There’s a curious series of events that happen when Moshe and Aaron appear before Pharaoh and begin to display the signs and wonders of Hashem to him and his court. The first thing they do is provide him a sign of their authority from Hashem by turning Aaron’s staff into a serpent. However, Pharaoh’s magicians also turn their staffs into serpents as well. And after Hashem turns the water of Egypt into blood, the magicians of Egypt replicate this miracle as well. It says, “But the magicians of Egypt did the same by their secret arts” (Exodus 7:22). Throughout the course of Hashem displaying the various miracles, signs and wonders (ancient Hebrew for “shock and awe”) on Egypt, Pharaoh’s magicians periodically replicate these signs. Why? In order to convince Pharaoh that the God of the Hebrews was no more powerful than they were, and thus allow his heart to be hardened against the Children of Israel.
But Rashi has an interesting and thought provoking take on this. He says that the magicians are doing this to Moshe and Aaron because bringing signs and wonders to Egypt is like “importing straw to Ofrayim, a city full of straw. You are bringing sorcery to Egypt, which is full of sorcery.”
Straw to Straw Town
Why would anyone want to bring straw to peddle in a town known for its straw? A person that would have the audacity to do such a thing had better know beyond a shadow of a doubt that his product was ultimately superior to that which was produced in Straw Town. Otherwise he would suffer the humility that would follow.