Nature of Nature
ten plagues start in this week’s portion. Whenever G-d metes out punishment it
is never undeserving, and very often the punishment will have more than one
purpose. The punishment received by the Egyptians was richly deserved for their
brutal and sadistic behavior towards the Children of Israel. But there was also
another element in their punishment: that the Children of Israel gain from it.
does it mean that the Children of Israel should gain from it? This cannot simply
mean the resulting satisfaction in seeing the downfall of their enemies. In fact
it says in Proverbs (24:17): “When your enemy falls, do not rejoice.”
it means is that it was meant to teach the Children of Israel the two levels of
belief in G-d: the general belief that He has dominance over nature (that He
created it), and the specific belief in Divine providence, that He cares about
individual things such as specific people as opposed to only being involved in
the generalities, “the big picture”.
the Children of Israel saw all the water in Egypt turn to blood this was a sign
that G-d was the creator of the world, and is worthy of our believing in Him.
The Nile was the source of irrigation for all the agricultural growth in Egypt.
The Egyptians saw it as a god, as an actual source of sustenance. When G-d
showed His dominion over the Nile it was showing that it is He who is the source
of all sustenance, not a river.
although the Egyptian magicians were able to imitate certain things - in this
plague, for example, they could turn basic water into blood - they were unable
to do the more intricate parts such as turning the water that flowed underground
when an Egyptian and an Israelite would
drink from the same cup of water, the Egyptian would drink blood, and the
Israelite water. This showed that G-d was watching over the specific details,
and more than that, He cared about the Children of Israel.
our exile and our subsequent redemption in Egypt we learn many things, such as
these two aforementioned concepts in our understanding of G-d.
many people see nature as an entity independent of G-d, much as the Egyptians
saw the Nile. Rav Dessler writes many times that in reality, nature itself is
miraculous. He writes that if one looked through a keyhole, and only saw a pen
writing, would it be a logical assumption that the pen was writing by itself?
the Egyptian exile, G-d was essentially unknown to most of the Jewish people.
Therefore, their first exposure to G-d had to happen in a grandiose way, through
the manipulation of nature. But from our perspective of seeing the glorious
history of the Jewish people as a whole, a history which is still happening, it
is easier for us to see G-d's hand in “nature”, and to know He is involved
in our existence, albeit in a less open nature than He was in Egypt.
Rabbi Jay Spero is the rabbi of the Saranac Synagogue in Buffalo.