Parshas Vaeira contains the first seven of the Ten Makkos. Each makkah was specifically designed to target a different area of resistance for the Egyptians until they would finally give in and let the Bnei Yisrael leave. The meforshim go in depth on each makkah and bring out many different ideas. However, it’s not just from the makkos themselves that we learn new ideas, the circumstances around them teach us new things as well.
By several of the Makkos, Paroh asks Moshe to daven to Hashem to remove the makkah from his people. The makkos were Frogs, Wild Animals, Hail, and Locusts (found in next week’s parsha). And by each one, Moshe agrees to daven for him. The last makkah in this week’s parsha, Barad/Hail, includes something more than the other ones. “וַיֹּ֤אמֶר אֵלָיו֙ משֶׁ֔ה כְּצֵאתִי֙ אֶת־הָעִ֔יר אֶפְרֹ֥שׂ אֶת־כַּפַּ֖י אֶל־יְהֹוָ֑ה הַקֹּל֣וֹת יֶחְדָּל֗וּן וְהַבָּרָד֙ לֹ֣א יִֽהְיֶה־ע֔וֹד” “Moshe said to him (Paroh), ‘When I leave the city I shall spread out my hands to Hashem; the thunder will cease and the hail will no longer be” (Shemos 9:29). Rashi explains that by this makkah Moshe had to leave the city in order to daven since it was full of Egyptian avoda zara and Moshe didn’t want to daven in such an environment.
The Sifsei Chachamim asks a simple question on this Rashi. If the idolatry of Egypt prevented Moshe from davening in the city, how come it didn’t affect his tefillos by the Frogs and Wild Animals? Why was this time different? He provides two answers.
First, by Barad, Paroh insisted Moshe daven immediately since the Barad was terrifying everyone. So Moshe needed to explain to him that he would not be able to daven immediately as he first had to leave the city. However, by the previous two instances, Moshe did not daven until the next day after meeting Paroh. Therefore, he didn’t need to tell Paroh where he would be when he would daven, since it wouldn’t make any difference.
The second answer is as follows. We know that the avoda zara of the Egyptians was the sheep. Even though the sheep is an animal we utilize as well, even while we were still in Egypt, any that were being used for idol worship had to be treated like the avoda zara that they were. As long as they were around the city, Moshe couldn’t daven there. However, on a normal day, the sheep would be taken outside the city to graze, leaving the city empty of avoda zara. So by the first two times Moshe was asked to daven, he was able to stay in the city since the sheep weren’t around. However, before bringing the hail upon the Egyptians, Hashem had told Moshe to warn them to bring all their livestock into the house or they would be killed by the storm. There were many people who feared Hashem and decided to heed Moshe’s warning, meaning, that when Moshe went now to daven, he was in a city full of sheep! Therefore, only now was it necessary for him to leave the city. So now that Moshe says he has to leave the city since this was the only time he actually did!
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