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News and Notes

Mazal tov to Gabe Faber, on his engagement to Ilana Goldmeier!

We welcome back Rav Krohn, following his successful interview trip to the United States. Rav Wolicki will be spending this Shabbat in Montreal, and will visit Philadelphia next week. Rav Kahn will travel to the United States the following week, and will conduct interviews in New York, New Jersey, and Chicago. If you would like to arrange for an interview, please contact the yeshiva office at yeshiva@yesodei.org, or tell your Israel guidance counselor. And remember to apply in advance of your interview - go to www.yesodei.org and click on "Apply Now" to access the Joint Yeshiva Application.

This week, the yeshiva embarked on its annual trip to the Golan. On Tuesday, we visited Mitzpe Gadot (the Syrian outpost until the Six Day War in 1967), hiked in Jilabun, went to Har Ben Tal (a look-out into Syria and the "Valley of Tears" battle site in the Yom Kippur war 1973), and did outdoor training before spending the night in Keshet. On Wednesday, we hiked Nachal Zavitan Elione with its beautiful waterfalls, visited a Golan winery, stopped in the Biblical city of Tel Dan, and saw Misgav Am.

On Thursday, the yeshiva had its first annual "24 Hours Straight in the Beit" day. Beginning from Shacharit on Thursday and going through Shacharit on Friday, students were encouraged to try to see if they could go 24 consecutive hours without leaving the Beit Midrash building. Many students were up for the challenge, and everyone had a fun and memorable day that was punctuated by special shiurim and chaburot (as well as snacks).

On Monday, we were honored to welcome Rav Meir Goldwicht shlit"a, who spoke about the significance of the pasuk, "No dog wagged its tongue" during the last of the Ten Plagues. He also discussed the benefits gained by spending a year in yeshiva.

On Thursday morning, Rav Aharon Kahn shlit"a delivered a shiur on the source of the Rambam's description of Yaakov Avinu's final hours and his recitation of "Baruch Shem" after his children recited "Shma Yisrael". Many Yesodei students have spent time in Rav Kahn's YP shiur at YU, so it was a special honor to welcome him to Yesodei HaTorah for the first time.

On Thursday night, Rav Kahn gave the sicha ruchanit on the topic of, ""Neeman L'amet Devarav" (download here). Following the mishmar cholent and snacks, Rav Kahn spoke about, "Eilu v'Eilu: How Can Two Contradictory Torah Opinions Both Be Right?" (download here), and Rav Arram continued his series explicating the deeper meaning of various Midrashei Chazal.

There will be no shiurim this Sunday and Monday, as the yeshiva will be having its mid-winter break. Shiurim resume on Tuesday morning.

26 Tevet 5775
Rabbi Scott Kahn

All of My Plagues
By Rabbi Scott Kahn

In Parashat Va’eira, we witness the first seven of the ten plagues visited upon Egypt: blood, frogs, lice, wild animals, animal disease, boils, and hail. When warning Pharaoh about the upcoming hail, Moshe states in G-d’s name that, “This time I am sending all of My plagues to your heart, and in your servants and your nation, so that you will know that there is none like Me in the entire land (Shmot 9:14).” Why does G-d introduce this plague with the statement that it is somehow equivalent to “all of My plagues”?

The Maharal of Prague, in explaining an enigmatic statement of Rashi on this verse, offers a possible approach to the above question. He cites Rabbi Yehudah’s well-known statement in the Hagadah that the ten plagues can be subdivided into three groupings: the first three plagues of blood, frogs, and lice (“dtzach”); the following three plagues of wild animals, animal disease, and boils (“adash”); and the final four plagues of hail, locusts, darkness, and the slaying of the firstborn (“b’achav”). Far from merely presenting a mnemonic device to enable individuals to remember the plagues, Rabbi Yehudah was hinting at a thematic similarity which unites each group; each set of plagues contained a particular didactic message directed at Pharaoh and the Egyptians.

The first group was intended to demonstrate that these plagues were not the result of magic or any particular human agency, but instead were the work of G-d alone. Pharaoh’s magicians attempted to duplicate these plagues, but the third plague of lice was punctuated by the magicians’ cry, “This is the finger of G-d!” The second group demonstrated that G-d not only has great power, but that He rules the world through “hashgacha pratit” – that is, by distinguishing how He treats different people in different situations, rather than simply treating every individual in the same manner. Accordingly, there is specific mention of the Israelites’ exemption from the negative effects of these three plagues: “And I will set apart the Land of Goshen – upon which My people stands – on that day, so that there will be no wild animals there; so that you know that I am Hashem in the midst of the land.”

Although the first two sets of plagues conclusively demonstrated to Pharaoh that G-d is powerful and operates the world through hashgacha pratit, there was, as yet, no demonstration that He was, indeed, the One and Only power. For this reason, the final set of plagues was unleashed. These plagues were fundamentally different from those that came before, for these plagues were supernatural in the extreme. These were plagues that were absolutely without precedent, and which were absolutely unlike anything that had ever occurred on earth beforehand. The hail contained within it fire as well as ice; the plague of locusts was so severe that “beforehand there was never any locust plague like it, and afterwards there never will be again”; the darkness was fundamentally unique in that people were unable to move, as well as see; and the slaying of the firstborn climaxed the horror in a way never before experienced by human beings.

Given that the final four plagues were fundamentally dissimilar and more powerful that those that preceded them, and because they were intended to demonstrate Hashem’s absolute power and control, G- d’s introduction to the hail that He was going to unleash “all of My plagues” is now comprehensible. For G-d was not introducing the plague of hail per se, but rather the entire group of four final plagues which did, indeed, represent His absolute ability to impose His will. Consequently, they are described in unique terminology to differentiate them from the six that came beforehand.

The Vilna Gaon offers a different answer to the same question. He explains that G-d punishes the wicked through three agents: fire, water, and wind. The agent of fire is seen in the destruction of Sodom; the agent of water in the great flood in the days of Noah; and the agent of wind in the dispersal of the builders of the Tower of Babel to the four corners of the globe. Similarly, these agents are apparent during the ten plagues: the water turned to blood and produced frogs, ashes – a product of fire – were used to spread the boils, and the wind brought the locusts to Egypt. But the plague of hail uniquely contained all three agents, for the hail itself was made of frozen water, it contained fire within it, and it was accompanied by the sounds of thunder, carried through air currents. Because the Egyptian hail was a composite of all three agents of punishment, it is introduced with the phrase, “This time I am sending all of My plagues.”

Just as our ancestors experienced redemption from Egyptian bondage through the manifestation of G-d’s power, may we experience the gilui Shechinah – the revealing of the Divine Presence – when Hashem redeems His people in the geulah shleima. May it occur speedily and soon!

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