Parasha Va’era teaches us about the first seven of the 10 Plagues:
– The water in the Nile and everywhere else in Egypt except Goshen, where the Israelites live, turned to blood.
– Frogs came up from every body of water.
– Lice came up from the dust.
– Beasts swarmed freely throughout the land.
– Cattle, horses, sheep and other farm animals died.
– Boils and blisters caused pain to the Egyptians and their animals.
– Hail mixed with fire came down from the sky, killing crops, animals and people.
Each plague was preceded by Moses and Aaron telling Pharaoh to let the Israelites go into the Wilderness for three days, so they can worship God. In some cases, Moses and Aaron warned Pharaoh of the plague that would come if Pharaoh did not permit the Israelites to go. Pharaoh refused each request.
After the first few times, Moses and Aaron probably started to feel somewhat defeated. Moses was not eager to leave Midian, where he had married and had a son, to return to Egypt to carry out God’s plan to free the Children of Israel. He pointed out to God that his speech was not good – to which God answered that Aaron would help deliver God’s message. After the first encounter with Pharaoh, instead of letting the Israelites go, Pharaoh ordered that in addition to building a city the Israelites would now have to gather their own straw to make the bricks. The people suffered more. Moses was so upset he even told God the plan had backfired because it made things harder on the people. Things seemed to be going in the wrong direction.
But, each time Pharaoh refused to listen to Moses, Moses came back and followed God’s instructions again.
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks in his essay on the parasha points out that continuing to press forward with an important task after several failures is one sign of a great leader. Instead of giving in to defeat, “They keep trying. They learn from every mistake. They treat failure as a learning experience. And from every refusal to be defeated, they become stronger, wiser, and more determined.” (from “Va’era, Overcoming Setbacks,” in LESSONS IN LEADERSHIP: A WEEKLY READING OF THE JEWISH BIBLE)
Scouting’s founder, Lord Baden-Powell, told many stories of mistakes he made along the way, often out in the field camping or hunting. He usually made fun of his failures, but always learned something. When he went on his next adventure he could Be Prepared to do better.
So look out for those learning opportunities other people call “failures”. They can lead to great success.