Parshas Bo starts off with Hashem telling Moshe to go before Paroh. Even though, no matter what Moshe tells him, Paroh has hardened his heart and will not let Bnei Yisrael leave Mitzrayim, Moshe must still warn him of the impending makkah. However, the pesukim here are very confusing. In the first pasuk of the parshah, Hashem tells Moshe, “וַיֹּאמֶר יְ־הֹוָ־ה אֶל מֹשֶׁה בֹּא אֶל פַּרְעֹה כִּי אֲנִי הִכְבַּדְתִּי אֶת לִבּוֹ וְאֶת לֵב עֲבָדָיו לְמַעַן שִׁתִי אֹתֹתַי אֵלֶּה בְּקִרְבּוֹ” “And Hashem said to Moshe, ‘Come to Paroh, for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his servants stubborn so that I shall place these signs of Mine in his midst” (Shemos 10:1). Later on in pasuk 3, Moshe goes to Paroh and immediately tells him about the next makkah of Locusts. The Meforshim ask from where did Moshe know that the next makkah was Locusts without Hashem telling him anything about it? The Ramban explains that pasuk 2 hints to what the makkah would be. The pasuk says, “וּלְמַעַן תְּסַפֵּר בְּאָזְנֵי בִנְךָ וּבֶן בִּנְךָ אֵת אֲשֶׁר הִתְעַלַּלְתִּי בְּמִצְרַיִם...” “and so that you may relate in the ears of your son and your son’s son that I have amused Myself with Egypt…” (10:2), and it is specifically the part of “וּלְמַעַן תְּסַפֵּר בְּאָזְנֵי בִנְךָ וּבֶן בִּנְךָ” which hints to the next makkah. What exactly is the hint from this pasuk? What is the Ramban trying to tell us?
The Ramban in Pasuk 14 quotes Rabbeinu Chananel who says that if you look at the land of Egypt, no physical evidence remains of the makkos. The river is clear, the sun shines brightly every day, and the wild animal population is back to normal levels. There is no reason for anyone to suspect the makkos ever took place, that is except for one little thing. The pasuk says that once the locusts will leave Egypt when the plague is over, they will never again return in this manner. “…וַיָּנַח בְּכֹל גְּבוּל מִצְרָיִם כָּבֵד מְאֹד לְפָנָיו לֹא הָיָה כֵן אַרְבֶּה כָּמֹהוּ וְאַחֲרָיו לֹא יִהְיֶה כֵּן” “…and they (locusts) rested in the entire border of Egypt, very severely; before it there was never a locust-swarm like it and after it there will not be like it” (10:14). Rabbeinu Chananel explains that there will never be a swarm of locusts in Mitzrayim like this ever again, and even if locusts will happen to enter into the land, they will not eat a single bit of grain while they are there.
When the future generations of Mitzrayim notice this peculiarity, they will go to the elders of the generation and ask them to explain their phenomenon. The elders will have no choice but to tell over the entire story of the Plagues. This is what the pasuk is hinting when it says, “וּלְמַעַן תְּסַפֵּר בְּאָזְנֵי בִנְךָ וּבֶן בִּנְךָ”, that the next makkah will be the one which people of future generations will notice and through it, will learn about the miracles of the Plagues. The reason why the makkah had to be hinted to instead of being communicated directly is because Hashem wanted Paroh to do Teshuvah because he sinned against Hashem and not because the makkah pressured him into doing it. This would be a more complete way of doing Teshuvah. In order for Moshe to understand this, Hashem only hinted the makkah to him so Moshe would begin his rebuke of Paroh based on Paroh’s sins against Hashem and not influence him based on the makkah’s potential pressure.
However, the question still remains how Moshe knew that the makkah would be Locusts? Even if he would understand the hint Hashem gave him there were still many other possibilities of what the makkah could be! The Kli Yakar explains that throughout the makkos, everyone was affected the same except for the makkos of Barad (Hail) and Arbeh (Locusts). These two makkos destroyed all the crops so while the king would always have extra storehouses of grain to support himself, the people would slowly starve to death. This is why during all the makkos, the pasuk only mentions that Hashem hardened Paroh’s heart. When we get to the makkah of Barad, the pasuk says that he hardened Paroh’s heart and also his servant’s hearts. This was because this was the first makkah which affected the nation of Mitzrayim differently than Paroh and therefore the fact that they hardened their hearts is very different from Paroh. So in this week’s parshah, when Hashem tells Moshe that he has hardened the heart of Paroh and the hearts of his servants (see Pasuk1), Moshe knows that it must be connected again to the destruction of the grain which began by the Hail. There are two natural ways in which grain is destroyed, inclement weather (Barad) and by locusts. Once Barad has already happened, Moshe knows that the next one must be Arbeh. That is why in pasuk 7, Paroh’s servants plead with Paroh to call Moshe back and make a deal with him. Because for them, this makkah is actually life and death.
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