This past Friday, my entire middle school went on our first Mitzvah Trip of the year. We packed food bags for kids who are less fortunate then us and are not guaranteed breakfast, lunch, and dinner like we are. After school about seventy kids go to an non-profit organization called Normandy Community Connections. The kids get tutoring, food, help with homework, and the opportunity to do fun sports for only $10 a month. They are all below the poverty line so it really helps to have an opportunity like this. They do this because their owner volunteered while in college and he really enjoyed helping others. He decided to do it full time, and now he owns Normandy Community Connections.
During Mitzvot, we studied this chapter- “וְאָכַלְתָּ, וְשָׂבָעְתָּ–וּבֵרַכְתָּ אֶת-יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, עַל-הָאָרֶץ הַטֹּבָה אֲשֶׁר נָתַן-לָךְ. 10 And thou shalt eat and be satisfied, and bless the LORD thy God for the good land which He hath given thee.” This teaches us to say the ברכת המזון. The rabbis asked a question: When are you satisfied? Different people are satisfied with different amounts of food. They came up with this answer: כזית Like an Olive. This means that to be satisfied and say the ברכת המזון you need to eat a piece of bread the size of an olive skin. Now you might not be full but you can say the ברכת המזון.
Rabbi Moshe Ben Maimonde or Maimonides or Rash’Bam, said that if you don’t say the ברכת המזון after eating you are like stealing from G-d because you aren’t thanking him for the wonderful food that he gave us. He also said to give some of our food to the less fortunate, which ties into our Mitzvah Trip. We gave bags of food, two for each child, to Normandy Community Connections to give to the children, who are less fortunate then us. It made me feel so good to pack and give the food bags to the kids. I know that they appreciated it a lot.
We just finished learning about מכת בכורות. The word בכורות means first born and the Egyptians’ first born sons died when the מלאך המות (the angel of Death) came through מצרים. Before the plague began, ה׳ promised משה that פרעה would finally give in and let them go. משה warned פרעה about מכת בכורות before the plague began. Before the plague all of the Jews had to cover their door posts in lamb blood. Our מזוזות remind us about the lamb blood that the Jews put on their doors. המלאך המות came overnight and killed all of the first born Egyptians and the first born Egyptian animals. פרעה awoke in the middle of the night to the sound of the Egyptians screaming and then he summoned משה ואהרון to his palace. There פרעה told them to leave Egypt with all of the nation and their animals. All of the first born Egyptians died that night, even פרעה’s own son! Why didn’t פרעה die during מכת בכורות, because he also was a first born? פרעה didn’t die because ה׳ wanted פרעה to realize that ה׳ is powerful and that he is the only god.
We are now learning about מכת חושך in our study of the ten plagues. חושך means darkness, but this plague doesn’t just mean that it is dark outside. The חושך blinded the Egyptians and their animals; they couldn’t even move! משה started this plague by lifting his מטה in the air and then ה׳ brought the plague. In the Torah it says that מכת חושך lasted 3 days twice. Rashi interpreted that by saying that מכת חושך lasted 6 days but some people think that it lasted only 3 days. How many days do you think מכת חושך lasted? During מכת חושך all of the Jews who didn’t believe that they would leave מצרים were killed and buried. The reason it was during מכת חושך is because the Egyptians would have said, “Oh. The Jews as dieing too.” and משה didn’t want that. At the end of the plague פרעה’s heart hardened; this is one of the last times that ה׳ will harden פרעה’s heart. Look for the next post on מכת בכורות (the last plague)!
We are learning about מכת ארבה. This plague is the plague of locust; the locust destroy all of the crops and trees in the שדה. Before this plague העובדים של פרעה actually tell פרעה to let the Jews go, but פרעה says no. משה starts this plague by lifting his מטה in the air and ה׳ brings the ארבה on a burst of רוח. Why did the ארבה come on a burst of רוח and not from eggs? Why didn’t they just hatch from eggs? If you have an idea please comment. Most פרשנים believe that this plague lasted about a week but nobody knows how long the plagues lasted except for מכת דם. How long do you think מכת ארבה lasted? פרעה’s heart hardened yet again; does nobody besides me think that it is creepy that פרעה hasn’t died yet. I mean if I was ה׳ I would have killed פרעה a long time ago. I think that ה׳ was trying to give פרעה opportunities to let the Jews go, but פרעה just wouldn’t listen. פרעה is as stubborn as a mule.
We are on מכת ברד! The word ברד means hail, but this is not any ordinary hail, this hail is giant flaming blocks of ice. משה starts this plague by lifting his מטה in the air, and then ה׳ made flaming ברד fall from the sky. Everyone was shocked that the ברד actually came, but it is not like they had no warning because משה ואהרון warned פרעה about מכת ברד. In ארץ מצרים (where the Egyptians lived) there was ברד everywhere, but in ארץ גושן (where the Jews lived) there was not one piece of ברד in sight. The ברד destroyed all of the plants in ארץ מצרים and it killed all of the מקנה and Egyptians in the שדה, but all of the מקנה and Egyptians in their houses didn’t necessarily die. Why did ה׳ kill all of the מקנה and Egyptians in the שדה but not in the ones in their houses? Well, it is because all of the people and מקנה in their houses showed a sign that they believed in ה׳ because they believed that ברד was really coming. All of the people and מקנה in the שדה didn’t believe that ברד would come so they stayed outside. Most פרשנים believe that מכת ברד lasted for about a week but nobody knows how many days any of the plagues lasted except for מכת דם. How many days do you think the plagues lasted? פרעה’s heart is extremely strong because it hardened even more and it still works. Wow!
We are on מכת שחין! This is the plague of puberty; just kidding, it is the plague of boils. ה׳ told משה how to help him start the plague, but they didn’t warn פרעה. The plan was for משה to throw פיח (soot, ashes) on פרעה and his advisors, and then ה׳ would give all of מצרים the present of שחין. Imagine going through another week of puberty! Even החרטומים של פרעה didn’t want to show their faces because even they couldn’t do the “dark magic” of שחין. Even פרעה was fed up and said the he would let the Jews go if משה stopped the plague. משה of course stopped שחין but פרעה did not let them go and (this is the miracle of life) his heart hardened😱😱😱😱😱.
We are on מכת דבר in our study of the ten plagues. דבר is cattle disease, so all of the מקנה of the Egyptians died. משה warned פרעה about this plague, but פרעה still didn’t let בני ישראל go. I mean המקנה give the Egyptians cheese, milk, ice cream, yogurt, pizza, cream cheese, butter, etc. If I was פרעה I would have let בני ישראל go because המקנה give the Egyptians many necessary things for life. But no, פרעה wanted servants and told them no, no, no, I will not let them go. So ה׳ brought on מכת דבר. During מכת דבר there was a “separation” between the Egyptians and בני ישראל in ארץ גושן (where בני ישראל lived) there was no animals were dead, but in מצרים animals were dropping like flies. I feel really bad for the Egyptians, because they had to see all of their מקנה die for an entire week! One of פרעה’s workers actually confirmed that בני ישראל’s מקנה were still alive, but פרעה was as stubborn as a mule and refused to let בני ישראל go. Miraculously, פרעה managed to harden his heart even more, it is probably darker than coal.
A few weeks ago a sofer סופר came to our school. A סופר is a person who fixes Torah scroll. His name is Rabbi Salazar. He told us about the things that he does. If there is a blended letter, he will use a special scratcher to scratch out the letter. After that he will use a נוצה-a quill or feather and special דיו-ink to rewrite the word in Torah font. The Torah needs to be made of all Kosher ingredients, so all of the components are either plant-based or the skin of a kosher animal. The קלף-parchment usually the skin of a cow but is also sometimes the skin of a deer. The דיו is plant-based and made with ingredients that range from tree bark to honey. We learned that there is no place to learn how to be a סופר. To become a סופר you become an apprentice to an experienced סופר and learn from them. It basically goes from one סופר to the next. The “teacher” must share all of the facts about fixing a Torah. They must share the recipe to make the דיו and practice with them until the apprentice can make it perfectly. I really learned a lot about being a סופר and I think that the rest of the class did too. Thank you Rabbi Salazar!
We are now learning about מכת ערוב in our study of the ten plagues. This is the first plague that gets deep. First of all ערוב means wild animals, so this is the plague of wild animals. It affected the מצרים and the ערוב even killed their animals. I would be scared to death if I was an Egyptian. Now let’s dive deeper into מכת ערוב. So far אהרון has started all of the plagues, but this time ה׳ started it. Also, פרעה said that he would allow בני ישראל to give a קרבן if משה stopped the plague. But, as soon as משה stopped מכת ערוב, he took took everything he said back. After a week of ערוב I would definitely let them give a קרבן, but פרעה is just too stubborn. Somehow his heart was still able to harden.
In מכת כינים a very important thing happens. Yah yah, אהרון started it, it affected פרעה המיצרים והבהמות של המיצרים, הלב של פרעה hardened, and it lasted about a week. But, החרטומים של פרעה finally realized that ה׳ is really working miracles. They said, ״אצבע א-לוהטים היא.״. That is a very famous line. Unfortunately, פרעה didn’t believe them and kind of shunned them.
I made a four slide comic strip like always. The first slide contains a picture of משה warning פרעה about מכת כינים. The second slide shows אהרון making הכינים. The third slide portrays החרטומים trying to duplicate, move, and get rid of הכינים (they weren’t able to do it). The last slide shows החרטומים telling פרעה ״אצבע א-לוהים היא.״. I hope you like it!