Why All the Hype?

In this week’s Torah portion, VaEra, and in the Passover prayers and Haggadah, we emphasize the miraculous nature of the Exodus from Egypt. Moses’ staff became a snake, ten terrifying plagues punished the Egyptians, the Red Sea split for the Jews but drowned Pharaoh’s army and on and on. It does not appear however, that all of these miracles were necessary to expedite the redemption. God could have ended our slavery and taken the Jews out of Egypt with many fewer miracles. He could have punished the Egyptians with one major plague and “beamed” the Jews out of Egypt into the Sinai desert. Of course, any number of miracles presents no difficulty for God. In general, though, we find that God chooses not to contravene the laws of nature that He created and therefore does not perform obvious miracles unless they are absolutely necessary. What is the purpose then, of all the miracles that we commemorate, relive and describe in our prayers on Pesach? Nachmanides explains that the plagues and other miracles were really high impact educational experiences for the Jews and the Egyptians (emphasis on ‘high impact” for the Egyptians). Nachmanides explains,

From the time that there was idolatry in the world… belief started to deteriorate… Some people denied the existence of God; some denied His knowledge of events in the world…; some admitted to His knowledge but denied reward and punishment. When however God chooses a community or an individual and performs miracles for them that change the normal running and nature of the world, then the refutation of all the above is apparent. Because a miracle shows that there is a God Who created the world; God Who knows, Who cares and Who is omnipotent. And when that miracle is first decreed by a prophet, then it also demonstrates the truth of prophecy… Therefore, the Torah states regarding these miracles, “so that you will know that I am God in the midst of the land” … “so that you will know that the world is God’s” … “so that you will know that there is none like Me in all the world” …

Since God does not perform signs and miracles in every generation in front of every evil person or non-believer, He commanded us with eternal reminders and signs of what our eyes witnessed. That we should pass these down to our children, and their children to their children until the last generation…

And the many commandments that commemorate the Exodus from Egypt are all faithful witnesses to the future generations of these miracles so that they will never be forgotten…

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