Parshas Bo Paro's thrice Hardened Heart and Triplicate Redemption

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1 pages 155 to 158 Parshas Bo Paro's thrice Hardened Heart and Triplicate Redemption There is a step by step development in Paro's responses to Moshe's requests that Paro release Bnei Yisrael. Shem Mishmuel has a wonderful explanation of this progression and its development. Paro moved ahead step by step until he ultimately released the Jews. At the beginning of Parshas Bo, Moshe asked Paro to let Bnei Yisrael go. Paro responded with a question. He asked Moshe, who do you want me to release? Who should I allow to leave Egypt? Moshe said binareinu u'vizkeineinu nelech, we will go with our old people and young people, with our sons and daughters, with our sheep and our cattle. For it is is a holiday for Hashem. Paro responds with his blessing for the men to leave, but not more than that. Then he chases Moshe out of the palace. After this exchange, Hashem punished Paro with the maka of arbeh, the eighth of the makos, and then the ninth maka, choshech. After the black darkness swathed Mitzrayim for three days, Paro said to Moshe, Yes you can take your children, But I will not allow you to take cattle. (Take only the sheep and cattle that you need and leave some behind.) Moshe asserted, We will take everything we need, all of our livestock. Paro said, I will let you take the children, but not the cattle. Paro again drove Moshe from the palace. Then after makas bechoros, Paro finally relented and sent out the Bnei Yisrael together with their children and cattle. What is this progression? At first Paro allowed men but not children, then children but not cattle, and then in the end freed all adults, children and cattle. Hashem told Moshe from the very beginning of his mission, I will harden Paro's heart. I will strengthen his heart so he will not give into the plagues. In the development of the parsha, especially in the last five plagues, the Torah says Hashem interfered in Paro's decision making process and strengthened Paro's heart. Hashem gave Paro the psychological power to resist. The commentaries on the Torah address this question. The principle of free will is a fundamental principle; man and woman all adults are free to choose good and evil. Adam and Chava were first given free choice to choose to

2 eat from the tree or to refrain from eating from the tree. We could say the whole Torah is about people choosing between good and evil. Re'eh nasati lifnacha hayom es hachayim v'es hamaves, (check exact quote) I have placed in front of you the choice between good and evil, between life and death. You should choose life! I, said God, will not force your choices. I charge you to choose and enable you to choose. The moral choice is left completely to man to decide. Then how and why did Hashem get involved and influence Paro's response to this moral dilemma of whether or not to free the Jews? This is Hashem's gift to humanity. Choose life, choose goodness. How and why did Hashem interfere with Paro's decision making? Had Paro been left alone he would have released the Jews after the fifth or sixth plague. Why did Hashem break the cardinal rule of giving man free choice? Shem Mishmuel offers three answers. The first is from the Rambam in Mishne Torah. In Hilchos Tshuva, the Rambam writes that the core of repentance is freedom of choice. We have freedom to choose whether or not to sin, whether or not to do the good deed. We even have an amazing freedom of choice after the sin, we have the choice to repent and to retroactively revoke the bad deed. This is an amazing kindness of God. If we decide never to do the sin again, the sin is wiped out or even turned into a good deed. This power of choice remains even after the sin. The Rambam asks, how did Paro lose the power to repent? Paro was condemned to remain evil until the final punishment was delivered to Paro and his people. Rambam explains that in very rare cases, for particularly evil people,such Paro and Hitler. When a person reaches such evil levels, then Hashem will take a way from that person the power to repent. Hashem will not accept his tshuva, in fact he wont even allow him to do tshuva. Hashem will not let him change, and he will remain evil to the very end. Hitler died unrepentant, so did Stalin. Hitler died as Hitler. Stalin died as Stalin. He had the decree to send every Jew to Siberia, but he died before it could happen. At this level of evil, some people still will not change. Rambam explains this is a punishment from Hashem, because he is so disgusted by them he takes away form them the power of change. They become like animals who cannot repent their past deeds. These people made themselves like animals, and Hashem takes away from them heir freedom of choice. This is why Hashem hardened Paro's heart. A second answer to this question. The Ramban in his commentary on chumash write sometimes people repent for a different reason. In the best case, a person realizes the evil of his deeds. He is ashamed and regretful so he asks God please forgive me. This is a higher level of repentance. This is cognitive repentance, of the neshama and seichel. When a person truly understands how evil he has acted and wants to have that evil expunged from his personal history. Sometimes a person repents in fear of the punishments that will come to him in response to his evil deeds. Paro was not repenting because he recognized the evil of his deeds. If you would have asked him was it wrong to enslave a entire nation, was it wrong to throw babies into the river. He'd say no it wasn t wrong. We have this right to subjugate them, they are our possessions. Paro would believe in the moral worth of his actions still. Why would Paro want to release the Jews after the 5 th or 6 th maka. He didn't want to suffer didn't want his people to suffer so much. This is not morally motivated tshuva. This is accommodating a superior force. Ramban says Hashem does sometimes interfere with this kind of tshuva. Sometimes Hashem will place an irrational obstinance to withstand the punishments that Hashem is sending his way. No one will force us to change. Paro was given a superhuman stubbornness so he could maintain his immoral beliefs. In fact he did until the very end. The Ramban explains, therefor, that this is not an exception to the rule of choice. Paro chose to keep his evil perspective, even amid the horrible punishments. Hashem said I will not let him bend as a stick being broken in two. I will let him keep his immoral choice, because Id like to really punish them some more. I want the world to learn more about my justice. I will not let Paro give in due to practical considerations. As long as Paro is still committed to evil, I wont help him repent

3 his ways. Rambam says God took away his moral choice to choose good. Ramban says the moral choice was always there. If he would have chosen to recognize that his ways were immoral God would have given him choice to repent. However, Paro only wanted to repent for practical considerations because he was being bullied and battered. God bolstered him so he wouldn't give in to outside pressures. A third explanation, was given by the father of the Shem Mishmuel. The human being is a combo of intellect and emotion.. Ruach emotion and nesham intellectual side. Emotions are malleable and they fluctuate. A person can fluctuate being goodness between hatred and love goodness and wickedness kindness and selfishness. Emotional makeup of man and woman is a kaleidoscope. There are different phases and shades. It is continuously changing, its not monochrome. However the seichel of a person does not change =4 is an intellectual concept. It does not change. If I like you though,this can change in a moment. This is an emotional concept. Intellectual concepts are immutable and absolute inviolate. Paro was given a powerful intellect. Paro and his intellect said slavery is an important backbone of our economy. Our country is built on the work of the slaves. With slave power we were able to build pyramids. We were able to become strongest empire on the planet. If we free slaves, Egypt will collapse. This is politics economics and national security. Egypt cannot bend on this issue of slavery. No matter the disasters that befall us form the plagues of Moshe, because the alternative is worse, a total ruining of or empire. It will be fundamental existential threat to our way of life. Paro said I will not free slaves. No mater the price. Freeing the slaves would be national suicide. It fueled their economy. This was an intellectual stance. Intellect is stubborn and unchanging. If intellect believes that something is true, it does not change. Paro said the whole logic and concept of our country is built on he back of the slaves. Without slave power there is no Egypt. We are ready to suffer any plagues to keep he slaves. Mind is stronger than outside circumstances. This is stubbornness of Paro, stubbornness of seichel. We find 3 different terms in Torah when referring to Paro. Sometimes it refers to him by name Paro. Sometimes refers to him as melech mitzrayim the king of Egypt And sometime the Torah just refers to mitzrayim. Paro sat on the throne. Melech mitzrayim according to Zohar, refers to the archangel of Egypt Every nation has an angle that represents its national energy. The word mitzrayim refer to the people of Egypt Every nation, just like every individual has three levels of existence. Nefesh ruach and neshama. Nefesh fundamental life force. Ruach spirit, emotional life. Neshama seichel intellectual life. Same is true of nations. Every nations has a instinctive life force. Nefesh Every nation has ruach a certain spirit, certain emotional genre. Every nation also has neshama beliefs values and intellectual ideas that drive that nations. Paro represents the neshama highest level of intellectual life. Melech Mitzrayim represents the ruach spirit of Egypt this s the archangel. The people of Egypt are the fundamental life force of the nation. The three main sins of man AZ idolatry, licentiousness and murder come from the three levels of human existence. The nefehs fundamental biological life-force is corrupted by the sin of murder. The higher spiritual life force is corrupted by giliuy arayos. The sin that corrupts the human intellect is idolatry. Egypt corrupted all three levels. There was much murder in Egyptian society. We know we were the victims. It had a corrupt spirit full of licentiousness, as illustrated by the wife of Potifar, who tried to relentlessly seduce Yosef. Paro refused to acknowledge god. Paro said I have made myself.

4 These three levels of Egyptian, the fundamental life, the spirit of that civilization and the intellectual understandings of the civilization were all corrupt. The plagues attacked the country on all three levels. Basic life, spirit, and intellectual values. According to the kaballa and chassidus, we have a split in the parshiyos. Vaeira recounts seven plagues. Bo has the last three. The ten levels of spirituality in the world, are divided into 2 parts, the seven lower levels. They represent his nefesh and ruach. The higher three are called mochin, they are the intellectual manifestation of God in the world. Hashem 's energy comes into world as a life force, as a spirit and as an intellect. The plagues worked backwards. The plague started by attacked the life force. Then they worked their way up to the spirit. The last 3 makos, the ones of parshas bo attacked the top three the intellectual ones keser chochma bina. We find three terms in relations to Paro obstinate refusal to release the Jews. Hikshe, kashe, Paro's hard was hard. Vayechzek, he strengthened his heart. Kaved lev Paro his heart is heavy. Shem Mishmuel explains that these three terms relates to the different levels of Paro. The nefesh, he should have instinctively responded to the first makos. But kaved lev paro, his instinct was dense and dead, like a finger that has lost flow of blood. Even if it hurt the body doesn't respond. This is why Paro didn't respond like any normal person would have responded to the pain of the makos. Sometimes people do things because of an emotional response. Paro should have been overwhelmed by fear when he saw the wild animals and locusts and other plagues. Normal people would have been terrified. But he wasn t, because Hashem gave him bravery, hiksha. No matter whats happening around him, he had courage Shem Mishmuel calls it kshei ruach. Finally, Hashem gave him strength of heart, meaning the intellect. Paro held a conviction that the slaves must remain under all costs. This chazak lev Paro, strong conviction in his mind. Hashem strengthened Paro in nefesh ruach and seichel. The 8 th plague, the sorcerers say don't you know that Mitzrayim is doomed. We have reached the level of mochin. Even with Paro's beliefs about what was necessary for the survival of Egypt, it didn't matter. Egypt was being utterly destroyed. Paro's nefesh and ruach had already been defeated by the plagues. Now Paro's own intellect was beginning to wonder. Maybe I was wrong and maybe the country is actually being destroyed. So he calls to Moshe and ask who is going? Men and children Moshe responds. Men I accept Paro says, but not children. If you are going to celebrate a holiday for your God, what do little children know about God and celebrations. They are wearing diapers, how can they celebrate with God. This is illogical request, you must be tricking me. I will not accept this illogical request, even though I am already willing to release you and relax the slavery demand. Moshe says no, I must take out the children. Shem Mishmuel explains why Moshe needed to take the children out of Egypt, rather than receiving the Torah and then returning to take their children. The Jewish people in Egypt were completely enveloped by the society of that country, like a fetus in the mothers stomach. How can we bring Torah to children who are completely absorbed in Egypt. If they are inside that country, we wont be able to reach them. We must take them out of this environment so they will have a chance of knowing what Torah is. We can't train them in this country. Paro has no grasp of the human soul, according to kaballa. Nefesh ruach seichel, we have already discussed. But there are two more levels also, chaya and yechida, life and oneness. These two levels of soul are outside of the body. We are aware of our instincts and our emotions and our intellect. But there

5 are things beyond instinct emotion and intellect. They are us, but they are beyond out awareness. This is chaya and yechida. Shem Mishmuel calls this a makif. It surrounds us and is beyond the individual details of who we are as we understand ourselves. There is something beyond that we don't understand. As much as we ponder the question who am I? What is the central it that is I? It is difficult to come to the essential I. I am more than instinct emotion and intellect. It exceeds all three and is deeper than them. This is the chaya. As much as I search for this part and I know it is there, it still beyond me. Shem Mishmuel sometimes refers to this level as tzelem Elokim. Obviously the image of God cannot be contained within the body. My tzelem Elokim is an infinite thing. I know that I am more than my thinking and more than my emotions and more than my instincts. It is deep and broad. I have a vague feeling for this chaya. Moshe told Paro we have to take our children. You don't understand it. This is makif, it spreads beyond logic. You cannot explain the commitment of the parent to the child, even though has factor of intellect instinct and emotion. Especially the commitment of Jewish parents to their children is something hard to explain. The children are more important in some ways than we ourselves. They are a makif, an enveloping overarching purpose. Beyond our understanding but essential. After the next plague Paro says why take the animals? Don't take them! Shem Mishmuel explains the second makif is called Yechida. Chaya envelopes me and includes my children with me. There is an even greater envelope, the yechida envelope. At this level, everything is related to each other connected in a mysterious cosmic connection. We are all connected, not just parents and children, but all people, and animals and people and the whole world. Moshe proclaimed freedom is not just for the adult. Freedom must include children, and even animals and things. The freedom extends into the possessions and surroundings of the people. Everything has to be free. This is why we must take everything out of Egypt. This is an amazing lesson the lesson of the makif. Beyond our basic interests and experiences, there are greater unfathomable elements that are eternal. This aspect unites all elements of creation. This is a value, and a secret of Torah, kaballa and chassidus. The great chassidic rebbes would experience the chaya and yechida as they walked through the world. We should recognize the existence of things that are beyond us. Our environment is critical to being a successful human being, to make the right choices and to choose goodness instead of evil and death. May we make good choices and develop all levels of our individual and communal souls.