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Simcha Groffman

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Kinder Torah
For parents to share with children at the Shabbos Table

Parashas Va'eira

The King's Heart

"Menachem, did you hear the news?"

"Good or bad?"

"Famine, disease, plague, death, blight, and terrible destruction."

"Oy vey, Efraim. That sounds awful. When and where did all of this happen?"

"Three thousand years ago in Mitzrayim."

"Efraim, you have a good sense of humor. I always appreciate your jokes. For a minute, you really had me worried. Now that you brought up the subject, I would like to share with you something that I learned today about the plagues in Mitzrayim." "Wonderful."

"Try to imagine the plague of tsefardeah (frogs). They were everywhere, in the homes, in the ovens, even in people's stomachs. The noise from their croaking was deafening. Pharoah, the King of Mitzrayim, in all of his splendor, is sitting on his throne in his royal garments, surrounded by his officers. He opens his mouth to speak, but you cannot hear his voice. It is drowned out by the croaking of the frogs in his stomach. Can you imagine anything more disgraceful than that?"

"It was very humiliating."

"Pharoah calls to Moshe and Aharon and asks them to pray to Hashem to remove the frogs from him and from Mitzrayim. Then he will send out the nation to worship Hashem."


"Moshe and Aharon did their part, but Pharoah did not keep his half of the deal."


"Because Hashem hardened Pharaoh's heart. Over and over again, after each plague, Hashem hardened Pharaoh's heart."

"And the entire nation of Mitzrayim was destroyed."

"Exactly. Shlomo HaMelech wrote in Mishlei (21:1) "The heart of the King is in Hashem's hand". The king cannot just think about himself. His decisions affect all of the people. Hashem controls his heart to make the choices that are right for the entire nation. Therefore, Hashem hardened Pharaoh's heart."

"But Pharaoh's decisions allowed Mitzrayim to be destroyed."

"Our sages give several reasons for that. One thing is for sure. It was the will of Hashem based on the deeds of the Mitzrim."

"Menachem, is this still true today?"


"How comforting."

"In what way, Efraim?"

"These are times when the Jewish people are in great danger. It appears that our fate is in the hands of a few world leaders. Now we know that their hearts are in Hashem's hands. They are really being controlled by Him."

"Right, Efraim, but He still wants something from us."

"What, Menachem?"

"The true service to Him that has saved the Jewish people from disaster time and time again. Tefillah (prayer), teshuva (correcting our mistakes), strengthening our Torah learning, strengthening our mitzvah performance, and giving more tsedaka (charity). This is what our Torah leaders are calling for."

Kinderlach . . .

Let us do our part to help our people. Let us do things the right way and try to avoid something terrible. When you daven, open your heart to Hashem and ask for His mercy. Try to do a new mitzvah today, one that you have not done before. Put a little more effort into your learning, and a little more of your allowance into the tsedaka box. Who knows? Your mitzvah may be the one to tip the scales, and soften the king's heart.

Shema Yisrael

The Eser Makkos (Ten Plagues). A time of terrible suffering for the Mitzrim. They were punished middah kineged middah (measure for measure) for the atrocities that they committed to Am Yisrael. The Jewish people, on the other hand, had reasons to be happy. The slavery was finally over, and their oppressors were getting what they deserved. They also became wealthy by selling water during makkat dam (the plague of blood), and by locating the valuables of the Mitzrim during makkat choshech (the plague of darkness). These were obvious reasons for Hashem to afflict Mitzrayim. However, there were deeper meanings to these plagues.

The Haggadah states that Rebbe Yehuda arranged the makkos into groups that formed words: "Datsach," "adash," "b'achav." These words are acronyms formed from the first letters of each makko. The makkos are arranged in order of their occurrence, and grouped into sets of three, three, and four. Each set of makkos came to teach the Mitzrim and Am Yisrael a unique lesson. "Datsach": dam (blood), tsefardeah (frogs), and kinim (lice) proved the existence of Hashem. Dam overturned the notion that the river was a god by turning it into blood, thereby killing it and everything in it. The tsefardeah sanctified Hashem's name by jumping into fiery ovens, something that a regular frog would never do. Even Pharaoh's wizards admitted that the plague of kinim was "Hashem's finger". These three makkos proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that Hashem's existence could not be denied.

"Adash" demonstrated Hashem's rule over the world in the form of Hashgacha Pratis (private supervision) over each individual. The plagues of arov (wild animals), dever (cattle disease), and shechin (boils) affected only the Mitzrim, their livestock, and their land. The Jews, who merited Divine Protection, were not touched. Only A Being who controls every detail of the world could accomplish such a thing.

"Bachav" demonstrated "Ein ode milvado" (Devarim 4:35), that Hashem is The Only Power in the universe. There may be other entities that appear to have their own power (such as the sun), however Hashem controls them all. The plagues of borod (hail), arbeh, (locusts), and choshech (darkness), all blocked out the sun. Also, makkat bechoros (the plague of death of the first born) was at night. All of these showed that the sun had no power to stop The Almighty. The other gods of the Mitzrim, the Nile and the sheep were already proven powerless by the previous makkos. To sum it up, the esser makkos were a big lesson for the world that Hashem exists, He runs the world, and He is the only power.

Kinderlach . . .

We have an easy way to remember these three facts. The first verse of Kriyas Shema that we say every morning and night mentions Hashem's name three times: "Shema Yisrael Hashem Elokeinu Hashem Echad." These three correspond to "datsach," "adash," "b'achav". Datsach - Hashem exists - corresponds to Shema Yisrael Hashem. Adash - Hashem is Mashgiach Prati - that is Elokeinu. B'achav - He is The Only One - refers to Hashem Echad. Remember this every time that you say Kriyas Shema, kinderlach. Watch your love and appreciation of Hashem grow and grow.

(For further explanation, see Sefer Mi'taamei HaShulchan)

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