June 18, 2024
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וַיֹּאמֶר יְדֹוָד אֶל משֶׁה בֹּא אֶל פַּרְעֹה כִּי אֲנִי הִכְבַּדְתִּי אֶת לִבּוֹ וְאֶת לֵב עֲבָדָיו לְמַעַן שִׁתִי אֹתֹתַי אֵלֶּה בְּקִרְבּוֹ: וּלְמַעַן תְּסַפֵּר בְּאָזְנֵי בִנְךָ וּבֶן בִּנְךָ אֵת אֲשֶׁר הִתְעַלַּלְתִּי בְּמִצְרַיִם וְאֶת אֹתֹתַי אֲשֶׁר שַׂמְתִּי בָם וִידַעְתֶּם כִּי אֲנִי יְדֹוָד: (שמות י/א-ב)

“And Hashem told Moshe; Come to Paroh because I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants in order that I will put these signs in his midst. And in order that you will relate in the ears of your children and your children’s children how I make mockery in Mitzrayim and My signs that I brought upon them and they will know that I am Hashem.”

After all the makos (plagues), except for makas bechoros, the killing of the Egyptian first born, it is written that the reason Paroh did not send out Bnei Yisroel was because his heart was either strengthened or hardened. Regarding the first five plagues, dom, blood; tz’fardayah, frogs; kinim, lice; ah’rove,wild animals; and dever, an epedemic, it is written that Paroh hardened his own heart and regarding the next plagues it is written that Hashem hardened Paroh’s heart.

Regarding the plague of arbeh, locusts, however there is an addition. Not only is it written after the plague that Hashem strengthened Paroh’s heart, but before the makah, at the time that Hashem told Moshe He was going to send the locust, it is written, “v’ani hichbadti es leeboh, and I hardened his heart.” Zera Shimshon asks, why is it written in first person, ani– I and not in the third person, Hashem, like it is written in the other places?

Zera Shimshon answers, the reason for this is because in this pasuk Hashem is speaking directly to Moshe and was relating to Moshe what He did. In all the other places the Torah is relating what happened so it is written in the third person.

The question still is; why did Hashem choose specifically here between the makah of barad, hail, and arbeh to explain what He did?

Zera Shimshon explains that Hashem was concerned at this time that Moshe might have some questions and Hashem wanted to answer them even before Moshe asked them.

One question that may have bothered Moshe was that during the plague of barad, it is written (in the end of last week’s parsha; Shemos 9/32), that all of the crops in the fields were destroyed except the wheat stalks and the spelt. When Moshe warned Paroh about the next makah of arbeh, He told him that the arbeh will destroy all of the crops that were left over from the barad, meaning the wheat and spelt. Hashem was concerned that Moshe might question why Hashem left over the wheat and spelt stalks if in the next plague, Hashem would destroy them! Why didn’t Hashem just destroy them in the plague of barad? Rashi explains that it was really a miracle, but why the miracle?

Hashem therefore told Moshe that He did this in order to keep Paroh alive to be able to demonstrate more signs in their midst. How is this?

Paroh noticed the oddness of the wheat and spelt stalks surviving and gave his own fascinating interpretation of this. Paroh reasoned that since at the time of Creation, Hashem chose not to rule the world purely with justice because the world would not be able to survive if Hashem ruled with justice alone; therefore, Hashem combined mercy with justice. This led Paroh to think the reason Hashem didn’t destroy the wheat and spelt was because He couldn’t ruin everything in the field, since that would be pure justice without any mercy. This in turn led Paroh to conclude that in the same fashion Hashem would not destroy him. Paroh therefore didn’t feel any need to send out Bnei Yisroel from Mitzrayim and he reneged on his previous promise of permission for Bnei Yisroel to leave. This, in turn, caused Hashem to bring more plagues to Mitzrayim for Bnei Yisroel to tell their sons and their sons’ sons that “I made a mockery of Mitzrayim…”!

Zera Shimshon explains another questionMoshe might have had; how was Paroh able to withstand all the makos and afflictions? Why didn’t he just fall apart because of everything that was going on during the makos. Hashem’s answer was, “v’ani hichbadti es leeboh, and I hardened his heart.” Zera Shimshon explains that it doesn’t mean that Hashem made Paroh stubborn like the standard translation but, on the contrary, he made his heart strong so he wouldn’t break. This is similar to what Chazal say in Mesechta Sanhedrin (100b) that Hashem gives strength to the wicked to withstand their punishment.

This idea that Hashem did not take away the free choice of Paroh but Hashem gave Paroh the strength to continue answers the well-known question of the Rambam; how can it be that Paroh did not have the free choice to do teshuva for all the pain he inflicted on Bnei Yisroel.

According to the above, the answer is simple; Hashem never took away Paroh’s free choice but rather Hashem gave Paroh the strength to carry on!

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