They don’t call them “the magic words” for nothing.

Continuing our theme from last week, Rashi (Sh’mos 7:19) writes that Moshe Rabbeinu could not be the one to set off the plagues of Blood and Frogs by striking the Nile, because he owed a debt of gratitude to the river for protecting him as a helpless baby. Similarly, Rashi (ibid. 8:12) comments that Moshe could not summon the Lice by banging his staff on the Egyptian soil out of a sense of hakaras ha’tov to the ground, which had hidden the Egyptian he killed many years earlier. For these reasons, Aharon was chosen to carry out these makos.

For some remarkable people, foresight can be 20/20.

The end of Parshas VaYigash describes how Yosef took complete control of the agricultural and economic aspects of Egypt during the seven years of famine. He rationed out bread in exchange for money, cattle, and land; he relocated all Egyptians to government housing; and he imposed a 20% income tax on all future crops.

How could Moshe be the right man for the job?!

We are so used to the idea of Moshe leading the Exodus, that we might not realize that he was, ostensibly, an inappropriate choice for the position. Considering that Moshe was rescued by Pharaoh’s daughter and brought up in his palace, doesn’t it seem just a little ungracious for Moshe to march into his childhood home and threaten the one who had raised him? 

Who would you expect to win in a battle of good vs. evil?

Based on childhoods of reading fairy tales and watching Disney movies, we would like to believe that the “good guys” are supposed to come out on top. And yet, in Al HaNisim we thank Hashem for all the miracles and wonders – including the victory of the heroes – as if it was unnatural! Certainly, rabim b’yad m’atim (the many in the hands of the few) is miraculous, as the larger army would figure to have a major advantage. But why is r’sha’im b’yad tzadikim (the wicked in the hands of the righteous) so surprising? Would we have expected evil to have the upper hand?

It’s easy to play “Monday morning quarterback” – or is it?

As Sefer B’reishis comes to a close, Yosef is approached by his brothers, who beg for forgiveness and mercy. An understanding Yosef reassures them: “You may have intended to harm me, but Hashem had good intentions; today it is clear that He placed me here to sustain all of the people” (B’reishis 50:20). In other words, Yosef wisely told his brothers that they were examining the events of the story through an overly narrow lens. They were focused on the minute details of their actions, while Yosef was keeping an eye on the big picture. Blessed with the perspective of hindsight, he helped the brothers see that they all were mere pawns in the hands of the Grand Chessmaster of the universe. Everything that had transpired was all for the endgame of sustaining the world during the years of famine.

Sometimes it’s important to mind someone else’s business.

Yosef sat in prison for more than a decade before he was released to become viceroy of Egypt. His path toward redemption began when he interpreted the dreams of his fellow inmates: Pharaoh’s butler and baker. However, Yosef’s great achievement was not his accurate interpretations; as Yosef repeatedly emphasized, that was really the work of Hashem.