To what extent did the animals suffer, and eventually the Egyptian people? The Rambam says that all the animals owned by Egyptians died. In simpler terms: the Egyptian animals suffered greatly, but not every animal in Egypt was afflicted. Therefore, the Egyptians had no other option but to buy animals from the Jews due to the fact that the Jews were the only ones with livestock that weren’t at death’s door. Ironically, the Egyptians were forced to rely on the Jews even more than the Jews had to rely on the Egyptians for hundreds of years. Now, the Egyptians’ lives were at stake because they were entirely dependent on the Jews. The Jews had all the power and could choose whether or not they could use it for the good of the people or abuse it. They could have enslaved them or deprived them of animal-sourced foods and let all their immune systems deteriorate, which would eventually lead to their deaths. Needless to say, the Jews weren’t thrilled about helping them, but they knew that they had to do so because it was the right thing to do. Evidently, the Jews used their powers for the good (which is far more than the Egyptians can say about themselves) and the Egyptians got the food, which helped them greatly. Clearly, this was a test for the Jews. G-d was testing to see how they would react when all the power was placed on their shoulders, and they undoubtedly responded positively and passed. From this we can learn that (a) you should always treat others the way you would like to be treated, (b) just because other people are doing the wrong thing, that doesn’t make it okay for you to comply, and (c) that although we may not understand the commandment, it is important to do what we know is the right to do even if we don’t understand why.
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