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Friday, April 15

The Weekly Shtikle - Leil Seder

The Weekly Shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmas my father, Reuven Pinchas ben Chaim Yaakov, a"h.


For a collection of previous seder night shtikles, please check out my archive of past Seder shtikles.

Over the past couple of months, I was tasked with reciting a couple of kapitlach of Tehillim for a sick relative. One of them was kapitel 78 which is a rather lengthy chapter contrasting the great benevolent miracles of HaShem while we were in Mitzrayim and the years that followed with our unfortunate, incessant tendency to rebel. One section (78:43-51) details the plagues that were brought upon the Egyptians. There is one particular pasuk (78:49) which will be familiar as it is expounded upon in the haggadah by Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Akiva to magnify the plagues four-fold and five-fold, respectively.

However, there are two glaring anomalies. First, not all of the 10 plagues are even mentioned. Second, the ones that are mentioned are not mentioned in chronological order. The sequence is dam, arov, tzefardei'a, arbeh, barad, makas bechoros. As for the missing plagues, Ibn Ezra suggests they were omitted since there was no physical harm done to humans. Although dam and arbeh would fall into that category as well, he suggests that since those plagues gravely affected the supply chain of food and water, they also merited mention. Defining which plagues do and do not fit this structure is certainly up for discussion. The sequence does not seem to bother most commentaries.

I discovered (thanks to Sefaria) a very fascinating approach from Alshich in his sefer Romemos Kel. He posits that the purpose of this passage is to teach us the intricate wonders of Divine retribution. When a mortal human is angered to the point where he feels the need to take revenge, he will be consumed by his rage and cause the maximum damage within his power, without the ability to hold back. HaShem, however, carried out the makkos with more specific intentions to reveal His greatness. Therefore, some of the plagues were minimized to some degree so that subsequent plagues could "finish the job." The frogs caused great harm and in truth, were capable of just as much devastation as the wild beasts. They invaded the stomachs of the Mitzrim but yet, did not cause further internal damage.

The hail, as well, was potentially much more devastating. Yet, strangely, the plague's warning allowed some to escape its wrath to some degree and there was plenty of vegetation which emerged unscathed – only to be consumed by the locusts. The first and last plagues are mentioned as the bookends but the other four are the embodiment of the lesson being taught. They are specifically listed out of order to focus on this point – the arov was necessary, even after the frogs and the same with locusts following the hail.

Have a good Shabbos and a chag kasher ve'sameiach!

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Dikdukian: Shiras HaLevi'im

Dikdukian: Hagieinu vs Yagieinu

Dikdukian: Chad Gadya

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