The Vilna Gaon (Gra) has a quite challenging comment on Midrash Seder Olam Rabbah 3:2 that Rashi says the Makkot were twelve:

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I haven't found this Rashi anywhere explicitly in him Chumash peirush.

However, the closest I could find to the Gra's statement on Rashi is the one in Shemos 11:9: למען רבות מופתי: מופתי שנים, רבות שלושה מכת בכורות וקריעת ים סוף ולנער את מצרים

Where did the Gra find that Rashi said there were twelve? And does Rashi deal with other sources saying there were more than twelve plagues?


1 Answer 1


The question is based on a misunderstanding of the words of the Seder Olam (which also appears in Eduyot (2:10) משפט המצריים שנים עשר חדש), which refers to the duration of the tribulation of the Egyptians, 12 MONTHS, not to the number of plagues.

Note, that Rashi in Parshas Va'era (Shemos 7:25) says that each plague took 1 month, three weeks of warning, and one week of the actual plague.

The problem facing us, is how do we reconcile 10 plagues (1 per month) with 12 months.

The Tiferes Yisrael (ad loc.,Yachin 73) suggests that according to Rashi, each plague was actually a bit longer than a month.

The Gra rejects such a notion, and argues that the word "Makkos" does not necessarily refer to the actual plagues, rather it refers to the time that Hashem started judging the Egyptians, which started from Moshe's prophetic vision at the burning S'neh.

  • Rashi in Shemos 7:25 doesn't exactly say that but rather 7 days of plague and 24 days of warning. BTW, Rashi quotes only one opinion from Midrash Tanchuma Vaera 13/Shemos Rabbah 9:12. It is a machloket between Rabbi Yehuda and Rabbi Nechemia, and Rashi holds as Rabbi Yehuda on the matter for some reason. Anyway, in either case it took 31 days which is a bit longer than a Jewish month.
    – Eli83
    Commented May 24, 2019 at 14:33
  • We can discuss the fact that Rashi comments the words Moftim which doesn't necessary mean plagues but wonders. But still, it seems to him there were in 12 months (or 12 times 31 days) 10 Makkos in Egypt and 2 at the Sea. If so, how did the 2 plagues (or Moftim) at the Sea - the splitting and the stirring according to Rashi - lasted for each 31 days (or a month). It seems it doesn't work.
    – Eli83
    Commented May 24, 2019 at 14:38
  • @Eli83 Context is key. Reading the words of the Gra in context, the Gra never said that Rashi held that there were 12 plagues. The discussion is regarding the duration of the plagues, not the number of plagues. Commented May 25, 2019 at 19:05

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