Bo: Divine mockery

On a literal reading of the events in the parasha, one might conclude that there was a battle between two forces, and that the stronger one, Hashem, was the victor.

Danny Ginsbourg, | updated: 21:19

Judaism Danny Ginsbourg
Danny Ginsbourg

Rav Yosef Salant derives from the opening psukim of our parsha, that there is a מצוה to relate to our children, and grandchildren,  that Hashem mocked Egypt, in the מכות with which he afflicted them, as it says:(10:1-2)Hashem hardened the hearts of Pharoah and of his servants, ‘so that I can put these signs of Mine in his midst; and so that you may relate in the ears of your sons and your son’s sons, that I made a mockery:התעללתי, of Egypt by My signs that I placed among them, that you shall know that I am Hashem’.

Rashi notes that התעללתי also appears in Parshat Balak(22:29), when Balaam ‘justifies’ striking his donkey, because התעללת בי:’you mocked me’.

Our Sages (Midrash Aggadah) learn from that incident, that Hashem is ‘zealous’ for the honor of man, as the ‘righteous’ donkey was killed, to spare even Balaam, the רשע, the humiliation of people saying: ‘this is the donkey that mocked Balaam’.

More pertinently, our Sages (Megillah 10:), note that Hashem prevented the Ministering Angels from saying Shira:a song of praise, on seeing the Egyptians drowning, saying:’My creations are drowning, and you want to sing Shira!’. 

Asks Rav Avigdor Nebenzahl: Since Hashem is so zealous for the honor of man, why did He mock the Egyptians?;and further, why did He command us to relate this mockery, to all the generations?

Rav Salant provides one answer: Hashem punished Pharoah מדה-כנגד-מדה:’measure for measure’; just as Pharoah had mocked Bnei Israel, promising, on several occasions, to let them go, and getting their hopes up, and then resiling, and refusing to let them go; so too, Hashem mocked him, on several occasions limited the effects of a מכה, to give Pharoah false hope, only to mock him, in the next מכה.

Rav Nebenzahl offers a different answer:On a literal reading of the 
events, one might conclude that there was a battle between two forces, and that the stronger one, Hashem, was the victor.

It was essential to ‘correct’ this dangerous misconception, this apostasy; the mockery was to teach that there is no force, not even mighty Egypt, that is a ‘rival’ to Hashem. By mocking Pharoah, through the מכות, He ‘showed’ that Pharoah, and his mighty army, are כאפס וכאין: ‘as nothing’ compared to Him, as their very existence is at His whim.

Pharoah, who boasted:(Shemot 5:2)’Who is Hashem, that I should heed his commands’, had the great זכות to ‘testify’ that אין עוד מלבדו:There is no-one, other than Hashem!’.

A parting thought: as וידעתם:’and you shall know’, is in the plural, the Torah is stating:By you telling the story of Hashem mocking Pharoah and Egypt, through the מכות, to your son and your son’s son, they, AND YOU, will come to truly ‘know Hashem’!