Reading: Exodus 6:2 – 9:35
Haftara: Ezekiel 28:25 – 29:21
Parsha Summary – Vaera
God Commands Moses to Deliver the Israelites
God tells Moses that He is the Lord that appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and that He promised to give them the land of Canaan. He says that He has heard the children of Israel crying and has remembered His promise, and will redeem them with an outstretched arm. God promises to take the Israelites as His people and to bring them to the land He promised their fathers.
Moses Asks for Help
Moses speaks to the Israelites but they do not listen. God tells Moses to tell Pharaoh to release the Israelites. Moses asks God why He thinks Pharaoh will listen to him if the people wouldn’t, especially when he has a speech problem. God tells Moses to tell Pharaoh that He speaks to him; Moses again asks why Pharaoh would listen.
God Gives Moses and Aaron Signs
God tells Moses that together with Aaron, he will demand Pharaoh release the Israelites. He warns them that He will harden Pharaoh’s heart against them, but that God will multiply His signs and wonders and free the people.
Moses and Aaron Go to Pharaoh
Aged 80 and 83 respectively, Moses and Aaron go to Pharaoh. Aaron throws down his staff and it becomes a snake; Pharaoh summons his magicians who perform the same trick – but Aaron’s snake eats the Egyptians’. Pharaoh’s heart hardens and he does not listen to the prophets.
The Ten Plagues
God tells Moses to go to the water where Pharaoh bathes in the morning and demand that he free the Israelites. He says that Moses should tell Aaron to smite the water with his staff: the water will turn to blood, the fish will die, and the Egyptians will not be able to drink the water.
They do as God commands but Pharaoh’s magicians can replicate the trick with spells. Pharaoh’s heart hardens against the Israelites and the blood lasts for a week.
Pharaoh tells Moses to return to Pharaoh and demand the Israelites’ freedom, and warns that if the king refuses, He will bring a plague of frogs. Aaron stretches his hand over the river and frogs appear and spread over Egypt. Pharaoh’s magicians also bring frogs out from the land.
Pharaoh summons Moses and Aaron and says that if God takes the frogs away from the Egyptians, he will let the Israelites go so they can worship their God. Moses speaks to God and the frogs die out, but Pharaoh changes his mind and does not free the people.
On God’s orders, Aaron stretches his staff out over the land. He smites it and the dust becomes lice which cover every man and animal. The magicians cannot copy the trick and tell Pharaoh that this is the hand of God. Pharaoh’s heart hardens again.
God tells Moses to return to Pharaoh and ask him to release the people. He warns him that if Pharaoh refuses, he will send wild beasts across all of Egypt except for Goshen, where the Israelites live. The animals spread and decimate Egypt, and Pharaoh tells Moses to go (with the people) and make sacrifices to their God. God removes the wild animals, but Pharaoh hardens his heart again.
God tells Moses to go back to Pharaoh and tell him to let His people go, and warns that if the Egyptian king refuses, He will bring a plague of pestilence against all of Egypt’s cattle, horses, donkeys, camels, cows, and sheep but leave Israel’s animals untouched. All the Egyptian livestock dies, but Pharaoh remains stubborn and refuses to free the Israelites.
God tells Moses and Aaron to throw handfuls of soot towards heaven. It turns into pus-filled boils which cover every Egyptian person and animal. This time, Pharaoh’s magicians cannot even try to copy the trick because of the sores. God hardens Pharaoh’s heart and the king ignores the prophets.
God tells Moses to go to Pharaoh early in the morning and tell him to let His people go, with the threat of more plagues to come. He warns him that He will bring a terrible hail storm down on Egypt and that any animal or beast left outdoors will die because of it. Pharaoh ignores the warning. Moses stretches out his hand and an almighty fiery hail falls on the earth and destroys every plant, person, and animal left outside. No hail falls on the Jews in Goshen.
Pharaoh tells Moses that he and his people are sinners, and entreats Moses to end the storm in exchange for the Israelites’ freedom. Moses says he will end the storm, but doesn’t believe that Pharaoh fears God. The storm stops: Pharaoh again hardens his heart and refuses to let the Israelites leave.