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image credit: The plague of blood” from “The Golden Haggadah,” Catalonia, early.

This week Daniel and Karl are joined by Robin Holland for their discussion of Exodus Chapter 7.  The plagues begin!  There are magical battles between the Levite Bros. and Pharaoh!  And we get to ask questions about free will, systems of dominance, and the natural creation.

You can listen by using the player below or by subscribing through iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.  Scroll down to read the midrash we discussed in today’s episode.

Exodus 7

(Rashi, 7:1) נתתיך אלהים לפרעה This signifies I have made thee a judge and castigator — to castigate him with plagues and pains.


(Rashi, 7:1) יהיה נביאך [AARON] SHALL BE THY PROPHET — This must be understood as the Targum takes it: thy interpreter. Similarly, wherever this term of נבואה is mentioned it refers to a man who publicly proclaims and utters to the people words of reproof. It is of the same derivation as, (Isaiah 57:19) “utterance (ניב) of the lips”; (Proverbs 10:31) “it utters (ינוב) wisdom”; (I Samuel 10:13) “he made an end of proclaiming (התנבות)”, which is in the book of Samuel. In old French we call him predicar; English preacher.


(Rashi, 7:3) ואני אקשה AND I WILL ALLOW [PHARAOH’S HEART] TO HARDEN — Since he has wickedly resisted Me, and it is manifest to Me that the heathen nations find no spiritual satisfaction in setting their whole heart to return to Me penitently, it is better that his heart should be hardened in order that My signs may be multiplied against him so that ye may recognise My divine power.


(Midrash Tanchuma, Vaera 3) Nevertheless, in the case of the first five plagues it is not stated, “The Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart” but “Pharaoh’s heart was hardened” .


(Rashi, 7:4) את ידי this must be translated literally, “hand”, (not “power”) I will lay My hand upon Egypt to smite them.


(Midrash Rabbah) Aaron threw down his rod before Pharaoh, and it turned into a snake. Pharaoh summoned the wise men and sorcerers of Egypt . . . each threw down his rod, and they turned into snakes (7:10–12)

Pharaoh began to mock them and crow at them like a chicken, saying to them: “So these are the signs of your G‑d! It is usual for people to take goods to a place which has a shortage of them; but does one import brine into Apamea, or fish into Acco? Are you not aware that all kinds of magic are within my province?” He then called for children to be brought from school, and they also performed these wonders.

Said Moses: “To Herbtown one carries herbs.”


(Exodus Rabbah 9:9 ; Rashi, 7:17) ונהפכו לדם AND THEY SHALL BE TURNED INTO BLOOD — Because rain does not fall in Egypt but the Nile rises and irrigates the land and the Egyptians on this account worshipped the Nile, therefore God first smote their deity and afterwards smote them..


(Mishnat Rabbi Eliezer) G‑d spoke to Moses: “Say to Aaron, ‘Take your rod, and stretch out your hand upon the waters of Egypt’” (7:19)

The first three plagues—blood, frogs and lice—were brought on by Aaron. For G‑d said to Moses: The waters which protected you when you were cast into the River, and the soil which protected you when you buried the Egyptian—it is not fitting that they should be afflicted by your hand. Therefore, I shall afflict them through Aaron.


(Midrash Rabbah) In vessels of wood and in vessels of stone (7:19)

If an Egyptian and an Israelite were in one house where there was a barrel full of water, and the Egyptian went to fill a pitcher, he would discover that it contained blood; but the Israelite would drink water from the same barrel. If the Egyptian said to him, “Draw me some water with your own hand,” and the Israelite gave it to him, it became blood. Even if he said to him, “Let us both drink from one vessel,” the Israelite would drink water but the Egyptian would drink blood. Only when he had bought the water from the Israelite for money was the Egyptian able to drink water, and in this way the Israelites became rich.


(Midrash Rabbah) Seven days were completed, after G‑d had smitten the River (7:25)

With each of the plagues, Moses would warn them for 24 days, and the plague itself would last seven days.