Mishnah Berurah Tiferet

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MAKOT INSIGHTS: A TIME TO LAUGH

By: Rabbi Daniel Doron Levy



Recalling  the Ten Makot (plagues) that Hashem performed in Mitzrayim (Egypt) is the highlight of every child’s seder. The specific pasuk in which we learn of our obligation to share the story of leaving Egypt with our children uses unique terminology. In Shemot (10:2), the word "hitalalti"  meaning “made fun of” is used. The Rambam explains that in rendering the damage caused by the plagues, Hashem took revenge for all of Paraoh’s wicked decrees against the Jews. He cites the pasuk from Tehilim: "The one who sits in Heaven will degrade them; Hashem will laugh at them." Essentially, Hashem made a mockery of the Egyptians. According to Rashi and the Rambam, part of "Sipur Yetziat Mitzrayim is discussing this irony.

The Be'erYosef (R' Yosef Salanter) elaborates on this commentary as follows. When Hashem commanded Moshe to warn Paraoh that Egypt would be plagued with locusts and grasshoppers, He prefaced it by saying that He would harden Paraoh’s heart. Up until this point Paraoh had been relatively respectful while interacting with Moshe, but by Makat Arbeh (plague of locusts) Moshe and Aharon were out of his favor. After Makat Choshech (plague of darkness) Paraoh’s hostile behavior continued as he warned Moshe: "Get out of here. Be careful; I don't ever want to see your face again."

Interestingly, in his time of need, the mighty king of Egypt who purported to act like a god, was running up and down the streets in the middle of the night screaming, "Where is Moshe? Where is Aharon?' The Jews, his former slaves, were laughing hysterically at a man they feared and despised just months ago. As Makat Bechorot  (killing of the firstborn) descended Paraoh screamed: "Get up and get out and serve your Gd as you requested!"

Let's recall that Paraoh went to the bargaining table with Moshe numerous times. First he refused to let the Jews go completely, and then he relented slightly asking, “Who do you want to go?” He agreed to let only the men go and pray before hardening his heart again. But now, a desperate Paraoh not only totally acquiesced, he was ready to send animals for sacrifices! He begged, "Please pray for me not to die, as I am a firstborn.” Is there a bigger mockery than that? Elaborating on these details is an integral part of our fulfilling the mitzvah of Sipur Yetziat Mitzrayim – the obligation to share the story of leaving Egypt with our children.

For a long time, Paraoh believed himself to be a god. After all, the Nile River came to his feet and he provided food to his humble servants and the whole land of Egypt. By Makat Arbeh however, all the grains of the field were destroyed and a terrible famine was felt throughout the land. Paraoh’s pride took a big hit, as “the mighty provider” proved to be powerless to feed anyone. The once superior Egyptians were now hopeless subjects with nowhere to turn.They came to realize that their “mighty Paraoh” was a phony, a mere mortal, a human being totally helpless to save even himself. He, like all of us, was subject to the mercy of the one true Gd, Hashem. Sharing these amazing insights with our children and depicting how Paraoh’s ego was deflated is sure to enhance our fulfillment of Sipur Yetziat Mitzrayim on Pesach.

After Makat Barad (plague of hail) descended, Mitzrayim looked like a war zone. The grass was ruined, broken trees blocked all the roads and walkways, and the crops of flax and barley were decimated. The Egyptians experienced tremendous shock at seeing the mass destruction before them, but the fact that wheat and buckwheat remained was a small consolation prize; miraculously these crops were spared from this horrific plague.

Alas, event his small pleasure quickly turned to sorrow as the plague of Arbeh eradicated all the crops in sight. R’ Shlomo Homner, who wrote Sefer Eved Hamelech, describes how the Egyptians prepared salted and pickled grasshoppers for dinner. They filed their storage houses with these delicacies only to get disappointed yet again when they flew away.The Jewish people laughed at the Egyptians and teased them saying, “How many grasshoppers did you eat today?”

In a similar fashion, the wild animals left the land after Makat Arov so that the Egyptians shouldn’t benefit from the skins. Measure for measure, Hashem mocked the Egyptians, who ridiculed the Jews during their enslavement in Egypt.

May we merit seeing true justice as Hashem shows us the final redemption and His name is sanctified before the world - Amen!