Parashat Bo

God said to Moshe: “Go before Pharaoh; for I have hardened his heart, and the hearts of his servants, to show them my signs, and to tell your children … what I did in Egypt … and to know that I am God “. The Torah also tells us that Moshe and Aharon warned Pharaoh about the next coming plague (locust) if he did not liberate the children of Israel. But what was the use of warning them if Hashem had hardened his hearts? Also, wasn’t it unfair that God deprived them of his free will just so that we can relate to our children the great deeds of God and know who he is? Likewise, it seems that Pharaoh’s servants still retained their decision- making power even after their hearts were hardened, as it is written: “Pharaoh’s officials asked him, “How long will this man be a snare to us? Let the people go, so that they may worship the their God. Do you not yet realize that Egypt is in ruins?” Although the Sages teach us that during the course of the first 5 plagues God did not harden Pharaoh’s heart, as it is written “and Pharaoh hardened his heart (without God’s help)”, and only after the fifth plague He did it, as the verse says: “and God hardened his heart”, even so we must understand if God totally took away his free will. The Sages clarify that God never deprived Pharaoh of the possibility of repentance; However, as he behaved indifferently during the first 5 plagues thinking that they were natural phenomena, God removed the fear of the following plagues, balancing his free will, so that he can choose without the influence of the miraculous punishment that they transmitted the plagues. Pharaoh’s foolishness leaves us with a great life lesson, because many times we too ignore the Divine principle of trying to change our bad habits, our cunning character, and we prefer to choose to harden our own hearts with excuses such as “God made me this way, I can’t change “,” others are to blame “, ” sorry, it was not my intention to hurt you “, because according to Judaism, we came to this world to improve, do good and express the best of ourselves. Sometimes we just have to “prune some weeds” that disturb our growth, other times, we will have to uproot the weeds of our character. As Rabbi Noah Weinberg said of blessed memory, there is a greater gift than free will: being aware that we have it. Let’s take advantage of it!

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