In Parashat Va’era and Parashat Bo, the Torah details how Hashem freed Bnei Yisrael from the oppressive grips of the Mitzrim. Hashem inflicted the Mitzriyim with the ten Makot, thereby showcasing his omnipotence. In describing the eighth Makah of Arbeh, locusts, the Torah singles it out and awards it with a special distinction. In relation to Arbeh, Hashem tells Moshe, “ULeMaan TeSapeir BeOznei Vinecha UVen Binecha Eit Asher Hit’alalti BeMitzrayim,” “And so that you may relate in the ears of your son and your son’s son that I made a mockery out of Egypt” (Shemot 10:2). Clearly, the Torah is highlighting that there is some aspect of this particular Makah which makes it more appropriate and pertinent for future generations than the other Makot. Why does this specific Makah warrant such prominence, and what messages can we glean from Arbeh which are still relevant today? In the delineation of Makat Arbeh, the Torah records that “Lefanav Lo Hayah Chein Arbeh Kamohu VeAcharav Lo Yihiyeh Kein,” “Before it there was never a locust-swarm like it and after it there will not be its equal (Shemot 10:14). Quoting the Rabbeinu Chananel, the Ramban understands this phrase to mean that in the future, no locusts inhabiting Mitzrayim will consume any of the produce of the land. Based on this interpretation, the Kli Yakar (Shmot 10:1) explains the unique significance of Makat Arbeh. None of the other Makot left remnants which would invite inquiry and provoke future generations to uncover the miracles Hashem performed in Mitzrayim. Regarding the Makah of Arbeh, however, the peculiarity of locusts never eating from the land would undoubtedly cause future generations to seek the truth behind this phenomenon, thereby leading to widespread recognition of the miracles Hashem performed on behalf of Bnei Yisrael. In light of the Kli Yakar’s analysis, the Torah’s description of Arbeh as generating “Sipur BeOznei Vincha UVen Bincha” is most fitting and appropriate.
Nevertheless, it seems somewhat paradoxical that the punishment of Arbeh should eventually yield a Berachah of immunity from locusts for the Mitzrim. Rav Eliezer Dovid Greenwald in his sefer Keren L’David suggests that this apparent paradox is, in fact, perfectly consistent with Hashem’s methods. Rabbi Greenwald explains that although the Mitzrim bitterly oppressed Bnei Yisrael and unequivocally deserved their punishment, it is also undoubtedly true that the episode of Mitzrayim ultimately led to a Kiddush Hashem and a glorification of the Ribono Shel Olam’s unparalleled strength. Through the Makot and through Kri’at Yam Suf, Hashem clarified any doubts the Mitzrim had regarding Hashem’s capability. The Berachah which Mitzrayim received from Arbeh is therefore a reward for the Mitzriyim’s role in this tremendous Kiddush Hashem, despite the fact that their intentions could not have been more wrong. The Makah of Arbeh, therefore, can teach us two invaluable lessons. Firstly, we never know what potential goodness may result from what we perceive to be harmful. We should never be judgmental or assuming, as things are often not as they appear, and even the lowly can generate greatness. Furthermore, Arbeh highlights Hashem’s inclination to issue reward at any possible chance. If the detestable Mitzrim were able to merit Hashem’s benevolence, then if we fulfill the will of Hashem by learning Hashem’s Torah, performing Hashem’s Mitzvot, and treating one and other with respect and dignity, our potential is boundless.
May we internalize the messages of Makat Arbeh so that we can reap the munificence of Hashem and bring Am Yisrael one step closer to spending next Pesach in Yerushalayim!