In the Haggadah we say that Rabbe Yehudah gave an acronym to the Ten Makkos with three different segments דצ”ך עד”ש באח”ב. Why divide the Makkos into these three particular parts? Hashem could have sent one plague and wipe out Mitzrayim immediately so why was there a need for Ten Plagues? The sefarim explain that the purpose of the Maakos was to administer a spiritual rehabilitation of emunah to Pharaoh and Mitzrayim. It took three stages, composed of 10 sessions of seven days each, in order to attain clear recognition and belief in the three fundamentals of emunah posed by the Sefer Ha’ikarim. These three yesodos are firstly, emunah that Hashem exists, secondly, that He is a Mashgiach and intervener in the world, and thirdly He gave us the Torah and He desires that we should serve Him.

These three principles of emunah are expressed in Moshe’s message from Hashem to Pharaoh and denied by Pharaoh. Moshe told Pharaoh (9,1)כה אמר ה’  (Hashem’s existence), אלהי העברים (Mashgiach) and finally, שלח עמי ויעבדוני send out My nation so that they will serve me (Torah). Pharaoh’s reply was (5,2) מי ה’ אשר אשמע בקולו (denial of Hashem’s existence) to be followed by לא ידעתי את ה’ (not aware of His Hashgacha). To contradict the third belief that Yisrael are to be employed in the service of Hashem, Pharaoh claimed (5,17) נרפים אתם that Yisrael are lazy to labor for him, so they therefore על כן אתם אומרים נלכה נזבחה לה’ fabricate an excuse that must cease working in order to serve Hashem (denial of the service to Hashem).

The three phases described in the format of Rabbe Yehudah, parallel the teaching of these three fundamentals of emunah. Each phase contained specifically three lessons, for as we find in Halacha of ownership, that processing the subject three times creates a chazakah in spiritual rehabilitation. The tenth Makkah was a review of all three fundamentals. Let us now elaborate.

The first section of Maakos came to teach that Hashem exists. It is therefore that we find by these Maakos that the stated purpose for these plagues of דם צפרדע כנים  was “I am Hashem and you must believe in my existence” (Shmos 7,17. 8,6.8,15).
The second phase of Maakos was to strengthen the belief that Hashem serves as Mashgiach in this lowly world just as in Shamayim. That is why we find Hashem promising with the onslaught of these first two plagues of ערוב דבר, that “He will smite Mitzrayim with the plagues and separate Yisrael from being smitten by them” (8,18.9,4,5.) The ability to separate those deserving of punishment and those not, shows Hashem’s intervention in creation. The Makkah of שחין which was the last plague of this section was achieved by throwing the ashes towards heaven and the plague befalling man and animals on earth. This too was to demonstrate Hashem’sHashgacha, that both heaven and earth are the same as far as Hashem’s intervention.

In the last phase of plagues, we find that Hashem’s purpose in sending the Makkos was to command the mitzvah of סיפור יציאת מצרים, to their children and throughout the land (9,16.10,2). This mitzvah also conveys Hashem’s desire for the nation of Yisrael to become His servant and observe His Torah and mitzvos as it is stated in the first commandment of the Aseres Hadibros. That is why this message of purpose, even though not explicitly mentioned in the Maaka of Darkness as it is in ברד ארבה, is nevertheless alluded to in Chazal on the passuk ולכל בני ישראל היה אור במושבותם To all of Yisrael there was Light in their dwelling (Shmos 10,23). The Medrash comments that this Light was gleaned from the Light of Maaseh Bereishis which was created on the first day and was concealed thereafter in the Torah. In essence, this Maakah’s mission statement is that Am Yisrael must accept Hashem’s Torah which is the Light of the Universe.

The last Maakah מכת בכורות was an inclusive review of all three fundamentals. אני ה’ (12,12) was the reinforcement of the belief that I exist. “I will see the blood and skip over your houses” (12,13) upon which Rashi comments הכל גלוי לפניוHash em, the omniscient One doesn’t need the sign of the blood to indicate who lives in the house. “The blood was for the purpose of seeing who of you were fulfilling My mitzvos and then I will skip over your house”. This demonstrates the fundamental of belief in Torah and the service to Hashem. This same passuk says ולא יהיה בכם נגף the plague won’t affect you. If it already states that Hashem will skip over the Jewish houses why was it necessary to add that the plague won’t affect you? Rashi answers that in case a Mitzri was hiding in a Jewish home or vice versa, Hashem’s HashgachaPeratis will make it so that the Mitzri will die in the Jewish home and the Yid will not die in the Egyptian house. The passuk here affirms the emunah of Hashgachas Hashem in the world even to the minutest detail.

We can now explain that the three mitzvos of the SederNight, Pesach Matzah and Maror parallel the three fundamentals of emunah learned at Yetzias Mitzrayim. TheKorban Pesach teaches us the yesod of Hashem’s existence. The Korban Pesach was the sheep which the Egyptians worshiped and the animal which was the head constellation and force of all avodah zarah. The 15th day of the month was the height of this mazal’s intensity and power. Yet this avodah zarah and mazal of Mitzrayim was totally unable to protect them or itself against a higher force which was Hashem. The Pesach proved the existence of Hashem.
Matzah represents the Mashgiach characteristic of Hashem. Chametz has a life of its own and it rises outside of the parameters set forth by its maker. This is in contrast to matzah, that as a finished product, it remains in the same form and retains the same parameter as it was initially set forth by its maker. It therefore represents the Hashgacha of Hashem who is in control of creation, and sees everything. מצה is gematriah העין alluding to the watchful concerned eye of Hashem.

Maror symbolizes the fundamental of emunah of Torah and service to Hashem. Chazal tell us that Torah can be only acquired with affliction. אין תורה מתקיימין אלא במי שממית עצמו עליה (Berachos 63b). That is why we find the gematriah of מרור   to be מות  (death).
Now that we have explained how the Makkos were structured into three tiers corresponding to the three fundamentals of Emunas Hashem which Hashem taught to Mitzrayim and Am Yisrael, we can compare them to the three parshiyos of Shmathat we are obligated to recite every day. The first parsha of Shma ה’ אלקינו ה’ אחד is a proclamation of the Hashem’s existence. The second parsha describes Hashem’s Hashgachaupon us. If we observe the mitzvos then we will physically benefit in this world. However, if we fail to keep the mitzvos, then we will suffer. He will stop the rainfall and the yield from the earth, and finally we will be exiled. The third parsha of Shma is the acceptance of Hashem’s mitzvos and His yoke of avodah. The following is how Rashi interprets the repetition of אני ה’ אלקיכם in the last passuk of the parsha: “I delivered you from Mitzrayim on the condition that you would fulfillmy mitzvos. If you refuse to do so, I will nevertheless force you.

This means that every day we must reaffirm our allegiance and belief in these three emunah fundamentals which include all of the Thirteen Principles of the Rambam. We end the three parshiyos of Shmah with the word אמת which are Chacahmim added even though it is not part of the last passuk of אני ה’ אלהיכם. What message were they giving us with this addition? We suggest that the word אמת is the acronym of the consciousness that every Yid must have which was delivered by Hashem through the Ten Makkoswhich symbolized the Three Principles of Emunah:   א – אלקיםthat Hashem exists, מ – משגיח that Hashem intervenes even in the lower world, and ת – תורה that Hashem redeemed us from Mitzrayim in order to serve Him through observing His Torah and mitzvos. This is implied in the Nusach Sfard recited in the last beracha after Shmah אמת ממצרים גאלתנו with the acronym of אמת we were redeemed from Mitzrayim. It was through the acquisition of the consciousness these three principles of אמת we merited Yetzias Mitzrayim.
Rav Brazil
Gut Shabbos

Picture credit: Nina Paley