Parashat Va-era contains the beginning of the process of our ancestor’s liberation from Egyptian slavery. The end of the portion is comprised of the first plagues God visited on our oppressors.
Va-era and the following two portions are filled with miracles that accompany the Exodus from Egypt. Modern readers often wonder if the events described really happened. Did the Nile turn to blood? Were there frogs everywhere, etc.? And was it possible that these natural disasters only struck the Egyptians and not the Israelites? Scholarly papers have been written that seek to explain the plagues from an epidemiological standpoint. A few of them are rather convincing; there are plausible explanations for how it started and how one plague naturally followed after the other.
But do we really need to understand exactly how the plagues occurred? Do we even need to believe that the stories contained in these Torah portions (or any others for that matter) really happened?
The miraculous nature of the story does not require historical or scientific verification. Ultimately, what is most important is the underlying message: the difficult path from oppression to liberation. This story is not just about the Exodus from Egypt. It is about the constant quest for justice and freedom in our world. Bringing redemption to our world is never easy; it doesn’t occur overnight. And there are times when we reach a milestone–where some wrong is righted or some injustice recognized–and feel that the moment is beyond just us. There is something “miraculous” about it…or a sense that a higher source somehow intervened.There are those who take the story literally, but for those who don’t, there is still the valuable lesson about the work it will take to redeem our far from perfect world.