Parshas VaEira - Blood Money

By Rabbi Zvi Teichman

Posted on 01/03/19

Parshas HaShavua Divrei Torah sponsored by
Dr. Shapsy Tajerstein, DPM - Podiatry Care.
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The onslaught begins. The Almighty unleashes a series of ten plagues that will reveal to a world that has descended to darkness, the truth of His mastery of the universe. Theses ten plagues correspond to the ten utterances the world was created with, since its intent is to restore this absolute truth. A perfect world that began its descent as a result of the first sin committed by Adam and Chava, followed in suit by the faulty generations of the flood, deluge and denizens of Sodom and Amorah, would now revive through the Children of Israel, the beloved descendants of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs, who would bear the original mission of Man by leaving Egypt and journey to Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments, and the full Torah embodied within it, that would express G-d’s original intent in creation.

Each of the plagues is an assault against those who have corrupted this truth in attempting to exert power and control alleging total independence from a Higher Power, claiming their exclusive control of their own destiny.

These plagues will not only exhibit G-d’s domination of all forces in the world but will punish the Egyptians in the manner of ‘measure for measure’, being precisely sent to exact from them retribution for their specific abuses they foisted upon the Jewish people.

The Midrash reveals that the transforming of all bodies of water into blood was meant to reprove them for having prevented the Jewish wives from immersing in water to purify themselves from the defilement of Niddah, that cruelly disabled them from returning to family life with their spouses. These entities of water would now come to taunt them in kind, crippling them from any of the life supporting benefits of water, chief among them the drinking and nourishing of their bodies from these vital waters.

Rabbeinu Bechaye points out it is for this reason that the Torah explicitly mentions the length of a seven-day plague exclusively by Blood to intimate its parallel to the weeklong impurity of a Niddah.

Although restricting the women from immersing in water was certainly a painful reality, but was this appropriately the very first crime, among the long list of heinous offenses, to be dealt with? What about the killing of their babies? The torturous backbreaking labor? Risking their lives by sending them into areas infested with man-eating animals? The pressing of children into walls to supplant the quota of bricks? What is it about this agony that warrants it being addressed first?

The Midrash also mentions another fascinating detail that made this plague unique.

The Egyptians were literally dying of thirst as the verse states this plague lasted a week. How did they survive? The Midrash relates how although when the Egyptians attempted to drink from the clear water in the Jewish-owned vessels, the water nevertheless turned into blood, however, when they proffered money to purchase the water it would remain freshwater. The Jews took advantage of the situation during this time and became very wealthy.

It seems that the stereotype of the Jewish capitalist goes back to the onset of our journey as a nation. What is the message?

The first sin of man, we are taught, was due to a lack of appreciation of Chava by Adam. After Adam was challenged by G-d as to why he sinned, he immediately blames it on his wife, emphasizing in his response to G-d, “that You gave me”. As a result of her not being valued she became vulnerable to the seductions of the snake. And the rest is history.

Amongst the punishments meted out to Adam and Chava, was the impurity of Niddah. Every month a couple would have to remain physically apart. This wasn’t meant to create greater distance but rather to remove the physicality that bonds them, often inaccurately, and give them time to perceive each other more truthfully, focusing on the person they truly are, the greatness that resides within them, removing from the equation the mutual pleasure they may receive from one another.

The refusal to properly appreciate an individual lead us down the path of not only destroying the relationships of those closest to us but invades and infects our attitude towards everyone at large. We become preoccupied with our own needs, ultimately becoming insensitive at best or abusive at worst, to those in our social circle or in our employ, blinded by selfish need and ambition.

That is precisely where the decadent Egyptians ended up, eventually treating their ‘slaves’ worse than they would their animals.

When the owners of the Jewish slaves came begging for water in desperation one can only imagine the reluctance of these tortured slaves to have pity on them. The Egyptians obviously offered to pay for the water. The great Maggid Reb Sholom Shvadron would animatedly describe these negotiations adding that proportionate to the level of pain and agony they inflicted on their slave was the price the Jewish slave placed on the water.

This activity was a lesson to their owners to gain renewed appreciation for their charges and begin to fathom the insensitivity they foisted on these poor souls. It was the very first step in bringing humanity back to G-d’s original plan, and correctly the point from where to begin that ascent.

The illustrious disciple of the holy Baal Shem, Reb Yaakov Yosef of Polana, suggested in jest, that when the Torah states והיה דם בכל ארץ מצרים (שמות ז יט), there shall be blood throughout the land of Egypt, the word דם, can alternately mean ‘value’, as the word used for ‘money’ is יםדמ, alluding to the opportunity to rake in the money as illustrated in the Midrash.

Perhaps it is no joke, and the Torah is teaching us to look deeper in the value of things, appreciating them not in light of the gain it brings but, in the opportunities, it brings each one of us to utilize those values in positive ways in restoring our world to those idyllic days in Gan Eden.


צבי יהודה טייכמאן