Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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27 Teves 5760 - January 5, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Opinion & Comment
Pharaoh -- as a Moshol

by L. Jungerman

One cannot help but be amazed and bewildered when studying the parshiyos describing the ten plagues visited upon Egypt. Hashem, the A-mighty, Supreme Being, engages in `negotiations' with a flesh-and-blood king, a mortal creature of dust and ashes, a fleeting shadow, a wisp of nothing. And this `pauper king' arrogantly stiffens his neck in refusing to let His people go, while Hashem continues to argue, to hold a dialogue, as it were. Emissaries come and go, the Egyptians are warned, but they ignore the warnings, and the faithful emissaries return empty-handed. Still, the negotiations carry on.

With whom? With a miserable mortal? A minuscule, lowly critter, adamantly, presumptuously standing its ground before the very Master of the world! When Dovid Hamelech was forced to flee from Shaul, he shouted at him, "Who are you pursuing, King of Israel? Who are you persecuting? A dead dog is chasing a flea!" (Shmuel 24). This question reverberates in the atmosphere tenfold. Who is the A-mighty King trying to best, here? Whom is He contesting? Whom is He continually plea-bargaining, beseeching, literally begging that he agree to listen to His voice? A bat of an eyelash is more than enough time to annihilate Pharaoh so that not a vestige remains of him or his mighty army, and then Israel could go forth into freedom with an upper hand, reigning supreme.

Modern times can offer us an example of this situation through the state of affairs (lehavdil) that existed and still exists between the U.S. and Iraq. The mighty world power, guardian of world democracy, demands, pleas and threatens, and repeats the process from the very beginning in the hope that the Prime Minister of Iraq will be so kind as to listen to it and do what it obsequiously asks.

Before the talking is all over and actions speak with an offensive attack, people still wonder why all this groveling? Why don't you preempt and strike? Ready, aim, fire -- and the show's over. Why this hesitation and show of forbearance? Was it cold feet? Lack of courage?

Today, after witnessing the chain of counterattack, the entire world knows that even for the world's superpower it isn't as simple as just pressing the trigger. All they can really do is threaten, demand, and gesticulate wildly to frighten the enemy. But when zero hour arrives and it is time to carry out the threats, one returns to the starting point, to begin all over.

But Hashem, lehavdil a thousand times, has the power and the ability. He is Omnipotent. He merely glances at the earth and it quakes. He touches the mountains and they spew smoke. And if Hashem does not strike with His mighty hand, is it not a mockery?

He has been insulted, as the Ramak says in Tomer Devora. He suffers and He absorbs affront. And still, negotiations are conducted to and from this flea, this Paro-par'osh who feels himself on equal footing, in the hope that he will surrender, submit, bow out, deign to lose face so as not to perish altogether.


Our viewpoint is distorted, however, for our eyes are only human. A hero, a victor, is considered one who imposes his will, who wins. But only "You are the Victor, forever, Hashem." Gentiles enslave His children, but His suffering them is the very proof of His greatness. The very fact of Jewish survival in the harsh exile is the confirmation of Hashem's greatness. Gentiles cackle in His holy sanctuary? This, too, is a sign of His awesomeness. "Le'olom -- forever," in all situations and circumstances. Even when everything points to the opposite conclusion -- You are the supreme Victor!

The Rambam explains why this is so: The maximum evidence of power lies in the very fact that despite everything and in spite of everything, the goal will be achieved when all is said and done. No person in this world can undertake any mission and adhere to it in complete opposition to the rest of the world rising up against him. Hashem created the world and all of the people in it for one defined purpose: "For My glory did I create it, form and even make it."

This will be a source of heavenly glory. Period. Whether you like it or not. You can climb the highest mountains and plumb the lowest depths but you cannot escape the destiny of Providence. In the end, the Divine Design will be carried out and the world will turn over to execute His will.

The hero can bide his time. He is in no rush. What difference does it make if Pharaoh is insolent, blasphemous, stubborn? It makes no dent in the ultimate glory of Heaven because when the show is all over and the process winds down, the result will be exactly as Hashem planned it all along. In fact, his very obstinacy will increase the subsequent glory of Heaven, for then it will be all the more clear that nothing can oppose or defy Hashem. No will can foil the Divine Will; no scheming can undermine Hashem's plan. In the end, the Egyptians acknowledged this and loudly declared, "Hashem is the Righteous One!" And all of Egypt will know that I am Hashem. Hashem will not desist or accede an iota. The accursed ones will be drowned, and as they go down, they will know full well that "I am Hashem and that might is only Mine." Can anything be more potently victorious than this?


The Ramchal describes political events in history as an expansion of this very idea, wherein Egypt is but a springboard, a metaphor.

The world is drawing further away from its Creator. We sometimes cannot help painfully feeling that He is being shunted aside, as it were, from His own world! How many people in the world are cognizant of a Creator as an active manipulator of world events, of personal events?

Not to worry, says the Ramchal in Daas Tvunos. Precisely this fact is the cause for eventual increased Divine glory in the world.

The time will come when evil will evanesce into nothingness; it will disappear. Then, suddenly, the full impact of Hashem's glory will be revealed on earth. Then it will become apparent that the millennia of attempts to rebel against Him, to kick up the dust in His face, as it were, have all come to naught.

They will perish and You shall persevere. They shall wither like weathered hay, like a garment discarded. They will pass on, away, out, and You will endure. Is this not the ultimate greatness and awesomeness of Hashem -- that He suffered these mites to defy Him?

R' Dessler zt'l used to quote a very vital conclusion in the name of the Maharal: "The will of Hashem will be realized in man, come what may, either through him, or despite him." By his hands or upon his back.

The wise one will harness himself to serve Hashem with all of his might, to carry out his G-d-given mission in life, willingly. For if not, that goal will be realized, willy- nilly, through means beyond his power and against his will.

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