What Did Pharaoh Say to Moshe When He Made the Staff Turn into a Serpent? – Parshat Va’era with Rabbi Berland Shlit”a

Shiur on Parshat Va’era by the Tzaddik and Gaon Moreinu HaRav Eliezer Berland shlit”a:

The “chartumim” [Egyptian sorcerers] were the greatest [sorcerers] in the world.  These were not just sorcerers.  They were the greatest sorcerers in the world.  The chartumim were such great sorcerers that it’s impossible to describe what sort of sorcerers they were.  The Midrash Rabbah says in Parshat Ve’era in Chapter 9, that when Moshe came to Pharaoh at the beginning, Pharaoh said to him: “Give us a sign and a wonder.  You say that Hashem sent you, that Hashem is God, then perform a sign and a wonder.”  Then what did he do?  He took his staff and threw the staff and it became a snake.  Pharaoh started laughing uncontrollably: “Cock-a-doodle-do.  A cock-a-doodle-do has arrived.  You’re a cock-a-doodle-do.”

Pharaoh said: “What are you doing, taking a staff and throwing it?  Every baby knows this by us.  This is your greatness?  When did you learn this?”

Moshe says, “A week ago.”

“He learned it a week ago.  By us, we learn it at the age of four to five, in kindergarten.  You learned this the age of… How old are you?”


“At the age of eighty!  Aren’t you ashamed?  Only now you learned this.  You already have a white beard, and you play games of kindergarten children.”

Pharaoh called all his sages and sorcerers, and began to laugh, broke out laughing.  He said, “An old man at the age of eighty has begun to play games with snakes.  An old man the age of eighty takes a staff and turns it into a snake, something that every child knows how to do.”  You don’t know, but it used to be that children knew these sorts of things.

Pharaoh makes at them a “cock-a-doodle-do.”  He says to him, “A rooster is all the greatness of your God.  This is what He knows?  This is what He taught you.  Just this week, you learned this?  Aren’t you embarrassed?”

Immediately, he calls his wife, says to her, “Fatma, come Fatma.  Come throw your staff.”  She threw her staff and it became a snake.”  This is something that every woman knows.

After this, also the Egyptian sorcerers entered, and he called children the age of four to five.  The Midrash Rabbah says that he called children four to five.  Tiny children the age of four, the age of five – all of them threw their staffs and they turned into snakes.  Some 100,000 children arrived.  They closed all the kindergartens in Egypt.  Along with their teachers, all of them came.  Each one brought his staff and threw it.  They make a giant square and everyone threw their staffs and they became some 100,000 snakes.  “You’re not embarrassed?”

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Suddenly, what happened?  Moshe’s snake turned back into a staff and began to swallow up all of them.  Swallowing, swallowing and swallowing, and it didn’t become larger.  It swallowed, swallowed, and swallowed — like a magnet.  You put a magnet between pins, between a million pins.  Suddenly, it swallows up all the sorcerers.  Suddenly, Pharaoh is terrified, and it begins to get close to Pharaoh.  The staff drew close to Pharaoh, and Pharaoh thought that now it was going to swallow him up.  He made one last jump, turning over from his chair.  He said, “Here, soon it will swallow me.”  Now he says, “Now I see that your God is a great God.”

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