Skip to main content

Thought for the Day: Signs and Wonders; What's the Difference?

Imagine you went to the president of the bank that holds the  mortgage on your house.  You just push past the secretary, walk into his office, pull out a sealed deck of cards, and say, "I am going to open this sealed box of cards in front of you.  You will pick a card -- any card -- and I will be able to tell you what card you picked.  Then you will forgive my mortgage or I'll levitate your secretary!"  How likely is that to work?

Yet that seems to be pretty much what is happening in the beginning of Sh'mos.  Moshe goes into Paroh, does some cool stuff, then Paroh's magicians mostly repeat them (but probably as sleight of hand tricks, suggests the Sporno).  Moreover, when HaShem instructed Moshe to command Paroh to release Klal Yisrael, HaShem also reminded Moshe that, "I will harden Paroh's mind and multiply My signs (ososai) and My wonders (mofsai) in the land of Egypt."  (Sh'mos 7:3)  If the point is to spring Klal Yisrael from Egyptian servitude, then just levitate them out of there, for goodness sakes.  But there is a rule that HaShem doesn't like to do miracles, you say.  Well... I would say that y'tzi'as mitrzayim is pretty much the granddaddy of all exceptions to that rule; nu?

In point of fact, getting Klal Yisrael out of Mitzrayim was not the point.  Rather, the point is: "The Egyptians will know that I am HaShem."  (Sh'mos 7:5)  HaShem is introducing Himself and His beloved nation (b'ni b'chori yisrael) to the world.  Each "os" and "mofes" is part of that plan.  So; what's and "os" and what's a "mofes"?  The Sporno says an "os" (sign) is to demonstrate that the one performing the sign is a true and reliable messenger of HaShem.  A "mofes" (wonder), on the other hand, is to demonstrate an aspect of HaShem's control and management of reality.  Mostly you will see the term "os" used in relation to klal yisrael, who don't need any demonstration of who/what HaShem is, but do need to be convinced that Moshe is His true/reliable messenger.  On the other hand, "mofes" is usually used in relation to the Egyptians, who need to be taught the lesson of who HaShem is, but we don't really care what they think about Moshe (who is just one more Jewish problem to them).  The Sporno notes, moreover, that one action can be both an "os" and a "mofes", since it depends on the intended receiver.


Popular posts from this blog

Thought for the Day: Battling the Evil Inclination on all Fronts

Yom Kippur.  When I was growing up, there were three annual events that marked the Jewish calendar: eating matzos on Passover, lighting candles on Chanuka, and  fasting on Yom Kippur.  Major news organizations around the world report on the "surreal" and "eerie" quiet of the streets in even the most secular neighborhoods of Israel.  Yom Kippur.

As you know, I am observant of Jewish law.  Some have even called me "ultra orthodox" (not in a kind way).  Given that, I have a question.  How likely do you think that I would be tempted to eat on Yom Kippur, that most holy day of the year?  Let's make the scale zero to ten, where zero is "as likely as driving through McDonald's on Shabbos and ordering a Big Mac with extra cheese." and ten is "as likely as breathing regularly".  Take your time.  If you answered "zero"; thank you, but -- sadly and penitently -- no.  The answer is more like nine; I'd like to say lower, but i…

Thought for the Day: Sometimes a Food Loses Its Identity When It Loses Its Bracha; Sometimes It Doesn't

Let's start with a question: Why are We Allowed to Drink Coffee and Whiskey Made by Non-Jews?  Before you ask,"Why would I think that I shouldn't be able to drink whiskey and coffee made by non-Jews?", I'll tell you. Simple, we all know that Chazal made a decree -- known as בישול עכו''ם/bishul akim -- that particular foods cooked by non-Jews are forbidden.  There are basically two criteria that determines if a dish falls into this category:
Is not consumed raw.Fit for a royal banquet. Cooked carrots, therefore, are not a problem since they can be eaten raw (I actually prefer them that way).  Baked beans are find because the are not prestigious enough.  (For great synopsis of the laws, see the article on the Star-K site, FOOD FIT FOR A KING, by Rabbi Moshe Heinemann, shlita.)  There are lots of cool questions and details (baked potatoes are prestigious, does that make even potato chips and issue?) which are for another time.  Clearly, though, both coffee an…

Thought for the Day: Coming Into This World for Torah, Avodah, and Acts of Loving Kindness

This TftD is so self-serving that I should be embarrassed.  But I am not... talking about grandchildren is always off budget.  I have, bli ayin hara, a beautiful new grandson; born at 6:11 PM CDT last Friday night.  The secular (aka -- by me, anyway -- slave) date is October 20, 2017 CE.  The Hebrew (aka Real) date is certainly Rosh Chodesh חשון/Cheshvan and certainly in the year 5778 since Creation.  The date, you ask... good question!

Sundown on Friday night was 6:01 PM CDT, which means he was born either at the end of the last day of תשרי or the beginning of the first day of Cheshvan; a period know as בין השמשות/twilight.  What's the big deal, you ask... I am so glad you asked.  We all deal quite handily with בין השמשות every week and every holiday; we're just stringent.  We start Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov before בין השמשות; that is, before sundown.  Likewise, we end Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov after בין השמשות; some 42, 50, 60, or 72 minutes after sundo…