Israelis can be interesting people. I noticed that in the winter, no matter how cold it gets, some of them insist on wearing only a scarf, as if this scarf will magically protect their entire bodies. Over the years, I’ve seen that as they grow older, they realize that there are things called “coats” that are available and easy to use in the winter. Being from Chicago, I understand all too well the simple mathematical calculation: Cold = Cold, and one should bundle up.
I was surprised this past Shabbos night however. It was raining throughout the whole day and even a little on the way to shul. Right after davening, however, that rain turned into a sheet of hail. REAL strong hail. I haven’t been in such weather since I moved here. It amazed me how many people were standing by the door, without coats (BUT with their magic scarves), waiting for it to calm down.
I was hungry. I was from Chicago. I came prepared. I told my eight year-old son to suit up, for we’re going out. The wind was extremely strong, and the hail was not letting up. We had to yell at each other just to communicate. At one point I didn’t hear him. I turned around and saw that he was holding on to a fence for dear life as somebody who was walking behind us, was sheltering him from the hail. I ran back and he explained that every time he lifted his head to see where he was going, he would be hit with the hail. “Could we go wait in one of the buildings until it calms down?” he pleaded. “NO!” I replied. “We are MEN. We do not cry over things like hail stinging our faces! So what if your face is red and you can’t see a thing!” So, we marched home, me holding his hand to lead the way, and finally made it back home, where we truly enjoyed our chicken soup celebrating our victory over the hail.
Okay, on to Torah!
This week I was stopped by one of my non-religious neighbors. He had a question (this only happens in Israel where a secular Jew would have such a question): “How is it, all the plagues affected the Egyptians and not the Jews, yet, for the last plague, we needed to put up a sign on our doorposts so the plague wouldn’t hit the Jewish people. Why did they need a sign on the last one, but not the first nine?”
Pretty good question, no?
The answer lies in Shemos 12:13: “The blood shall be a sign for YOU upon the houses where you are…” Rashi explains that this sign was NOT for Hashem, nor the plague, but rather for the Jewish people, and contrary to all the images in our head, the blood was placed INSIDE the house and NOT on the outside.
Furthering my research, I saw that the Maom Loez brings in this Rashi and expounds a bit further. The Jewish people had no real merit to leave Egypt. Everything that has been done up until now, including the upcoming exodus was not because of the merit of the nation, but rather because Hashem made a promise to Avraham. However, He wanted that the nation should earn this right on their own. Therefore, He gave them the mitzvah of the Korbon Pesach (Pesach Offering). When they are sitting in their homes, and THEY see the blood on the door, they will be thinking of the laws of the Korbon Pesach and will be in a moment of true tshuvah. With THAT merit, they will be able to leave Egypt.
So, we see the last plague did not need a sign to separate Jew from Egyptian. Rather it served as a sign for US to be involved in tshuvah and to give us some merit to not only survive the plague, but to finally leave Egypt.
Have a great Shabbos!