Parsha Questions

The Bloody Nile, Plague No. 1
The Bloody Nile, Plague No. 1

On Friday, I asked:

  • Why mention Elisheva’s brother? (and who is Elisheva…)
  • Why the Nile? Why was the first plague on the Nile?

1) Elisheva, who married Aaron the brother of Moses, was the brother of Nachshon Ben Aminadav. Why mention her brother? Because when you get married, you should check out your future wife’s brother (according to Rashi). So my husband said to my sons, he checked out my brother before marrying me, that’s how he knew he would have sons who love computer games. To which my middle son said, “And chess, too!”

2) Nile:
Raizy came up with a good answer:

Why was the first plague on the Nile? It was mida k’neged mida (direct retribution). The Egyptians threw newborn Jewish boys into the Nile, so now the Nile is being used to punish them in return.

Her second answer is similar to the one Rashi gives in 7:17 — the Egyptians worshiped the Nile, as the Egyptians were dependent on the rise of the Nile to water the land, as rain did not fall in Egypt. So God struck their deity.

Raizy adds: “So turning the holy water of the Nile into blood demonstrated that the God of Israel is more powerful than the gods and sacred places of Egypt. It was meant to instill fear and awe.”

Another answer is found in the Rashi of 8:17 with an aggadic story: God came against the Egyptians following the tactics of the wars of kings, in the order of measures a kingdom takes to when it lays siege to a city. At first it ruins the city’s springs of water (bloody Nile, as shown in the watercolor above). Afterwards the besieging forces sound and blow shofars at the inhabitants of the besieged city to scare them and confuse them. By the same token, the frogs croak and make noise, etc., as it says in Midrash Rabbi Tanchuma. The shofar blasts are followed by hails of arrows, comparable to lice. Then foreign mercenaries are sent in, like the mixture of wild beasts. The pestilence corresponds to a mass seizure of captives. This is followed by an attempt to burn the enemy out — the boils. The hail is like a bombardment of catapult stones. Next comes an attack by a large army (locusts). If the enemy does not surrender, they are held in prison (darkness). If the enemy is still not vanquished, its leaders are executed — the killing of the firstborn.

• • •

Here’s one more quicky that I learned from my son: how can you remember how many plagues are in Parshat Vaera and how many are in Bo? (hint: if you know gematria, that helps. Gematria is adding Hebrew letters as if they are numbers. So aleph is one, beit is two, and so on).

A reminder: just as we empty drops of wine on Passover because we are not allowed to rejoice over the death of the Egyptians in the sea, we are not allowed to enjoy the suffering of our enemies, even if they have created pain for us.

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