Friday, January 15, 2016

Bo 5631 Second Ma'amar

The seventh plague came and went and Pharaoh still could not bring himself to let us leave Egypt.  Imagine the exasperation!  God said that there would be a redemption with signs and wonders and yet, we were still in Egypt.  Pharaoh was being obstinate.  Where was the promised redemption?  

The first Midrash[1] on the parasha explains that we did not deserve to be redeemed.  God had made us His own and instead of embracing God we angered Him by not renouncing idol worship.  For this we deserved to be destroyed.[2]  God redeemed us so that Pharaoh would not say that God destroyed them because he was unable to redeem them.  In order to redeem us in spite of ourselves, God caused Pharaoh to be obstinate.  As a result of Pharaoh’s obstinacy we were redeemed.

With this Midrash we can understand a pasuk in Mishlei (27:3), “ כֹּבֶד־אֶבֶן וְנֵטֶל הַחוֹל וְכַעַס אֱוִיל כָבֵד מִשְּׁנֵיהֶם/A stone has weight and sand has mass, but the anger of a fool is heavier than both.”  The beginning of this pasuk refers to the nation of Israel.  The Hebrew word for weight – כּוֹבֶד – has the same root as the word for honor – כָּבוֹד.  God honored the nation of Israel.  We angered God, though.  The end of the pasuk – the anger of a fool – refers to Pharaoh.  We could not be redeemed immediately on our own merit.  So, God orchestrated a series of events whereby Pharaoh’s obstinacy would be his undoing. 

God explains this to Moshe Rabbeinu at the beginning of our parsha, “... בֹּא אֶל־פַּרְעֹה כִּי־אֲנִי הִכְבַּדְתִּי אֶת־לִבּוֹ .../Go to Pharaoh for I have hardened his heart …” (Shmos 10:1)  The situation in Egypt did not seem promising for the nation of Israel.  Pharaoh was showing no sign of weakening his resolve to keep the Jews even after seven terrible plagues.  God tells Moshe not to despair and not to be concerned for it was He who had hardened Pharaoh’s heart in order to be able to redeem the unworthy nation.  What appeared to be a cause for concern was actually the very thing that permitted the nation to be redeemed.

This is an important lesson for each of us when we find ourselves in a predicament and wonder where God is.  Why isn’t He helping me?  The lesson of Egypt teaches us not to despair in these situations.  We can remember that Pharaoh’s stubbornness was really a blessing in disguise.  It was the very thing that brought about the redemption.  

God is always helping us.  In every situation He has our best interests in mind.  Even if we do not understand how, we can understand that God arranges everything that happens to us for our own benefit.

[1]Shmos R. 13:1
[2]See Yechezkel 20:5-9

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