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The Last Straw

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Topic: The Last Straw

Joe Seruya wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

In Parashat Bo, Pharaoh reacts more strongly to the locusts than to any other plague, saying to Moses, "just take away this death." How come, of all the plagues, Pharaoh reacted this way only to the locusts, calling them "death" and saying "just take them away?"

Dear Joe Seruya,

Great question. Locust was the eighth of the ten plagues. I think in a very simple sense we can say that the plagues built one upon the other until they finally became too much to bear. We see this as well from Pharaoh's advisors, who finally urged Pharaoh prior to the locust to let the Jews go by saying "don't you realize that Egypt is destroyed?"

And remember that the locust were eating everything that the hail left over, creating a total famine. Even if food were imported, perhaps the locust would eat that too.

That having been said, I'll tell you a beautiful insight of my colleague. He said, citing Rav Tzadok Hakohen, that between the hail and the locust the land began to bud again. As awful as the hail was, the sign of renewed life gave the Egyptians renewed hope.

We have experienced this phenomenon in our own times: Some Holocaust survivors have reported that during times of desperation, seeing grass and leaves budding gave them renewed hope and courage in their own ability for renewal. The first thing Kovna Jews did after emerging from weeks of hiding in underground cellars was to bend down and feel the grass with amazement.

So, when the locust came and ate every blade of grass, leaf and bud, it totally wiped out the Egyptians' last bit of hope. It was the "last straw."

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