This week's parsha
Unless otherwise noted, "This week's Parsha" comprises articles taken from contributors to the Chabad.org website. We show the original author's name here, so that proper attribution is given. For the sake of brevity, footnotes cited in the original author's writings are omitted from this website. If you need to see the citations, please refer to the original articles on the Chabad.org website.
Why Didn't Pharaoh Release the Israelites?
"But I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and I will increase My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt." – Exodus 7:3
Free Choice is the essential component which justifies the concepts of reward and punishment. It would be inappropriate to punish a robot for performing an immoral act which it was programmed to do. Nor would one reward a stove for cooking a sumptuous meal, or a bee for producing delicious honey. Humans, on the other hand, are rewarded and punished for their actions because they choose to do good or evil. This is why this week's Torah portion has always puzzled Jewish philosophers: How could Pharaoh be punished for refusing to comply with G-d's demands to grant freedom to the Israelites, if G-d Himself "hardened his heart"? To borrow a line from our Patriarch Abraham: "Will the Judge of the entire earth not perform justice?!"
Many interesting answers are given to explain this seeming injustice. Nachmanides offers an answer which is as profound as it is astoundingly simple. Nachmanides argues that had G-d refrained from hardening Pharaoh's heart, he would have then been deprived of the ability to make a coherent and true choice. Indeed, the plagues would have compelled him to let the Israelites go — an option he most certainly would not have chosen in the absence of G-d's strong hand.
The Burning Bush
In the portion of Shemot, the first portion in the book of Exodus, we read about Moses’ first experience of Divine revelation. The revelation was unique. Moses was tending the sheep of his father-in-law in the desert, when he saw a bush burning, yet the bush was not consumed.
As the Torah describes the encounter:
The little girl had been playing raucously, but now tears were streaming down her plump cheeks. She had fallen, scraped her delicate knee, and was bleeding slightly. Her sobs came in heaves, more due to the shock of her fall than the intensity of her pain.
There were several onlookers. Their responses were varied.
“Why was the child playing in such an unsafe setting?” criticized one.
“Who was supervising her?” demanded a second.