TSC Home Tanach Study Center
This Week
About This Site

Parshat Vayera - Questions for Self Study

Questions for the Shabbat Table
Questions for Shiur Preparation
Questions on Parshanut

Part I - Questions for the 'Shabbat Table'
1. To the best of your recollection, what does the word Navi mean?
If you answered 'prophet' - what does this word imply? Does it mean someone who can foresee the future? In your opinion, is this the meaning of the word Navi in Tanach?
Now, read 7:1-2, noting its context based on 6:29-30. Based on these psukim what does the word Navi imply in 7:1. In other words, what does it mean that Aharon will be Moshe's Navi? Is this the standard use of this word?
How does the use of the word Navi in this pasuk help you understand the meaning of the word Navi (i.e. a Navi of Hashem) in the rest of Tanach? Relate your answer to the meaning of the Hebrew word "niv" (Yeshayahu 57:19) & the shoresh "nun-bet-aleph".
[See also Parshanut question #3 in Part III below.]

2. See 4:10-16, noting Moshe's reluctance to be God's spokesman. Then review 6:29-30, noting Moshe's complaint that he cannot speak to Pharaoh, and God's response in 7:1-2 appointing Aharon to be his spokesman 'instead'.
In your opinion, are these two versions of the same conversation, or are these two totally different events? To support your answer, be sure to read both sections carefully (in their context), and find the differences between them, and why there is a need for both.
Relate this as well to the difference between the stories in 7:8-13 and 4:1-5 (& 4:27-30), and the need for both.
Note as well the difference between "tanin" (relate to Breishit 1:21) and "nachash" (relate to Breishit 3:1) in each story, and "ot" and "mofet". In each respective story, what does Moshe need to prove to Pharaoh, and what does he need to prove to Bnei Yisrael?

The Makkot [the Plagues]

1. In your opinion, was the sole purpose of the plagues to convince Pharaoh to allow Bnei Yisrael to leave Egypt, or was there an additional purpose that relates to Am Yisrael? If so, how are these two purposes related?
[In your answer, relate to both 3:18-22 and 7:1-6.]

2. In last week's shiur we suggested that the process of Yetziat Mitzraim can be understood as the fulfillment of Brit Bein Ha'btarim. Review Breishit 15:13-18. Do these psukim support the above statement? [Which pasuk alludes to the 'plagues'?]
Attempt to relate each pasuk (i.e. in 15:13-15 & 15:18) to a stage in the process of Yetziat Mitzraim. Find psukim in Sefer Shmot that support your answer. [Note also 12:40-41!]

3. In your opinion, (based on the psukim from Brit Bein Ha'btarim mentioned above), had Pharaoh not "hardened his heart" and allowed Bnei Yisrael to leave, would have all the ten plagues been necessary? Would they have been as severe?
In other words, how much "bechira chofshit" [freedom of choice] did Pharaoh have, and how was the severity of the plagues of function of his constant refusal? [As you review the Makkot, note when it mentions that Pharaoh hardened his heart, and when it mentions that God hardened his heart!]
Relate as well to Shmot 4:21-23 & 7:3-6.
After your discussion, read Rambam Hilchot Teshuva chapter 6!

4. Read 7:1-7. Does this 'parsha' describe one specific event or a set of events? [Be sure that you can explain 7:6.]
What is this event (or set of events) that these psukim describe, and where in Chumash is it described in more detail?
Now, read 11:9-10. How do these psukim relate to 7:3-6?
Based on this parallel, in what manner could chapters 7 thru 11 be considered a 'unit'? Suggest a 'title' for this unit?
Does this unit include the tenth plague? Explain why yes and why not. [Relate to the question that follows:]
In this entire unit, in what manner are Bnei Yisrael involved? Does Hashem ever speak to Bnei Yisrael in this unit? When is the first time that Hashem does speak to Bnei Yisrael after the opening psukim of Parshat Va'eyra? Can you explain why?
[In your answer, attempt to relate to the spiritual level of Bnei Yisrael prior to the Exodus as described in Yechezkel 20:5-10. Relate this to the purpose of Korban Pesach, and the fate of someone who did not offer a korban pesach.]

5. In the above unit (chapters 7-11), how many plagues are described? Can you divide them into groups of three?
In relation to the nature of Moshe's warning to Pharaoh prior to each plague, what pattern emerges in this 3-3-3 grouping?
What else can you find that is similar within each group of three?
Recall from the Hagada that Rebbi Yehuda gave 'simanim' to remember the plagues "dtzach-adash-b'achav". Relate your answer to Rebbi Yehuda's statement!

Part II - Questions for Preparation (for weekly shiur)
1. Recall that Bnei Yisrael originally 'believed' Moshe's message concerning their forthcoming redemption (see 4:29-31). In your opinion, how did 'public opinion' change once Pharaoh doubled their workload? In their eyes, who was responsible for this? Support your answer from chapter 5.

2. Review Shmot 6:2-9. In reaction to what event did God give this "dibur" to Moshe? As your review these psukim, make sure that you follow what God tells Moshe, and what Moshe is instructed to tell Bnei Yisrael.
Is God's message to Bnei Yisrael in these psukim the same or different than His message to Bnei Yisrael at the "sneh"?
[Relate to 3:7-9; & 3:16-22; compare with 6:3-8.]
Explain what is similar and what is different.

3A. Read 6:2 carefully. What is difficult about this pasuk? What statement is God making, and what does it mean?
Before we continue, review the respective use God's Names ["shem Elokim" and "shem Havaya"] in the two covenants that God made with Avraham Avinu concerning the future of Am Yisrael in Sefer Breishit (i.e. Brit Bein ha'Btarim (15:1-20) and Brit Milah (17:3-10). Relate this to the difficulty in 6:2?
[Relate this as well to Shmot 3:13-16, and 4:1-2.]

3B. The word "brit" is mentioned twice in 6:4-5. In your opinion, what "brit" does each pasuk refer to? Attempt to find textual and thematic parallels to the two britot in Sefer Breishit.
See Rashi on these two psukim! Does your answer follow Rashi's commentary? What other key phrases from these two britot are found in 6:2-8?

4. Note how many times the phrase "Ani Hashem" is repeated in 6:2- 8? Can you explain why? Why is it so important that Bnei Yisrael must be told that they must know that "Ani Hashem"?

5. Read 6:9 carefully. In your opinion, how should the phrase "v'lo shamu el Moshe" be translated? Did they not 'hear', or 'accept', or 'believe', or 'pay attention', or 'listen', or 'obey'?
Base your answer on what Moshe was commanded to tell them in 6:5-8 .
Throughout Chumash, what does the phrase "v'lo shamu" usually refer to? [e.g. Vayikra 26:14, Devarim 11:13-15, etc.]
Why would (or wouldn't) that be the proper translation for that phrase in this pasuk?
Then, read 6:10-12, making sure that you understand the logic of Moshe's "kal v'chomer" when he explains to God why Pharaoh will not obey (or 'listen') to him?
How would this affect how one translates "v'lo shamu" in 6:9?

6. Now, carefully read Yechezkel 20:1-10, making sure that you understand when and why this 'conversation' took place. Note how these psukim describe an event that took place before Yetziat Mitzraim. In your opinion, when did this event take place?
In your answer, relate to the textual parallels between these psukim and Shmot 6:2-10!
How can these psukim help you interpret the meaning of "v'lo shamu el Moshe" in 6:9? Be sure to relate to Yechezkel 20:9!
[You may be familiar with a Midrash Chazal [actually it is a Zohar] that describes how Bnei Yisrael (in Egypt) had reached the lowest 'spiritual' level / "mem-tet shaarei tumah". Relate this to these psukim in Yechezkel.]

7. Does 6:14-28 appear to be 'out of place'? If so, where in your opinion do these psukim belong? What else is difficult about these psukim.
After these 'interruption', does the focus of Sefer Shmot change from Bnei Yisrael to the Egyptians? If so, can you explain why? [Relate your answer to the difference between 6:10-13 and 6:29-30.]

8. What is difficult about 6:28? Can you relate this pasuk to your answer to question #6 above? Can you suggest now a reason why 6:14- 27 is placed here instead of earlier in Sefer Shmot? Is something being 'covered up'? If so, what? Does 6:9 help explain why?

Now that you've prepared, go to the shiur.

Part III - Parshanut
1. What is difficult about 6:3? Is it true that God only spoke to the Avot b'shem Kel Sha--dai and not b'shem Havaya? [See Br. 12:1-7 13:14, 15:1-20, etc.]
What does the word "nodaati" mean? Note the machloket Rishonim on this pasuk/ see Rashi, Ramban, Rashbam & Ibn Ezra etc.
Explain how each pirush solves the above problem. [Note especially the Ramban, he explains several very fundamental concepts concerning the nature of God's "hashgacha".]

2. What is difficult about 6:3? Is it true that God only spoke to the Avot b'shem Kel Sha--dai and not b'shem Havaya? [See Br. 12:1-7 13:14, 15:1-20, etc.]
What does the word "nodaati" mean? Note the machloket Rishonim on this pasuk/ see Rashi, Ramban, Rashbam & Ibn Ezra etc.
Explain how each pirush solves the above problem.
[Note especially the Ramban, he explains several very fundamental concepts concerning the nature of God's "hashgacha".]

3. To the best of your recollection, each time when Moshe & Aharon went to Pharaoh, who did the talking? [Moshe or Aharon?]
According to either possibility, why did the other 'join along'? After you answer this question, review 6:10-13 & 6:29-30, within their context (i.e. be sure to review from 6:2 thru 7:7).
In your opinion, do 6:29-30 simply recap 6:10-13, or do they describe something new that takes place? Attempt to support your answer from the psukim themselves.
Now see Rashi on 6:29 and 6:30. How does he answer this question? [Note how he explains "Ani Hashem" in 6:29.]
Then see Ibn Ezra and Rashbam, noting how their pirush is similar to Rashi. If possible, note what point each one adds to Rashi's pirush.
Then see Ramban, noting how he quotes Rashi (and Ibn Ezra), and totally disagrees. It's a lengthy Ramban, but worthwhile to follow, for his proof is rather rigorous. Note how explains the various stages in Moshe's conversations with Hashem concerning his ability to speak to Pharaoh. Also pay attention to the fact that Ramban actually 'praises' Moshe's request not to become God's spokesman to Pharaoh.
Be sure that you understand how (and why) Ramban's pirush is different than Rashi, and how they disagree concerning what actually happened each time that Moshe and Aharon went to talk to Pharaoh?

4. The phrase: "va'ydaber Hashem el Moshe laymor" is used numerous times in Chumash. How would you translate "laymor" in its context in this phrase?
The first time this phrase occurs is in 6:10.
See Ramban on this pasuk for a very interesting and important interpretation! [Note how (and why) he argues with Ibn Ezra.]