Va’era (Exodus 6:2-9:35)

This week’s dramatic portion starts with a recap (“Previously, in the Book of Exodus…”).  The Lord has appeared to Moses and Aaron with a message for the Children of Israel, who don’t believe the men because they (the C. of I., not Moses and Aaron) are downtrodden slaves.  Then there’s an aside, in which we are given a bit of genealogy, the clans descended from Reuben, Simeon, and Levi, with the most detail for Levi’s descendants, since they include Amram and Yocheved, the parents of Miriam, Aaron, and Moses.  Then back to the action: Moses protests that Pharaoh won’t listen to a man who can’t speak fluently.  Aaron is taught how to turn his staff into a serpent, and at the next encounter with Pharaoh, not only does his staff turn into a serpent, but after the Egyptian magicians turn all their staffs into serpents (apparently, it’s a standard trick – Signs 101), Aaron’s serpent swallows all the others.  Pharaoh is not impressed, and so Egypt is subjected in turn to 10 plagues, 7 of which we read about this week.  [If you can’t recite them from the Passover seder by memory (red and yellow Haggadah, around p. 16), or if you can recall the Hebrew words but not what they mean, you can figure out what they are from the jokes, etc. below.]

There have been many possible natural explanations proposed for the plagues, some of which I’ve cited in other years, e.g., Ehrenkranz NJ, Sampson DA, “Origin of the Old Testament Plagues: Explications and Implications,” Yale J Biol Med. 2008 March; 81(1): 31–42, at which attributes them to “unseasonable and progressive climate warming along the eastern Mediterranean coast”.  There’s also an idea that such plagues over decades, and group memory created a story that collapsed them into one cataclysmic sequence.  I find such “reality-based” explanations mildly interesting, but not particularly pertinent.

The apparent reason for the plagues is neatly summarized in 7:3-5 –

” 3 But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, that I may multiply My signs and marvels in the land of Egypt. 4 When Pharaoh does not heed you, I will lay My hand upon Egypt and deliver My ranks, My people the Israelites, from the land of Egypt with extraordinary chastisements. 5 And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out My hand over Egypt and bring out the Israelites from their midst.”

However, the Israelites are at least as important an “audience” for the plagues, since their faith in Moses, Aaron, and the Lord is really shaky.  And, unlike the Egyptians, the Israelites need to develop and maintain their faith permanently.

The Egyptian magicians cave at the third plague (8:15, “It is the finger of God!”), since that’s the first one they could not reproduce (7:22 and 8:3, JPS translation).  At the fourth plague, Pharaoh offers to let the Hebrews go (but not far) to sacrifice to the Lord.  But then, as with the fifth, sixth, and seventh plagues, he changes his mind.  (According to Rashi, Pharaoh hardens his own heart for the first five plagues and the Lord does it for the last five.)  Some people just grow more stubborn under pressure.

Next time:  The last three plagues, the first Passover, and The Exodus.

Shabbat shalom


Quick bites of humour

The following are taken from The Vampire Joke Book by Gordon Hill, 1991: Foulsham and Co. Ltd

Why did Dracula drive on the motorway?
– Someone told him it was a main artery!

Patient: I keep seeing vampires with fangs dripping blood.
Doctor: Have you seen a psychiatrist?
Patient:  No, just vampires.

Why was Dracula so unlucky in love?
– He always loved in vein

What do you call the referee in a Transylvanian cricket match?
– A Vumpire


Kermit LetterFrog’s


10. Babes are always kissing you because they think you’ll turn into a prince.
9. Flies in your soup are a bonus.
8. You’re above toads on the food chain.
7. Green goes with absolutely everything!
6. Pond Scum is a term of endearment.
5. Most restaurants have a “no croaking” section.
4. Amphibians are at a minimum risk of appearing on Geraldo.
3. You can scratch hard to reach places with your tongue.
2. You can donate your body to science for big bucks!
1. It sure beats being a newt.


Jim Finn, the noted biologist, was stumped. He’d spent months studying the little green frogs in the Keefo swamp. The population, despite all efforts at predator control, was declining at an alarming rate.

Finally, Finn went to the chemistry department at his college to see if anyone there might be able to help. Tom Trom looked into the problem, and came up with a solution. The little frogs had succumbed to a chemical change in the swamp’s water, and simply couldn’t stay coupled long enough to reproduce. Tom brewed up a new adhesive, made from a dash of this, a zoss of that, and most critically, one part sodium.

“You mean?…. “Jim said when told.
“Yes,” said Tom, “They needed mono-sodium glue to mate.”


Lice Lessons: Ten Ways to Have Family Fun with Lice
by Daddy Troy
September 1, 2010
(abridged, with a few comments added by IGP)

One louse and your weekend is shot. Lousy. Full of nit picking, laundry, and the changing of sheets.  Cancelled events.  Phone calls to fellow parents who get it, because they have gotten it, and calls to the uninitiated parents who cancel playdates for the next month.

I provide you with our family’s lice lessons: ten ways to have family fun with lice.

1. Vocabulary: Teach the kids to say that they have pediculosis. Other parents will think it’s related to bad breath or something.

2. Grammar: While Pediculosis may be the noun form, how might you make it into an adjective? The answer: Pediculous. Which is fun because it has lous in it which is nothing to do with a louse.

3. Rhyming Game: What rhymes with Pediculous? Meticulous, like how meticulous we have to be to ensure we got all the nits. Or ridiculous. Like how ridiculous it feels to wash all the clothes in the house.

4. Family Game Night: Since you are tending to the new mountain of laundry, your evening plans are shot. Why not crank up a game of scrabble. You can make the word Pediculous in two steps. Start with lou (3 tiles) and then on your next turn surround it with pedicu and s (7 tiles) in the next step.  [Or how about racing the lice? Or training them to perform in a lice circus (cf. flea circus)?]

5. Math: 5 points for lou, and then 20 points for pediculous makes for a total of 25 points. [see 4.]

6. Science: Save the nits and lice, and get out your microscope. Make a slide out of the lice. If you want you can even take the slide into school for show and tell. [Science fair project!]

Microsoft Waiter

Patron: Waiter!
Waiter: Hi, my name is Bill, and I’ll be your Support Waiter. What seems to be the problem?
Patron: There’s a fly in my soup!
Waiter: Try again, maybe the fly won’t be there this time.
Patron: No, it’s still there.
Waiter: Maybe it’s the way you’re using the soup; try eating it with a fork instead.
Patron: Even when I use the fork, the fly is still there.
Waiter: Maybe the soup is incompatible with the bowl; what kind of bowl are you using?
Patron: A SOUP bowl!
Waiter: Hmmm, that should work. Maybe it’s a configuration problem; how was the bowl set up?
Patron: You brought it to me on a saucer; what has that to do with the fly in my soup?!
Waiter: Can you remember everything you did before you noticed the fly in your soup?
Patron: I sat down and ordered the Soup of the Day!
Waiter: Have you considered upgrading to the latest Soup of the Day?
Patron: You have more than one Soup of the Day each day?
Waiter: Yes, the Soup of the Day is changed every hour.
Patron: Well, what is the Soup of the Day now?
Waiter: The current Soup of the Day is tomato.
Patron: Fine. Bring me the tomato soup, and the check. I’m running late now.[Waiter leaves and returns with another bowl of soup and the check]
Waiter: Here you are, Sir. The soup and your check.
Patron: This is potato soup.
Waiter: Yes, the tomato soup wasn’t ready yet.
Patron: Well, I’m so hungry now, I’ll eat anything.
[The waiter leaves.]
Patron: Waiter! There’s a gnat in my soup!

The check:
Soup of the Day . . . . . . . . . . $5.00
Upgrade to newer Soup of the Day.. $2.50
Access to support. . . . . . . . . $1.00


Cow Short Jokes
submissions by: unfavoritetom, ciaran.mac08, mikeyslickster

Q: Why don’t cows have any money?
A: Because farmers milk them dry

Q: What do you get if you cross an angry sheep and a moody cow?
A: An animal that’s in a baaaaaaaad moooooood.

Q: Do you know why the cow jumped over the moon?
A: The farmer had cold hands.

Q: Why did the cow cross the road?
A: To get to the udder side.

Q: What do cows get when they are sick?
A: Hay Fever

Q: Why does a milking stool have only three legs?
A: Because the cow has the udder.

Q: What do you call a cow with a twitch?
A: Beef Jerky

Q: What do you call a cow on the barnyard floor?
A: Ground Beef

Q: What happened to the lost cattle?
A: Nobody’s herd.

Q: What do you call an Arab next to a cow?
A: A Milk Sheikh!



Brussels – Belgium

It can be astonishing to notice the extreme richness of Shakespeare’s works in medical allusions of all kinds. However the medical knowledges of his time were less technical, more descriptive than today and thus more accessible to a non-medical intellectual. Moreover Shakespeare himself, besides his own qualities that made him receptive to a large range of knowledges, has perhaps benefited from the medical influence of his son-in law, Doctor John Hall.

In the field of dermatology, if it is previsible to find in Shakespeare’s works allusions to the great epidemical diseases like pox, plague or even leprosy, it is more surprising to see his interest to common dermatosis, of which he was an attentive observer.

Shakespeare frequently chose dermatologic terms to this use; let’s mention words like measles, scurvy, tetter, serpigo, hoar, scab, lousy, plague, pestilence, leprosy, mole, wart, itch, boil, blister, blain, sore, ulcer, pox, carbuncle…

To illustrate this one can mention several categories of examples:

  • The plain swear-word: “Scurvy knave!” (Romeo and Juliet).
  • The direct insult: “Thou art a boil, a plague sore, an unbossed carbuncle” (King Lear).
  • The indirect insult: “The rascally, scald, beggarly, lowsy pragging knave pistol “(Henri V).
  • The curse on a person: “All the contagions of the south lie on thou “(Coriolan).
  • “I would make thou the loathsomest scab in Greece “(Troïlus and Cressida).
  • The curse on an object or a concept: “The dry serpigo on the subject “(Troïlus and Cressida).
  • “A pox on/of: Your love letter, this joke, your throath, the devil, your bottle, the wrinkles, this gut, her green-sickness … “.
  • Offensive imprecation: “Plague all … be general leprosy “(Timon of Athenes).
  • Defensive imprecation: “If I prove honey mouthed let my tongue blister” – this example, taken from “A winter’s tale ” is of course an allusion to herpès.
  •  Finally, conjuration can be illustrated by the end of “A midsummer’s night dream “, when Oberon wishes to the young-married “Never mole, hare-lip nor scar, shall upon their children be “.

[There follows a discussion of Shakespeare’s views of congenital malformations, Richard III – now outdated in light of the discovery his back actually was deformed –  and Falstaff.]


Sent out 4 years ago:

Off-Key Choir

The local church had hired a new choir director from Mississippi for the church choir. The church was undergoing some roof repairs, and as a result of the incomplete roofing, the church was uncovered with just the tin foundation.  Meanwhile, the poor choir director was struggling with the worst choral voices this side of the Mississippi.  One Sunday morning, during the choir director’s debut, the choir was sounding like sour grapes.  All of a sudden, a fierce hail storm broke out, just as the choir was singing its last “Amen.”

With that, the minister stood up and looked toward the roof top and said, “It sounds like hail!”

The indignant choir director got up and cried out, “Won’t you give me a break?! I’m doing the best I can with these terrible voices!”


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2 Responses to Va’era (Exodus 6:2-9:35)

  1. Pingback: Va’era (Exodus 6:2-9:35) | Torah Portion Humor Weekly

  2. Pingback: Va’era (Exodus 6:2-9:35) | Torah Portion Humor Weekly

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