The Parasha commences with the plague of ארבה, locusts. Moshe says to Pharaoh (Shemos 10:3) עד מתי מאנת לענות מפני שלא עמי ויעבדוני כי אם מאן אתה לשלח את עמי הנני מביא מחר ארבה בגבולך, until when will you refuse to be humbled before Me? Send out My people that they may serve Me. This is the only plague where Moshe uses the term מאן, refusal. Regarding locusts it is said elsewhere (Devarim 28:42) כָּל עֵצְךָ וּפְרִי אַדְמָתֶךָ יְיָרֵשׁ הַצְּלָצַל, all your trees and the fruits of your ground, the chirping locusts will impoverish. The function of locusts is to diminish crops, i.e. impoverish it’s owner. It is ironic that the word ארבה means to increase. Why does ארבה mean to increase when their function is to diminish?
The answer to this question is that regarding the plagues that HaShem meted out to the Egyptians, in addition to the lessons that the plagues served for the Egyptians, they also served as a reminder for the Jewish People. For example, the plague of דם, blood, reminded the Jews how they had nullified circumcision in Egypt. Similarly, the plague of locusts served as a reminder to the Jews how they needed to act with alacrity. Indeed, the Torah states (Devarim 16:3) כִּי בְחִפָּזוֹן יָצָאתָ מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם, for you departed from Egypt in haste. Furthermore, the ideal that one should not delay in performing a mitzvah is derived from the verse that states (Shemos 12:17) וּשְׁמַרְתֶּם אֶת הַמַּצּוֹת, you shall safeguard the matzos, and the Medrash (Mechilta) interprets the word מַּצּוֹת to be read as מִצְוֹת, commandments, meaning that one should not delay in performing the commandments. It is noteworthy that the Baal HaTurim (Shemos 7:16 refers to Pharaoh as a לץ, a scoffer. What is the modus operandi of a scoffer? Instead of taking action, the scoffer urges people to procrastinate and not to be so passionate about their daily lives. Amalek was the epitome of this, as they “cooled off” the hot waters that the Jewish People had experienced with the Exodus from Egypt. The Baal HaTurim (Ibid) writes that the words כה כה in א”ת ב”ש are לץ לץ, and regarding the לץ it is said (Mishlei 19:25) לֵץ תַּכֶּה וּפֶתִי יַעְרִם, strike the scoffer and the simpleton grows clever. This implies that in order to “get the scoffer moving,” he has to be hit. The wise person, however, moves on his own accord, as he understands the significance of not delaying.
With this idea idea in mind we can better understand why the locust reflect an increase, yet simultaneously they impoverish people. The lesson of the locusts is that one must think big and act diligently and with alacrity, as otherwise he will become impoverished. It is noteworthy that the word for a lazy person is עצל, which contains the letters לץ, as one who is lazy will scoff at those who act with alacrity. It is further noteworthy that it is said (Mishlei 3:34) אִם לַלֵּצִים הוּא יָלִיץ, if one is drawn to the scoffers, he will scoff, and the word פרעה equals the words בְּלַלֵּצִים הוּא יָלִיץ. Thus, Pharaoh, the Egyptians and Amalek symbolize laziness, whereas the redemption from Egypt reflects alacrity and diligence.
HaShem should give us the strength to study His Torah and perform His mitzvos with alacrity, and then commensurate with our performance, He will bring us Moshiach Tzidkeinu, speedily, in our days.
Have a Diligent Shabbos!