Torah Weekly

For the week ending 21 January 2012 / 25 Tevet 5772

Parshat Vaera

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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G-d tells Moshe to inform the Jewish People that He is going to take them out of Egypt. However, the Jewish People do not listen. G-d commands Moshe to go to Pharaoh and ask him to free the Jewish People. Although Aharon shows Pharaoh a sign by turning a staff into a snake, Pharaoh's magicians copy the sign, emboldening Pharaoh to refuse the request. G-d punishes the Egyptians and sends plagues of blood and frogs, but the magicians copy these miracles on a smaller scale, again encouraging Pharaoh to be obstinate. After the plague of lice, Pharaoh's magicians concede that only G-d could be performing these miracles. Only the Egyptians, and not the Jews in Goshen, suffer during the plagues. The onslaught continues with wild animals, pestilence, boils and fiery hail. However, despite Moshe's offers to end the plagues if Pharaoh will let the Jewish People leave, Pharaoh continues to harden his heart and refuses.


The Real Thing

“...and Aaron's staff swallowed their staffs.” (7:12)

You can’t fake the Real Thing.

When Aaron’s staff swallowed the staffs of the Egyptian sorcerers in front of the king it became clear who was authentic and who was not.

Jewish history has been plagued by other movements purporting to be the Real Judaism.

The most successful of these is undoubtedly Christianity, but there have been many others who have tried to authenticate themselves as the ‘real’ Judaism. Some break away from normative Judaism and change their name, and some try to usurp the authority of the Torah Sages and call their beliefs ‘Judaism’.

During the Ottoman Empire, the Karaites attempted to gain recognition for themselves as the ‘authentic Jews’.

They approached the Sultan, wanting to be recognized as the legitimate ‘People of Israel’, and that the Jewish People should be disenfranchised as being fakes.

The Sultan summoned a representative of both the Karaites and a Rabbi to appear in front of him at the royal palace. After hearing both their cases, he would decide who was the authentic “People of the Book”.

Of course, as was the custom of the east, both the Karaite and the Rabbi were required to remove their shoes before appearing in front of the Sultan. The Karaite removed his shoes and left them by the entrance to the throne room. The rabbi also removed his shoes, but then he picked them up and carried them with him into the audience with the Sultan.

When the Sultan looked down from his throne he was struck by the somewhat strange sight of the Rabbi holding a pair of shoes, and he demanded an explanation.

“Your Majesty.” began the Rabbi “As you know, when the Holy One, may His Name be blessed, appeared to our teacher Moses, peace be upon him, at the site of the burning bush, G-d told Moses, “Take off your shoes from on your feet!”

“We have a tradition,” said the Rabbi, “that while Moses was speaking to the Holy One, a Karaite came and stole his shoes! So, now, whenever we are in the company of Karaites we make sure to hold onto our shoes!”

The Karaite turned to the Rabbi and blustered, “That’s nonsense! Everyone knows that at the time of Moses, there were no Karaites!”

The Rabbi allowed time for what the Karaite had said to sink in, and then quietly added, “Your Majesty, I don’t believe there is a need for more to be said.”

You can’t fake the Real Thing.

  • Source: Heard from Rabbi Zev Lef

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