this week’s portion, Moshe and Aron come to Pharaoh to plead the case of the
Jewish people. G-d instructs them to show Pharaoh a sign by turning their staff
to snakes. Pharaoh scoffs at what he views as “unimpressive magic”. He even
brings in schoolchildren to prove the Egyptian people’s proficiency in magic.
Aron then turns the snake back into a staff, and his staff eats all the other
staffs in the room. Pharaoh is also unmoved by this sign.
is the meaning of this story? What is the significance of the staff?
staff possessed by Moshe and Aron had been handed down since the time of Adam,
the first man. Within the staff there was a duality. On the one hand, the staff
had the four letter name of G-d on it, attesting to the mercy of G-d. Also
inscribed on the staff, however, was the acronym of the ten plagues, attesting
to the aspect of G-d’s judgment (Although the ten plagues had yet to take
place, the acronym was the concept expressing G-d’s dominion over the entire
creation, which was the purpose of the ten plagues. The first three expressed it
below the ground, the middle three on the ground, and the last four above
ground. Thus the acronym was a prediction of the coming expression of G-d’s
duality also spoke to a much deeper concept. We know that free will is perhaps
the most fundamental aspect of creation. Without it, there would be no
possibility of true good, because there would be no choice. Thus, evil's role in
the world is as a necessary option so that one may exercise one’s free will to
be good. However, the question still remains: if G-d is pure good, how can evil
come from a source which is pure good?
answer is that evil was not created; rather, it was made possible. If we do what
is right the world remains in its good state. If we pervert the world, though,
we turn that evil possibility into reality.
idea is signified through the staff. The word for staff in Hebrew is mateh.
The word mateh can be used in a couple of different ways. It can mean to
bend, and it can mean to extend or stretch out from the source, i.e.,
like a branch from a tree (which is what a staff is). The word mateh can also
mean a tribe, which is what the twelve tribes were: extensions of Yaakov. This
staff had originally been given to Adom—the first man. It was meant to stand
as a junction between heaven and earth. G-d told Moshe and Aron to turn the
staff into a snake to signify that Pharaoh was bending the world, much as a
snake moves in a bent form, and the snake is a metaphor for the evil
inclination, which causes man to desire to bend the world.
laughs at this message. Moshe and Aron counter his laughter by having the staff
eat the other staffs. This display demonstrates that the straightness of the
staff, when it is used as an extension between the heaven and earth, will always
be able to overcome its use for evil. Thus the staff ideally symbolizes G-d’s
attribute of mercy, but when need be, symbolizes His attribute of judgment.
of this Dvar Torah was adapted from Rabbi Akiva Tatz’s “Living Inspired”.