Transcribed by Michael Beller: Verse 6; Moses and Aaron come to Pharaoh and they warn him if you continue to refuse to send my nation out, then tomorrow I am going to bring these locust into your boundaries, and they warn him about how devastating this plague is going to be and, in fact, it will cause more devastation to their crops than will the devastation of hail in the previous plague, and then at the end of the verse it say “they turned and they went out from in front of Pharaoh”.
Verse 7; “so the servants of Pharaoh said to him ‘until when will this man be a snare? Send out the people let them serve God their Lord. Don’t you know yet that Egypt is destroyed?”
Verse 8; “so they brought back Moses and Aaron to Pharaoh and he said to them go serve God your Lord who is going with you? So Moses said, we want to go with the young, with our old, with our sons and with our daughters, with our flocks and with our herds we will go because we will have a feast for God. And Pharaoh says to him God should be with you just as I will send you, it’s all going to be bad. That’s not the way it’s going to happen let the young men go and they will serve God that’s what you want. And they were driven out of Pharaoh’s presence.”
There are two major questions to address. The first is the servants were saying to Pharaoh “don’t you know that Egypt is destroyed?” Pharaoh obviously feels compelled to answer them because he brings back Moses and Aaron to bargain with them again.
He confronts Moses and Aaron and he drives them out, and obviously he is not the one driving them out his servants are, so that means somehow in the second conversation the servants are convinced to give into Pharaoh and are no longer concerned about the destruction of Egypt.
This is the only time you find that Moses and Aaron are actually driven out, every other time Pharaoh listened and then walked away from them or he didn’t listen. So what is it that happened to make him drive them out?
The answer for the first question comes from the Ohr haChaim which says, “Do you want to see Egypt entirely destroyed before you send them out? Therefore send them out before we reach this point in which Egypt is destroyed and I decided that I would give some thought. Why eventually did they agree that Egypt should be destroyed and they stayed quiet?
In order to fully understand what is going on first we have to understand what is going on in Pharaoh’s mind is there such a total idiot in this world that be willing to put himself in so much pain and suffering and put himself in such danger. His gods were humiliated, his cattle were destroyed, everything that grew in the ground was destroyed, it’s as if he is looking at the end of his life in the face, it’s impossible to believe that he was such an idiot. Even if God hardened his heart that is his heart, what about his mind? If he is being stubborn there has to be some logic behind it so he can explain to his servants why he is being stubborn but if he realizes that he is being stubborn and there is no logic behind it then what is he doing? Why is he letting Egypt be destroyed/ all God is asking is to let the Jews go free for three days. What Pharaoh hears is that the Jews are only leaving temporarily, if so why is Pharaoh putting up such a fight?
If God is asking for 3 day that means God is not asking for them to leave permanently. That’s where God is leaving an opening for Pharaoh to make a mistake.
There are two ways for Pharaoh to respond to God asking to let the Jews out for three days. One way is to say that God is telling the truth and He only wants the Jews free for three days. The other possibility is that it is a trick, and God really does intend to take them out permanently, but then God is lying and why would God lie?
So why is God asking for three days if He wants to take them out permanently, unless God doesn’t have the power to take them out permanently and is not able to take care of them while they are out. So either God is telling the truth and He only wants them for three days or God is lying but he can’t force Pharaoh. In other words he has this great power but Pharaoh senses His limitation. God makes Pharaoh sense his vulnerability making him stand up to anything because he senses that vulnerability at one point, and even though he has no chance of getting to that vulnerability he will still not give in.
So Pharaoh and his men tend to think the worst therefore the stiffen their necks and they refuse to accept the word of God, that God doesn’t have the ultimate power, but after seven plagues the Egyptians begin to believe that maybe they were wrong and God only wants them for three days and He’s not lying.
So Pharaoh calls back Moses and Aaron and he says ill let you go for three days who’s going? What Pharaoh is trying to do is convince his servants that God is lying.
Moses tells Pharaoh that everyone is going, so Pharaoh asks why everyone if its only for three days. By doing so he is trying replant the idea that God is lying in the mind of his servants, showing that God doesn’t have the power to take them out Himself causing his servants to no longer argue.”
Why does Pharaoh throw out Moses and Aaron on this plague and not the others? The Mishivas Nefesh says “if you have two countries at war with each other, and one king sends a messenger to his opponent the recipient of the message will not torture the messenger, in fact he’ll give him food he’ll give him drink and send him back, because he is simply doing his job representing someone else. So as long and Moses and Aaron were representing God, Pharaoh wouldn’t drive them out, because his problem is with God. But when Pharaoh says that they can take the young men for three days, Moses answers him, he does not consult God, so he is no longer speaking for God in this moment. The moment Pharaoh thinks Moses is no longer speaking for God but instead for himself he feels free to drive Moses and Aaron out, because they are no longer messengers.
Verse 21-23; “and God said to Moses lift up your hand to heaven and there will be darkness over the land of Egypt, and the darkness will be felt. So Moses lifted up his hands to the heavens and there was a thick darkness over the land of Egypt for three days. No man could see his brother and no man could stand beneath himself (stand for three days), but for all the children of Israel there was light in their dwelling place.”
At the end of verse 21 you have this phrase “darkness that can be felt”, the Seforno says, “it doesn’t mean darkness that can be felt but it comes from the word ‘to remove’. It means that this darkness began by removing natural darkness. Why? The darkness of night as we know it is simply atmosphere waiting to receive light (the absence of light), and it is darkness simply because there is no light. But this darkness will be an atmosphere that is so thick it wont even be able to receive light that comes, and therefore it is not considered an absence of light, even the presence of light would not make a difference.”
The Seforno is also saying two other things here. One is that when you live in a world that has basic natural functions this is going to be the first plague that it totally against the force of nature. This will make Egypt realize that their entire physical existence is meaningless now.
The second is that light always represents God and darkness always represents evil or the absence of God’s light.
If you look at the verse that says, “ no man could see his brother and no man could stand beneath himself” why doesn’t it just say no man could stand up? The Ksav v’haKabbala says, “many wondered it is not the way of darkness to bind someone in chains so that they cannot even get up from the place in which they are. We see that blind people who live in darkness can feel around and they are able to move. If you’re going to say that it is because the air was so thick that people were not able to move, then I have to ask you something, how were they able to breath? And you shouldn’t say like the Ralbag, who says they wore nose plugs and they wore masks over their mouths because the air itself was poisonous. If they closed their noses and mouths for three days then how did they live? The word “from underneath” also means “frightened” so no man got up because they were so frightened of the darkness itself that they couldn’t rise for three days. The plague wasn’t even the darkness it was the fear. They were defeated by their own fear, and that’s the most painful thing for a human being to confront.”
The Torah Temima says; “it’s explained in the midrashim that the darkness was the thickness of a dinar (a coin) that’s unbelievable, how do you measure the thickness of darkness? You also have to wonder if it was a continuous three days and three nights of darkness that means that God changed course of nature, and yet God promised Noach there will not be an end to the flow of day and night. So how can you say that he did it in Egypt? And if I wasn’t scared to say something revolutionary, I would say like this; darkness had nothing to do with the atmosphere, they had cataracts. The Egyptians grew cataracts over their eyes that were a dinar thick, so it all makes sense.
Ramban; “and God spoke to Moses and Aaron in Egypt saying ‘this month shall be to you the beginning of the month and should be the first of all the months of the year’. The Jews should count Nissan as the first month, and from this month the Jews should count all the months until you finish twelve. Because when ever you say this is the second month, you mean second since Nissan so you are remembering that God took us out of Egypt during Nissan. And that is why the months don’t have any name in the torah. Now we use names for the month, those names came from Bavel.