Hadrash Ve-Haiyun
Dor Revi'i

Torah Insights on the Weekly Parsha
by Efraim Levine

The Reisha Rav
HaGoan R' Aaron Levine zt"l
Author of
Hadrash Ve-Haiyan


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And Hashem said to Moshe and Aaron saying: When Pharaoh speaks to you saying, provide a wonder for yourselves, you shall say to Aaron take your staff and cast it down before Pharaoh - and it will become a tannin (serpent). (Shemos 7:8,9)

The posukim record that Hashem informed Moshe and Aaron that they would be required to provide a wonder for Pharaoh. It is important to note that this was the first supernatural sign that Moshe and Aaron would present to Pharaoh. A simple understanding of the posuk conveys that this wonder would serve a dual purpose. One, to relate the purpose and nature of their mission, and two, to prove the authenticity of their mission. The miraculous feat of turning an inanimate object into a living one certainly gave proof to the authenticity of their mission, but how did the formation of a tannin express the theme of their mission? In other words, why does the tannin symbolize the entire mission of the Exodus? In answer to this question the Baal Haturim explains that Pharaoh declared himself to be, “the great tannin that crouches within its rivers” (Yechezkel 28:3). Hashem, through Moshe and Aaron, responded that just as the tannim created by Moshe and Aaron will turn into a piece of wood so too will the bones of the self proclaimed ‘great tannim,’ i.e., Pharaoh, rot and turn hard like a piece of wood.

Let us suggest an additional homiletic interpretation.

In the sefer Nishmas Kol Chai (page 295), Rav Yechiel Stern, based on the teachings of chazal, explains the various characteristics of the tannin. Rav Stern elaborates on the reproductive system of the tannin. In preparation for the laying of its eggs the tannin builds a nest near water and sunlight. The nest is camouflaged with grass and other materials for its protection. The mother tannin then deposits its eggs within. Rav Stern mentions that one of the wonders of creation is the unique way that these eggs are hatched. Eventually when the eggs are developed and the offspring are ready to emerge they, unlike other similar creatures, are too weak and feeble to break through the shell. The offspring in their frustration cry from within. The soft silent cries are miraculously heard by their mother who then immediately comes to their rescue. The mother tannin removes the nest from the grass, cracks open the shell, removes the offspring and cares for them.

The relationship the Mother tannin has with its offspring is symbolic of the relationship the Jewish people shared with Hashem in Egypt. Hashem had built a nest for his children in Egypt. Chazal teach us that the difficulties and hardships of Egypt were necessary for the spiritual development of the Jewish people. After two hundred and ten years it was time for the Jewish to leave Egypt. Although they were trapped in the hard shell of Egypt, a land that no man ever escaped, and were camouflaged in their sins to the degree that it was difficult to distinguish between them and the Egyptians, nevertheless, Hashem heard the helpless cries of his children and was determined to extricate them out of their surroundings and care for them. This is expressed in the posuk “I have heard the groans of the children of Yisroel whom Egypt enslaves them...  and I will take you out from under your burdens...   and I will rescue you…  I will redeem you...  (Shemos 6:5,6).

Chazal teach us that all future events of history are rooted in the seven days of creation. Thus let us focus on the posuk that says that Hashem created two great tannim (Bereishis 1:21). Rashi elaborates that one was male and the other female. Hashem took the life of the female and preserved it for the righteous in the end of days. Had Hashem allowed both to live and reproduce, the world would cease to exist due to their size and needs.

Let us suggest that the two great tanninim are symbolic of the two great salvations that would occur in history. These two salvations are the focus of the Haggada. The first one is the Exodus, and the second is the salvation that will occur at the end of the days with the coming of Moshiach. Hashem built into creation the framework and potential for two great salvations. One tannin was permitted to survive and appear in the Torah, as displayed by the miraculous formation of a tannin by Moshe and Aaron. This was the salvation of the Exodus. As for the second, Rashi tells us that it preserved for the righteous in the end of days with the coming of Moshiach.