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   by Jacob Solomon

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(In the third plague, for the first time) The magicians tried to produce lice, but they did not succeed… The magicians then said to Pharaoh: "That is the finger of G-d" (8:14-15).

Remember that Egypt was a leading civilization of its day. And witchcraft was a well-established practice. The magicians simulated the first two plagues: blood, and frogs. However, they failed in the third one. They could not contend with the hordes of tiny lice.

This seems strange. Unlike blood and frogs, outbreaks of lice are common enough world-wide, especially in less economically-developed countries. Conjuring-up lice should have been within their capacity.

However, their failure to do so may be explained by a closer look at the plagues. The plagues of blood and frogs symbolize things are unexpected and spectacular. They are well within the skilled Egyptian wizard's repertoire. That simulation gives the message that: 'Our magicians can also give us a good show of the supernatural'.

In contrast, the plague of lice symbolizes something else. The plague of lice is the reality of one of the recurring unpleasant realities of life. Magicians can conjure tricks, but cannot solve the mysteries of life. Nor do they take away the miseries of life. Plenty of performers have brought rabbits out of top hats, but none has created a substantially better world or society.

That was the message of the lice. Egyptian magic - rooted in their deities could not save them from the realities of everyday life, from unpleasantness. Nor did it seem, could the Egyptian deities.

But in contrast, the G-d of the Hebrews could - and was doing so at that moment. He was intervening on behalf of the Israelites as He revealed Himself to Moses: 'I am that I am' (3:14). As Rashi explains: 'Just as I am with the Israelites in their troubles in Egypt, so I am always in their troubles whenever they happen' - witnessed by the eternity of Israel, even to this very day…

For those looking for more comprehensive material, questions and answers on the Parasha may be found at and on the material on the Haftara at .

Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.

Parashiot from the First, Second, and Third Series may be viewed on the Shema Yisrael web-site:

Also by Jacob Solomon:
From the Prophets on the Haftara

Test Yourself - Questions and Answers


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