The Weekly Torah portion in synagogues on Shabbat, Saturday, 1 Shevat, 5777—January 28, 2017
“I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, that I may multiply My signs and marvels in the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 7:3.)
God spoke to Moses, identified Himself as the God of the Patriarchs, and acknowledged hearing the moaning of the Israelites. God instructed Moses to tell the Israelites that God would free them, make them God’s people, and bring them to the Promised Land. But the Israelites would not listen. God told Moses to tell Pharaoh to let the Israelites go, but Moses complained that Pharaoh would not heed him, a man of impeded speech.
The text interjects the genealogy of Moses and his family.
God placed Aaron in the role of Moses’ prophet, to speak to Pharaoh. God intended to harden Pharaoh’s heart, so that God might show signs and marvels. God told how Aaron could cast down his rod and it would turn into a snake, and Aaron did so before Pharaoh. Pharaoh caused his magicians to do the same, but Aaron’s rod swallowed their rods. Pharaoh’s heart stiffened.
God began visiting ten plagues on Egypt. God told Moses to go to Pharaoh at his morning bath, demand of him to let the Israelites go to worship in the wilderness, and have Aaron strike the Nile with his rod and turn it into blood. Moses and Aaron did so, and the fish died and the Nile stank. But when the Egyptian magicians did the same, Pharaoh’s heart stiffened.
Seven days later, God told Moses to have Aaron hold his arm with the rod over the river and bring up frogs, and they did so. The magicians did the same. Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron to plead with God to remove the frogs; Moses did so, but Pharaoh became stubborn.
God told Moses to have Aaron strike the dust with his rod, to turn it to lice throughout the land, and they did so. The magicians tried to do the same, but they could not. The magicians told Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God!” But Pharaoh’s heart stiffened.
God loosed swarms of insects against the Egyptians, but not Goshen, where the Israelites dwelt. Pharaoh told Moses and Aaron to go sacrifice to God within Egypt, but Moses insisted on going three days into the wilderness. Pharaoh agreed, in exchange for Moses’ prayer to lift the plague. But when God removed the insects, Pharaoh became stubborn again.
God struck the Egyptian’s livestock with a pestilence, sparing the Israelites’ livestock. But Pharaoh remained stubborn.
God told Moses to take handfuls of soot from the kiln and throw it toward the sky, so that it would become a fine dust, causing boils on man and beast throughout Egypt, and he did so. But God stiffened Pharaoh’s heart.
God told Moses to threaten Pharaoh with hail. Those who feared God’s word brought their slaves and livestock indoors. God sent thunder and hail, which struck down all exposed in Egypt, but did not strike Goshen. Pharaoh confessed his wrong, agreed to let the Israelites go, and asked Moses and Aaron to pray to end the hail. Moses did so, but Pharaoh reverted to his guilty ways.
Hear the parshah chanted
Commentary from the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at the American Jewish University (Conservative)
Commentary from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America (Conservative)
Commentary by the Conservative Yeshiva
Commentary by the Union for Reform Judaism (Reform)
Commentaries from Project Genesis (Orthodox)
Commentaries from Chabad.org (Orthodox)
Commentaries from Aish HaTorah (Orthodox)
Commentaries from the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation (Reconstructionist)
Commentaries from My Jewish Learning (trans-denominational)