'roh asked for the plague to be removed 'tomorrow'. So why here, could he not ask for forgiveness from G-d, from Moshe and from Aharon quickly enough, in order to get rid of 'this death'?
Moreover, what did Par'oh hope to achieve by hurrying? Everything that the locusts could possibly eat, they had eaten, and as the Pasuk attests 'And no green remained on the trees and no grass in the field in the entire land of Egypt?' So how could Moshe and Aharon's prayers alleviate a situation that was beyond repair?
The answer, the author explains, lies in the nature of locusts. If locusts remain in one place for a long period of time, they lay millions of eggs, which hatch and go on to destroy the following batch of green when it reappears on the trees and in the fields. Par'oh was fully aware of this, he says, and begged Moshe and Aharon to remove the locusts quickly (today, not tomorrow) before they had time to lay their eggs.
Based on the Pasuk, 'very heavy', the Oznayim la'Torah also suggests that the locusts began to eat clothes and even household vessels, so Par'oh asked Moshe and Aharon to intercede, before they finished them as well.
The Strong West Wind<p>
"And G-d turned round a very strong west wind, which carried the locusts, and cast them into the Reed Sea, not one locust remained in all the borders of Egypt" (10:19).
Why, asks the Oznayim la'Torah, was a strong west wind needed to blow away the locusts, when an ordinary east wind blew them in?
Here are some of the answers that he gives.
1. The Gemara in Avodah-Zarah (55) explains that when G-d sends suffering upon a person, he makes the suffering swear that it will not go away before the date that he specifies. As a result of Moshe's prayers to remove the locusts before the specified time, the wind that blew them away did so naturally, as opposed to the miraculous wind that brought them.
2. The Gemara in Gitin (31) explains that the east wind, which is exceptionally powerful and strong, silences all the other winds. In that case, it is feasible to say that the strong west wind was no more powerful that the regular east wind.
3. Whereas the east wind that brought the locusts blew all night, bringing them in in dribs and drabs, and giving the Egyptians a chance to do Teshuvah (see the author's note in Pasuk 14, DH "va'yonach"), the west wind, conforming with Moshe's request, blew them away in a moment.
4. When the locusts arrived, they were thin, and so an ordinary wind sufficed to blow them in. When they left, after having devoured all the greenery in Egypt, they were considerably fatter, and a stronger wind was needed to do carry them away.
5. Based on Rashi, who writes that the wind also blew away the locusts that the Egyptians had pickled, he cites R. Walkin, a Rav in Brooklyn, who explains that whereas live locusts fly under their own power, and a regular wind sufficed to bring them in, pickled locusts, who do not, require a strong wind to carry them away. Or perhaps, he adds, the strong west wind was needed to break the jars and the barrels before blowing the locusts away.
6. In an alternative version of the previous answer, citing the Ma'yan Ganim, the Oznayim la'Torah explains that the live locusts carried the pickled ones out of Egypt. Consequently, they needed the assistance of the strong west wind to help them on their way.
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(Adapted from the Oznayim la'Torah)
A Taste of his own Medicine
"… that which I mocked Egypt" (10:2).
Par'oh mocked Yisrael, when, following the plague of hail, he promised to send Yisrael out, but failed to keep his word, says the Oznayim la'Torah. So G-d gave him a taste of his own medicine.
And how did G-d mock Par'oh, he asks?
When the plague of hail miraculously left the wheat and the spelt standing, he explains, Par'oh must have thought that, for some reason, these commodities were somehow beyond G-d's ability to destroy, and his people had been spared from total starvation.
Little did he realize that G-d allowed them to remain in order to provide fodder for the locusts, that would soon follow, and that G-d had not yet finished with the Egyptians, as the Pasuk wrote (in Pasuk 2 & 3) " … for I have hardened his heart … in order to place these miracles of mine in his midst. And in order that you shall relate in the ears of your sons … how I mocked Egypt … and you will know that I am Hashem".
(See also Parshah Pearls, Pasuk 5).
A Taste of Locusts
"Behold I will bring tomorrow locusts within your borders" (10:4).
The Oznayim la'Torah comments that locusts are fairly common in the eastern countries, and two signs indicated that this was a Divine plague sent specifically against Egypt - 1. The predetermined time that they would arrive (tomorrow); 2. The fact that they were confined to the borders of Egypt (and not a single locust appeared across the border in another country).
Both these points are contained in the current Pasuk.
Trees! Which Trees?
" … and they will consume all the trees that will grow for you from the field" (10:5).
The Torah wrote earlier in Parshas Vo'eiro, that the hail destroyed all the trees, the Oznayim la'Torah points out. And he cites the Rashbam, who explains that the few weeks between the plague of hail and that of locusts allowed sufficient shoots and saplings to grow, to satisfy the needs of the hungry locusts (See Parshah Pearl, Pasuk 2).
Transforming the Mundane
into the Sacrosant
"Sandtify for Me all the firstborn!" (13:2).
The ability to sanctify Chol (mundane) was given to Yisrael. Hence they declare Rosh Chodesh, thereby sanctifying that day, as well as the ensuing Yamim-Tovim in the months that they occur. And hence Moshe sanctified the Mishkan with all its Keilim, the Bigdei Kehunah and Aharon and his sons, and later, Pinchas, when his time came to become a Kohen.
And in this Pasuk G-d instructs Moshe to sanctify all the firstborn, both human and animal, for all generations. That explains why, although it is a Mitzvah for the owner of a firstborn animal to declare it holy, it was holy even if he failed to do so - since Moshe had already sanctified it.
Not All the Firstborn
" … the one that opens the womb" (Ibid.).
This refers to the firstborn of the mother, the Oznayim explains; to which the Dinim of a B'chor pertain. They do not pertain to the firstborn of the father, nor to the oldest in the house (if he is not a firstborn), nor do they pertain to firstborn who happen to be female, even though all of these were included in the plague of Makas Bechoros in Egypt. We know that this was the case with the latter example, from Par'oh's daughter (Bisyah), who was destined to die when the plague struck, but who was spared on account of the prayers of (her foster son) Moshe Rabeinu.
In similar vein, the author points out, we find that some of the Dinim that pertained to the Korban Pesach in Egypt did not pertain to the Korban Pesach in later generations (such as eating it in haste, wearing shoes, with belts tied and with stick in hand).
And the reason that the Torah confined the Din of B'chor to the firstborn of the mother rather than the firstborn of the father, he adds, is because, whereas we know for sure that she is his mother, this is not the case regarding the father.
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