Friday, February 03, 2006

Parshas Bo

Rav Tamir Granot in his drash on this ( and last ( week's parshios develops the concept that the first nine plagues visited on the Egyptians fall into three groups. He points out that in the Hagaddah the plagues are summarized thus: "Rabbi Yehuda used to refer to them by a [three word] mnemonic: 'Detza"kh ada"sh be-acha"v'." Rav Granot then procedes to outline the literary fashion in which the plagues group. The three groups' messages are summarized in their Torah-text introductions (chronologically) respectively as:

  1. "By this you shall know that I am God"
  2. "In order that you may know that I am God in the midst of the land"
  3. "In order that you may know that there is none like Me in all the land" – or, as we shall explain further on – in order that you may be shown My strength, and in order that you will tell of My Name throughout the land."

The medieval Jewish thinker Albo, following Duran [as cited by Kellner (Dogma in Medieval Jewish Thought: From Maimonides to Abravanel, Littman Library of Jewish Civilization Series, July 2004)] and most modern commentators summarize the Rambam's Thirteen Principles to three categories:

  1. The existence of God;
  2. Revelation; and
  3. God's involvement in the world.

I am struck by how closely the Rambam's principles, if not exactly in the same order, correspond to the explicitly stated messages of the plagues in Egypt. It is clear that the message of the plagues was as much to be made clear to the "short of spirit" ( מִקֹּצֶר רוּחַ) Jews as to the Egyptians Who was God and what He does in this world.

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