Metaphors in the Torah: Va’eira (Exodus 6.2 – 9.35)

This week’s Torah portion focuses on the role of Aaron as “the prophet of Moses” and the first seven of the ten plagues. One of the things that has always caught my notice is that when God tells Moses to throw down his staff in the Sinai desert the Hebrew word for snake is used. Yet, when Aaron throws down his staff, the Hebrew word usually associated with crocodile is used.

The reason I believe this distinction is made is that, eventually, Aaron will become the head priest, while Moses will be described as: “The Lawgiver”. In Hebrew the words used for naked and for cunning are the same. Thus we could say that before eating the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve were both cunning, but not embarrassed. Although the rabbis traditionally say that: “The Torah is the Tree of Life”, I don’t agree. Later will we see that God clearly says that the Israelites who did not follow his ways would have their names erased from the Book of Life, yet anyone can clearly and easily see that these names do indeed appear in the Torah.  Furthermore,  the Torah tells us that those Israelites under the age of twenty would not die in the desert because they were too young to know the difference between good and evil. Since Moses and the 70 leaders of the community had a parting of the ways over the ten dishonest spies and it was the function of the seventy leaders of the community to orally explain the laws of God to the people, what we can see then it is the Torah which should be associated with the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and that the Book of Life should be associated with the Tree of Life.  This makes much more sense, since no one has access to the Tree of Life and no one has ever seen an actual book called: “The Book of Life”.

Furthermore, Jacob clearly associates his son: “Dan” with a snake and the name Dan means “judge” which was the official title of the original 70 teachers of the oral law. What is ironic here is that it was these first seventy teachers of the oral law who advised the Israelites not to enter the land promised to Abraham , Isaac and Jacob and to reject the words of Moses. And, today, it is the teachers of the oral law who are advising their followers not to enter the land promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and to reject the words of Moses that appear in the written Torah. Isn’t  it nice to see that some things never change….?

Regardless, it does appear that the teachers of the oral law are associated with footless snakes and the priesthood of Aaron are associated with the crocodile, which, of course, does have feet. When we look at the description of the snake in the Book of Genesis, we are told that he will go on his stomach all his days. Later, in the Books of the Torah, we will see that Moses prays to God while lying on his stomach. This then implies that the teachers of the oral law, because they have no real feet to stand on, only appear to be praying to God...   

The interesting thing about the ten plagues is that, in Hebrew, they are not called “plagues”, they are called “hits”. Where we see a reference to the word “hit” is when the angel struck the inner thigh of Jacob and forced him to walk with a limp. Why this is interesting is that the limp of Jacob is described with the same Hebrew word used for the Passover Holy days. So, traditionally, following God’s laws have been described as: “walking in God’s ways” and Jacob, after struggling with the angle is given a new name: “Israel” which can be translated as: “straight to God”, which should be contrasted with his b previous name: “Jacob”, which, among other things, can be associated with the adjective: “indirect”.

This then implies that all men, not just the Egyptians, must receive a hit in order to better appreciate the meaning of God’s word and to be able to walk in his ways.

Maxwell Dimont wrote one of the best-selling books on Jewish history ever produced: “Jews, God and History”. Actually, just from the title one can easily see why the Jews have been wandering around the world for two thousand years; but, in addition to this, Mr. Dimont points out that almost all Passover Haggadahs don’t contain a single “quotable quote” from Moses, even though God commands the Israelites to tell the story of Passover to their children. Interestingly, however, the Passover Haggadah is packed full of quotes from the rabbis like: Rabbi Akiva, Miamonides, the Rashi and others.

Geepers creepers: I am pretty familiar with the Passover story. In which part can one find Akiva, Miamonides and the Rashi ???