Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Story of the plagues = too complicated

Sorry, in advance. This won't be much of a post. For my own amusement, I'm just going to list some of the too many theories regarding too many issues that make the plague story such a tangled knot.

Why did God harden Pharoh's heart?
Machlokes Rishonim. At least five opinions.

What does it mean to "harden" someone's heart.
Machlokes Rishonim. At least five opinions.

What underlying message or theme were the plagues meant convey? Is there some pattern?
At least three opinions. Midrash: Order of an attacking army; Seforno: To teach three seperate lessons about the nature of God; Samson Raphael Hirsch: midah-kneged-midah for gerus, avdus and inuy.

Did the plague affect Egyptians only?
Midrash: Yes; Ibn Ezra: Only the last 7; Radvad: The Ibn Ezra is an ignoramus. Ignore him; Avi Ezer: The Ibn Ezra didn't write that; blame his wayward student.

Why did some plagues come with warnings?
Why are some plagues instigated by Aaron? I know the traditional answer, but it doesn't really work.

Did the magicians have real powers?
Midrash: Yes; Rashi: Yes; Ralbag: No; Abravanel: No; Samson Raphael Hirsch: No

Why is the number and order on the plagues in Pslam different from what's recorded in the Torah?
Psalms 78:43-51 lists seven plagues, and Psalms 105:27-36 refers to eight. Was Rabbi Judah's famous mnemonic device, detza"kh, ada"sh, be'aha"b, mean to reinforce the Torah's version, against the version recorded in Psalms?

Annual lament: I won't hear one speech this season that attempts to address any of these complexities. Instead, we'll get the official answer (by which I mean the most famous answer) as if its the only answer with no acknowledgment of the Sages who disagreed.

Search for more information about Toras Moshe at 4torah.com.

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