Tuesday, January 23, 2007

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 on the parsha explains that the we did not deserve the redemption. 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. (see Yechezkel 20:5-9) 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.

This is the meaning of a pasuk in Mishlei, “ כובד אבן ונטל החול וכעס אויל כבד משניהם/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 for weight has the same root as the Hebrew for honor. God honored the nation of Israel. We angered God, though. The end of the pasuk refers to Pharaoh. We could not be redeemed immediately on our own merit. So, God arranged a series of events whereby Pharaoh’s obstinacy would be his own undoing.

God explains this to Moshe Rabeinu at the beginning of our parsha, “בא אל פרעה כי אני הכבדתי את לבו .../Go to Pharaoh for I have hardened his heart …” The situation in Egypt does not seem promising for the nation of Israel. Pharaoh shows no sign of weakening his resolve to keep the Jews even after seven terrible plagues. God tells Moshe not to despair and not be concerned for it is He who has hardened Pharaoh’s heart in order to be able to redeem the unworthy nation. What appears to be a cause for concern is actually the very thing that will permit 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 God caused Pharaoh to be obstinate and continue the bondage in order to bring 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.

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