“I have now heard the moaning of the Israelites, because the Egyptians are holding
them in bondage, and I have remembered my covenant.” (Exodus 6:5)
Many people wonder if the Torah is true. The answer, of course, is…it depends. It is hard to prove the Torah is historically accurate. That’s different than determining the truth of the Torah’s message.
Parashat Va’era describes Moses’ attempts to get Pharoah to let the Israelites leave Egypt to worship God in the desert. Pharoah’s continued refusal leads to one of the better-known scenarios in the Torah: the ten plagues.
We usually lump together all ten plagues equally. The Torah, however, provides a subtle and sophisticated structure to the unfolding saga to support a specific message. There are actually three sets of three plagues, and then the final plague (the death of the Egyptian first-born), which stands alone. Within each set of three plagues, Moses warns Pharoah of the first two, while the third is sent without advance notice. Further, Moses confronts Pharoah in the morning by the river for the first plague in each set, and approaches him in the palace for the second.
The message in this structure is that while the plagues are disasters from the natural world, they are not natural events occurring randomly. Rather, they are the deliberate acts of God, who manipulates nature to punish Pharoah for enslaving the Israelites, to force him to let them go, and to educate him as to who is really the supreme God.
Which truth is more important: whether or not the plagues actually happened, whether or not science can explain how they happened, or whether or not God rules history? Only you can decide.