This week’s Torah reading, Va’eira, narrates the dramatic first confrontation between Moses, Aaron and Pharaoh. G-d commanded Aaron that if Pharaoh were to ask for a miracle as proof that G-d had sent them, Aaron was to throw his staff upon the ground and it would turn into a serpent.
Indeed, Pharaoh asked for a sign, and Aaron did as G-d had instructed him. Pharaoh then called for his magicians and ordered them to do the same. “They cast down every man his staff, and they became serpents. But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs.”
While this whole incident demands further explanation, one of the most remarkable occurrences was the miracle of Aaron’s staff swallowing up the other staffs. Why did this miracle take place and what was its significance?
The miracles and plagues G-d inflicted on Egypt were not intended only as punishment; rather, their purpose was to break the Egyptians’ opposition to G-d. The underlying belief in Egypt was that G-d has absolutely no effect on reality. They believed that after G-d created the world, He placed it under the sole control of natural forces. This false notion was disproved by the Ten Plagues, each
one of which refuted a different aspect of the Egyptians’ world-view. The miracle of Aaron’s staff swallowing the magicians’ staffs laid the groundwork and prepared the Egyptians for the events that would follow.
Symbolically speaking, Aaron stood for the “side of holiness,” while his staff was symbolic of the G-dly power of sanctity. The serpent was symbolic of Egypt, as the Prophet Ezekiel termed it, “Egypt, the great serpent that lies in the midst of its streams.”
When Aaron’s staff turned into a serpent, it demonstrated to Pharaoh that Egypt, even against its will, is ultimately sustained from the forces of holiness. Not to be outdone, Pharaoh summoned his magicians and had them turn their staffs into serpents, thereby “proving” that Egypt has its own sources of power. But when “Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs,” it showed, definitively and
absolutely, that all of Egypt’s unholy powers were only an illusion, without a true and independent existence of their own.
In this way, G-d demonstrated to Pharaoh and to all of Egypt that His influence and dominion extended even to them. It was, in effect, the first chink in the Egyptians’ theological armor, and thus a precursor to the Ten Plagues, each of which negated a different level of Egypt’s spiritual impurity. Moshiach NOW!!!