SALT - Monday, 27 Tevet 5781 - January 11, 2021

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  • Rav David Silverberg
            The Torah in Parashat Vaeira (7:23) relates that after the first plague which God brought upon Egypt, the plague of blood, “Pharaoh turned away and went home, and he did not pay any attention” (7:23).  At first glance, it appears that the Torah mentions that Pharaoh “went home” to emphasize his indifference to this plague, telling that the king simply continued his normal state of affairs, as usual, unfazed by the miraculous transformation of his country’s water resources into blood.
 
            However, Rav Meir Simcha Ha-kohein of Dvinsk, in his Meshekh Chokhma, offers a creative reading of the verse to find a connection between Pharaoh’s going home and his indifference to this plague.  Rav Meir Simcha references the Midrash’s comment (Shemot Rabba 9:10) that during the plague of blood, the Egyptians purchased water from Benei Yisrael, who were excluded from the plague and thus had copious amounts of fresh drinking water.  Benei Yisrael ended up becoming quite wealthy as a result.  On the basis of the Midrash’s comment, Rav Meir Simcha boldly suggests that Pharaoh was spared from the plague of blood – because he had already paid his share, so-to-speak.  Pharaoh had raised Moshe in his palace after his daughter had found Moshe in the river and adopted him as her son.  The expenses Pharaoh incurred in raising Moshe, Rav Meir Simcha writes, absolved him of the costs that the other Egyptians needed to pay for water during the plague of blood, and so the water in his home did not turn into blood.  The Torah thus writes that Pharaoh went to his home, where he had water, and so he was unaffected by the plague.
 
            Rav Meir Simcha here teaches of the inherent value and worth of one’s good deeds irrespective of his misdeeds.  Pharaoh received his due reward for raising Moshe despite the cruelty for which he was severely punished.  Our mistakes and failures do not undermine the value of the good things we do.  We must be able to recognize, admire and respect people’s virtues and accomplishments even if they are far from perfect, and, by the same token, we must acknowledge our own virtues and accomplishments even as we take note of our deficiencies and work to improve.