Stone pharaoh tutankhamen
Stone pharaoh tutankhameniStock

We read in our Parasha (10:1-2): ‘Hashem said to Moshe:’Come to Pharoah, for I have made his heart and the hearts of his servants stubborn so that I can put these signs of Mine in his midst; and so that you may relate in the ears of your son and your son’s son that I made a mockery of Egypt and My signs that I placed among them- that you may know that I am Hashem’.

Rav Yaakov Kranz, the famed Dubner Maggid, wonders:’How is it possible to advance a reason which negates the subject? If a shaliach is told in advance that the mission with which he is entrusted is in vain, and will come to nought, he will surely decline the mission.

‘This is exactly the case here! Hashem, tells Moshe that He has hardened the heart of Pharoah, thereby seemingly telling him that there will be no relief to Bnei Israel from his going to Pharoah.

‘To answer this difficulty, let us first note that the plagues which Hashem inflicted on the Egyptians, were not only to punish them for their wickedness, but also to instill in Bnei Israel awe of Hashem, and complete Emunah in Him, to prepare them to accept the Torah.

‘We thus read:(VaEtchanan 6:22):’Hashem placed signs and wonders, great and harmful against Egypt.. before your eyes’: the miracles were performed to their eyes, so that they would see, and internalize that Hashem was the Master of all in this world.

‘In truth, all the makot and miracles in Egypt, were for the benefit of Bnei Israel. Moshe- to their eyes - warning Pharoah of each impending plague, leading Bnei Israel to know, that Hashem alone was the true G-d.

‘This was ממש: precisely Hashem’s message to Moshe, in our Parasha: Do not be concerned that your going to Pharoah is in vain and will not bear any fruits! Was my intention in sending you solely to take vengeance on Pharoah? No! My main concern was to instill in Bnei Israel knowledge of Me, and therefore, you achieved much each time you went to him; through your warnings to him on each occasion, and the plagues which befell him when he hardened his heart, Bnei Israel saw, and will tell their children, and they their children, the greatness of Hashem.

‘And this was the culmination of our psukim: through this they will ‘know that I am Hashem’’.

Rav Moshe Teitelboim, the Yismach Moshe, adduces another reason, as to why Hashem saw the need to ‘urge’ Moshe to come to Pharoah: precisely because He had hardened Pharoah’s heart.

The Rav first raises a halakhic reason as to why Moshe may have been reluctant to accept Hashem’s charge:’Our Sages (Yevamot 68.) teach that, just as it is a Mitzvah to rebuke another, when you know that he will accept it, so too, it is a Mitzvah not to say things that you know will not be accepted.

‘Therefore, when Hashem informed Moshe that Pharoah would not accept his words, Moshe feared that it would be a transgression for him to say them.

‘Hashem therefore said to him, that as the reason for Pharoah not heeding his words was because Hashem hardened his heart, so that he could receive the punishment he merited for the actions he chose to perform, Moshe would not be guilty of a transgression, by speaking to Pharoah’.

The Rav then favors us with another exposition as to why Moshe may have been reluctant to rebuke Pharoah, until Hashem assured him that Pharoah would not accept his rebuke: The reason is the same reason that led Jonah to run away, so as not to have to fulfill Hashem’s charge to go to Nineveh, and to adjure the people that, unless they repented their evil ways, they would be severely punished by Hashem.

‘Said Jonah to himself:’The goyim are קרוב: close to doing Teshuva’, from fear of Divine punishment.

‘It would be a terrible indictment against Bnei Israel, if, as was likely, the people of Nineveh should repent after my words, when Bnei Israel have not done so, despite the repeated rebukes of the prophets.

‘Similarly, Moshe Rabbeinu said: If I should go to Pharoah, and he was to repent and yield to Hashem’s command, it would be an indictment against Bnei Israel, who did not heed the words Moshe spoke to them.

‘Then Moshe would be truly ‘hard of speech’, not because of his physical impediment, but because נסתמו טענותיו: all his arguments for his people would be stymied- just as Jonah had feared.

‘Therefore Hashem said to him:’Come to Pharoah’, and don’t be afraid from doing so, as he will not heed your words, ‘for I have hardened his heart’, and I did so, ‘so that I can put these signs of Mine in his midst’.

Rav Moshe Mendelfrom Vilna, opens his commentary by saying:’We have to understand why ‘Hashem hardened the heart of Pharoah’, as it seems to have had no purpose, being like a person asking another to go on his behalf to a third person, and ask for a loan on his behalf, and telling him that he knows that person will definitely not lend me money.

‘Is this not mocking the person he asks to go on his behalf, after he knows the third person will not lend him the money? Is this not the case here, that after telling Moshe that He has hardened Pharoah’s heart, and will not pay heed to Moshe’s words, why send him לחנם: for no purpose?

‘Indeed, the parshanim ask in our case: Why did Hashem ‘need’ to send Moshe to Pharoah, to ‘ask’ him to send Bnei Israel from their servitude, and afflict him with all these makot, until he agreed to free them? Why did He not, as He did at Yam Suf, simply tell Bnei Israel: ‘Go!’, and put into the mind of Pharoah to consent to this; or, as He did there, protect Bnei Israel from the pursuing Egyptians, by his angel separating the two, and preventing the Egyptians from harming them.

‘They answer: Since it had been decreed that Bnei Israel were to be in servitude for four hundred years, yet had only served two hundred and ten years at this time, Hashem compelled Pharoah to free them of his ‘free will’- as the Midrash relates:’Said Moshe to Pharoah: Say to Bnei Israel: You are free, you are now the slaves of Hashem, and not mine; Pharoah began לצרוח: to bemoan: You were my slaves, and now you are free’.

‘To achieve this, this whole sequence of events had to take place- so expounded the parshanim.

‘Moshe Rabbeinu was fearful of this, as the שר מצרים: the Angel of Egypt did in fact assert, that Bnei Israel were still enslaved to Egypt, under the original decree, as their release by Pharoah was not freely given, but coerced, and therefore null and void.

‘Hashem therefore said to Moshe: Come to Pharoah and warn him, and do not be concerned that this is in vain, because I have hardened his heart, so that he has no fear of Me, or of the makot with which I afflict him; therefore, when he releases Bnei Israel from his servitude, he is not doing so under any coercion, but of his free will’.

The Beit Halevi proffers an intriguing interpretation of our Parasha, saying:’Clearly Hashem did not harden the heart of Pharoah, just so that He could then afflict him further, for not heeding His Will.

‘Rather, it was to punish him for the greatest evil that Pharoah had inflicted on Bnei Israel, which was to intentionally cause Bnei Israel to become sinful, as the Torah states:(Ki Tetze 26:6)’וירעו אותנו: And the Egyptians made us bad’.

‘Hashem therefore ‘hardened the heart of Pharoah’, to increase the number of afflictions He put on him, as each of these partially uprooted the bad in the hearts of Bnei Israel, and increased their awe of Hashem, on seeing the judgement meted to their oppressors.

‘Pharoah, in his dialogue with Moshe Rabbeinu, presented his main concern at their demands, to be the loss of revenue from their absence, should he accede to their request to be permitted a three day furlough to go into the desert, to make an offering to their G-d.

‘In fact, his refusal was his avowed purpose to separate his slaves from their faith.

‘To avenge this ‘affront’ to Him, Hashem hardened the heart of Pharoah, until he finally was compelled to concede:’Go and serve your G-d, as you have asked, only your cattle and sheep shall not go with you’.

‘Why was Pharoah so concerned that these animals not be taken, when his very life were at risk?

‘Because they were at the heart of his refusal, being the ‘gods’ the Egyptians worshipped. The thought that they were to be offered to Hashem, was the most bitter pill for Pharoah to swallow, as it signified that he had totally failed in his main purpose of separating Bnei Israel from their G-d, and that they totally rejected the idolatry of Egypt’.

A parting thought from David Hamelech:(Ps’ 40:6):Much have You done, O Hashem, my G-d, Your wonders and Your thoughts are for us- none can compare to You!’.

לרפואת נועם עליזה בת זהבה רבקה ונחום אלימלך רפאל בן זהבה רבקה, בתוך שאר חולי עמנו.