Translation by Yehoshua Siskin
1. In this week's Torah portion, the first 7 of the 10 plagues are described: blood, frogs, lice, wild animals, pestilence, boils, and hail. The plagues are not only miracles, but "educational workshops." The plagues are ten rebukes of idolatry and false gods, as they are statements in support of the Creator and the Exodus from slavery to freedom.
2. In this parasha, Moshe Rabbeinu reminds us twice that he has "sealed lips." God chooses him for leadership despite -- or perhaps because of -- a speech impediment. Impressive rhetoric and stirring oratory do not make a true leader.
3. Pharaoh's leadership, on the other hand, is characterized by insensitivity and arrogance. He refuses to learn any lessons from the succession of plagues and is full of a persistent, stubborn pride. Each meeting between Pharaoh and Moshe reflects the stark differences between them.
4. When Moshe brings the good news of the coming redemption to the people, they don't listen to him. Why? "They did not listen to Moshe due to their shortness of breath and hard labor." It's frightening to think that they were so preoccupied and stressed that they simply could not hear that their enslavement was coming to an end. Our commentators explained that today we, too, are so overburdened that we can miss the signs of our redemption as well.
5. A Shabbat such as this that precedes a new month is called "Shabbat Mevarchim" (Shabbat when we bless) since we bless the new month that begins the following week. This Shabbat we bless the month of Shevat that begins on Monday.
Shabbat Shalom and have a good month.