Parashat Vaera

Through Moses and Aaron, God brings plagues on the Egyptians, and Pharaoh repeatedly refuses to allow the Israelites to leave.

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The Lord said to Moses, "Tell Pharaoh that this time I shall send all My plagues upon him and his people in order that Pharaoh may know that there is none like Me in all the world. Tell him that I could have killed him by now, but I have spared him to show My power so that My fame may resound throughout the world. Tell him that this time tomorrow I shall rain down a heavy hail such has never been seen before and to bring the livestock inside shelter."

Pharaoh's Heart Hardens Once Again

The courtiers who feared God brought their livestock inside and those who did not fear God left them out in the open. Then thunder and hail and fire streamed down on the ground of Egypt. Anything in the open was struck down, as well as all the grasses and trees. Only in the region of Goshen where the Israelites stayed, there was no hail.

Pharaoh then sent for Aaron and Moses and said, "I am guilty this time. The Lord is in the right and my people are wrong. Plead with the Lord to end this thunder and hail and I will let you go."

Moses replied, "As I go out of the city I shall spread out my hands to the Lord. Then the thunder and hail will cease and you will know that the earth is the Lord's. But I know that you and your courtiers do not yet fear the Lord God." And Moses did as he said but when Pharaoh saw the hail and thunder cease, he reverted to his guilty ways. Pharaoh's heart stiffened and he would not let the Israelites go, just as the Lord had foretold through Moses.

Questions For Discussion

1. What does it mean that God will take the Israelites as God's people? Are not all people God's people? Why or why not?

2. What does it mean the God placed Moses in the role of god to Pharaoh? What is the difference between God (upper case G) and a god (lower case g)? How can anyone be "a god" to someone? Is there anyone in your life who is "a god" to you?

3. How is Aaron a prophet? What is a prophet? Is there a difference between Moses as a prophet and Aaron as a prophet? If so, what?

4. The text says that God hardened Pharaoh's heart. How does God do this? Is it possible to separate God hardening Pharaoh's heart from Pharaoh making this decision himself? If so, how?

5. Do you believe God could make such plagues? Can God still make such plagues? Do you think there are plagues today that God makes? If so, what are the plagues God is making today?

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Nancy Reuben Greenfield

Nancy Reuben Greenfield has written three adaptations of the Torah, including an
interactive family version at, and an engaging
Jewish immigrant novel, The Golden Medina, available on itunes and Amazon.