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Parshas VaEira - Staff Meeting

By Reb Eliezer Bulka

Posted on 01/12/18

In order to give Paroah a warning for the plague of blood, (7:15) Moshe is told to meet Paroah at the Nile and hamateh asher nehpach lenachash tikach beyadecha, the staff that was turned into a snake you shall take in your hand. This command begs the question, whose staff is it anyway? A staff was turned into a snake twice, once in front of B'nei Yisrael and once in front of Paroah. It would seem that in front of B'nei Yisrael, Moshe used his own staff, just as it was clearly used in the demonstration in front of the burning bush. From pasuk 9, it appears that the staff used in front of Paroah was Aharon's. Which one, then, is being referred to in this pasuk?


Klei Yekar on pasuk 9 points out that Moshe's staff turned into a nachash while Aharon's turned into a tanin. He then goes on to explain the difference between the two. Since our pasuk reads hamateh asher nehepach lenachash and not hamateh asher nehepach lesanin, it would seem that the staff being referred to is Moshe's. Ibn Ezra, however, holds that even the staff that was used in front of Paroah was Moshe's. According to this, it would seem to leave no doubt that the staff was Moshe's. [It is noteworthy, however, that when the signs are in fact performed in front of B'nei Yisrael, (4:30), it seems to be Aharon who performed them. Why this would be is a question unto itself. But if Aharon was the one who performed them, perhaps it is not so simple that Moshe's staff was used.]


Nevertheless, Targum Yonasan here states outright that it was Aharon's staff to be brought to the Nile. In Tosafos HaShaleim, an interesting reasoning for this is brought. Moshe's staff had HaShem's name etched on it. Rashi here tells us that Paroah was found at the Nile bank each morning to relieve himself. Therefore, taking Moshe's staff with HaShem's name on it would have been like taking a sefer into the bathroom, or worse. So, it had to be Aharon's staff that was brought to the Nile.


Another puzzling fact to consider is that, as every school child learns at a very young age, it was certainly Aharon, not Moshe, who ultimately carried out the plague of blood. Netziv, in Ha'amek Davar, makes this point but asserts that it was still Moshe's staff that is the subject of this command. Subsequently (7:17), regarding the exact wording of the warning, he provides a rather creative interpretation of how the events unfolded. Even though it was Aharon who hit the Nile with his staff, the actual plague was carried out by HaShem through the staff in Moshe's hand.