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What Does It Mean To Be Chosen?
Video 7 of 8
So, two things to watch for:
The role of the Astrologers ; and
These two kind of magic words kibud halev on the one hand and chizuk halev on the other hand.
So let’s see what we find. So we’re going to start our look at the plagues right over here. Moses and Aaron come to Pharaoh and they performed their first sign. So let’s watch what happens.
Vayavo Moshe v’Aharon el-paroh vayaasu chen kaasher tziva Hashem vayashlech Aharon et-matehu, “Aaron throws down his staff,” lifnei paroh velifnei avadav vayehi letanin, “and it becomes a serpent”. And at that point, vayikra gam paroh lachachamim velamechashefim vayasu gam-hem chartumei Mitzrayim belahateihem ken. At this point, Pharaoh is able to replicate the plague by virtue of his own wisemen, by virtue of his own Astrologers. They too, using Magic, do the same thing. So, if you look at what happens over here, the language interestingly is vayechezak lev paro v’lo shama alehem - that Pharaoh “strengthens his heart”. He sees that he is dealing with a practiced Magician perhaps , so he gives himself courage to withstand the battle against Moses and Aaron. V’lo shama alehem- “ and he doesn’t listens to them”. But you’ll notice something interesting also. Look at what God says vayomer hashem el-Moshe kaved lev paro, God actually uses different language to speak about this. Pharaoh’s perspective is he is just giving himself courage. That’s not God’s perspective. Kaved lev paro, he’s made himself stubborn. It seems like if Pharaoh looked carefully, there would have been some indication here that in fact these are not just Magicians he’s dealing with, but these are representatives of the Master of the Universe.
So if you go back and look at exactly what happened over here after the Astrologers were able to replicate this supposed Magic. Vayivla mateh-Aharon et-matotam, “ And the staff of Aaron then goes and swallow all the other staffs”. And what does that kind of indicate? That indicates, well, you know, if there is other powers here who is the Master of all of them? Aaron’s staff; representing the staff of the Creator. And if Pharaoh wanted to see that, he could have; and his failure to see that can be described as nothing other than kibud halev, than stubbornness.
Okay. So let’s continue. We actually come to the very first plague of the Nile becomes blood and the Egyptians can’t find anything to drink. And then, what happens? Before Pharaoh reacts vayaasu-chen chartumei Mitzrayim belateihem, the chartumim come in and they were able to do this too. They were able to take water that they find and also turn it into blood through again the arts of Magic. So one more time, Pharaoh gives himself courage by chazak lev paroh, he strengthens his heart and he didn’t pay attention to this sign either.
So now if we advance to the next plague, the plague of the Frogs, we now can find something interesting and we had talked about this a little bit before. This is the plague where Moses kinds of get into this strange dance with Pharaoh and he says over here, hitpaer alai, “glorify yourself over me. Make me do something you don’t think I can do.” lematai atir lecha velaavadeicha uleamecha lehachrit hatzfardeim mimecha umibateicha rak bayeor tishaarnah- “ when exactly would you like me to turn off the frogs?” And Pharaoh’s response says lemachar, “do it tomorrow.” Why? lemaan teda kiein keHashem elokeinu, “this is going to demonstrate that there is no one like yud key vav key, “like the Creator God.”
Now, what happened over here? For the very first time, there is not just the power of the plague that’s descending upon Pharaoh, but there is an indication in precision as we’ve talked about. That Pharaoh might be dealing with something other than garden variety of pagan magic. There is a force in the world that can predict exactly when this thing is going to turn off? That is something you don’t find in the polytheistic universe. And in fact, when Pharaoh changes his mind after this plague, look at the language vayar paro ki haytah harvacha v’hachbed et-libo, he hardens his heart” hu v’avodav. Over here, he has to sort of make himself stubborn. He’s seen an indication that God is not just powerful but precise and he ignores it. He’s been stubborn v’lo shama aleihem, “and he doesn’t hear them”.
Let’s go to the next plague, the plague of Lice. Vayaasu-chen hachartumim belateyhem lehotzi et-hakinim velo yacholu. You find an interesting thing here for the first time, the chartumim find themselves stumped, they cannot replicate the plague of Lice. The Astrologers come to Pharaoh and they say etzba Elokim hi, “this in fact is the hand of God.” This is beyond their power and at that point they say “ it has to be God behind it”. But, notice this language over here etzba Elokim, the specific language for God is not yud key vav key, not the special creator name of God but rather “the finger of a power”. This is a deity that’s dealing, this is not human magic. At least we’re dealing with a pagan god over here. And what’s Pharaoh’s response? Vayechezak lev paroh velo shama alehem, he strengthens his heart. We’re now dealing with a real power, he’s not dealing just with magic. Let’s go on.
The plague of wild animals.V’hifleiti bayom hahu et-eretz goshen, “at area of Goshen” God says “ I will wondrously distinguish between Egypt and the land of Goshen where the Jews live.” Lemaan teda ki ani Hashem bekerev haaretz, “this is going to prove that I am yud key vav key, ”I am the Creator God in the land.” The fact that not only can I bring this plague, but I can wonderously distinguish, not just in space but in time, V’samti fedut bein ami uvein amecha lemachar yiheyeh haot hazeh, “and it’s going to happen tomorrow.” So what you have is precision in time, precision in space, both of these working together and what’s Pharaoh’s response? vayachbed paroh et-lebo, “he hardens his heart”. So what was happening again is that the power of the plague were ramping up and simultaneously the precision by which the plagues are being waged are also ramping up.
Next is the plague of dever - the death of livestock. Again, precision! But precision this time to an even greater extent. V’hiflah Haashem bein mikneh Yisrael ubein mikneh mitzraim, “ God will wondrously distinguish between the cattle of the Egyptian and the cattles of the Israelites,” v’lo yamut mikol-livnei Yisrael davar, “and there will not even be one piece of Jewish cattle that will die,” vayaaseh Hashem moed lemor mahar yaaseh Hashem hadavar hazeh baaretz, “ and this is going to happen tomorrow.” So again precision time and space, but this time, “there's is not even going to be one piece of Jewish cattle that will die.” Vayaas Hashem et hadavar hazeh mimacharat, and God in fact made this happen tomorrow. Again, look at Pharaoh’s response: vayishlach paro v’hineh lo-met mimikneh yisrael ad-echad. Pharaoh is not even looking at the power of the plague. He is looking to see this kind of precision. “Not even one piece of Jewish cattle is dead, all of my cattle is dead?” You just don’t find this in polytheistic universe and he doesn’t listen. But why doesn’t he listen? Vayichbed lev paro, “ he hardens his heart”. He’s again seen a more significant indication that he is dealing with the Creator but he simply will not listen.
Let’s go to the next plague, the plague of shchin. So boils descended upon all of Egypt and it’s our favourite Astrologers, they are back again. But look at what they are doing now. Lo yachlu hachartumim la’amod lifnei Moshe, not only are they unable to replicate the plague, they can’t even stand there before Moses because they too are afflicted with the boils. What’s happening? Again,Astrologers are the barometer of power, but the power of the plague is so intense that the Astrologers can’t even stand there anymore. And now, with the power of the plagues at a kind of Apex, for the very first time, God enters the picture. Vayechazek Hashem et-lev paro, God actually strengthens Pharaoh’s heart, because if God had not gotten involved, he would have given in because the power of the plagues had overwhelmed him. God cannot let that happen and therefore vayechazek Hashem et-lev paro, He gave Pharaoh courage. Did he actually interferes with Pharaoh’s free will? In a certain way yes; but in a certain way what he is really doing is enhancing his free will. He is giving him the courage to pursue his vision and Pharaoh doesn’t listen. He has the courage given by God now, to continue to persevere. And that brings us up to the turning point of the plagues - the plague of Hail.
A plague of Hail, when you think about it, just seems like any old plague. But if you look at the language the Torah uses to set it up, it seems like it’s being set up as a different kind of plague. Listen to this. Vayomer Hashem el Moshe, “God says to Moses,” hashchem baboker, “wake up in the morning, stand before Pharaoh, tell him,” ki bapaam hazot, “because this time” ani sholeach et-kol magefotai el-libcha, “I am going to send all of my plagues into his heart.” It’s like somehow, this is the equivalent of all of the plagues before that and all of the plagues, interestingly, are going into Pharaoh’s heart. Baavur teda, “ in order to teach you” ki ein kamoni bekol-haaretz “ that there is none like me, I am utterly unique in the entire land. I am not just a pagan god, I am the Creator God.” What is it about hail in particular that’s going to do this? You begin to get this sense that something is going to change. That we’re reaching a kind of climax, because, you know, if you are wondering Pharaoh “ why is it that you’re still around? Why am I doing this with you?“ Baavur zot he’emadticha, “ I have allowed you to continue to fight against me “ baavur haroticha et-kochi, “so that I can show you my power” ulemaan saper shmi bechol-haaretz, “ and that my name should become known and throughout the whole land.” And I do get the sense here that God is warning Pharaoh that “ you know, I am doing this for you so that you should come to a recognition, and we can either do this with or without you. There is a Plan B. If you refuse to recognize the truth of my being the Creator, then it won’t be that the eternal truth of monotheism will come from Pharaoh recognizing me but it will be through your destruction.” Let’s see how this plays out.
What will be different about hail? In addition to the precision in time, hineni mamtir kaet machar, “exactly tomorrow that this will happen,” somthing new happens, something which we haven’t seen in any plagues - a warning as to how the victims of the plague could escape the harsh effects of the plague. “If you want to escape the plague,” Moses says, “take everybody inside.” What else is different? Varad v’esh mitlakachat betoch habarad, “as the Hail comes down, there is fire frozen into the Hail”, which seems to be a physical impossibility. What the common denominator between these two different things? But when would you give a warning? You only give a warning if you are an overwhelming force. If I am so assured of victory that a warning doesn’t even matter and I feel a sense of compassion for my foe; that’s when I warn. A God that has compassion for his foe? I don’t know. That doesn’t really sound like a pagan god. A Creator God might has passion for a rebellious child ; not a pagan god. And what about fire and ice together in the same hail stone? If you go back to the pagan mindset. So, what two gods would be at greater odds with each other than the fire god on the one hand and the ice god on the other. I mean, they’re never going to cooperate. Only one Being could put together that and that, right, and that is in fact the Creator; the Creator of both fire and ice together can make peace between them. All of these indications of God as Creator, comes together in Hail. And finally, a breakthrough.
Vayishlach paro vayikra leMoshe uleAharon vayomer alehem chatati hapaam, “I have sinned this time.” Pharaoh says, “I have sinned;” he’s never spoken that way before. That’s moral language. You don’t sin against a pagan god; you only sin against your Creator before whom you’ve rebelled. Hashem hatzadik, yud-keh-vav-keh, “the Creator God is the righteous one” va’ani v’ami hareshaim, “and me and my people, we are the wicked ones.” Pharaoh had gotten it! Plan A has succeeded! He has recognized the truth of God as Creator, it should be over. So why are there three more plagues? Ah, because it’s not over. Because Pharaoh changes his mind. God doesn’t change his mind; Pharaoh changes his mind.
Vayar paro ki chadal hamatar v’habarad, “and Pharaoh saw that there was no more Hail.” Vayosef lachato, this is the very first time that the narrator has accused Pharaoh of sinning and again only because Pharaoh himself has said that he’s sinned. Vayachbed libo. How did he sin? By making himself stubborn. This is a sin. You see, the other’s Pharaoh had never consciously realise that God was Creator; he had subconsciously resisted it. Subconscious resistance can’t necessarily be described as a sin. Conscious, willful, rebellious resistance - that’s a sin.
Something has changed now. Pharaoh has actually seen the truth. He has recognized God as Creator and now, he is taking the conscious realization of God as Creator and throwing it out of his heart! That’s a sin! And after he's made himself stubborn, vayechezak lev paro, he gives himself courage to be able to continue in this foolish quest. V’lo chilach et-benei Yisrael, he didn’t let the Jews go. What’s God’s response? It’s time for Plan B.
Vayomer Hashem el-Moshe, God says to Moses, bo el-paro, “come to Pharaoh” because ki ani hichbadeti et levo v’et-lev avadav. Interestingly, just before it had said that “Pharaoh had hardened his heart”, now God is saying “ you know what, he has indicated now consciously that that’s what he wants.” First your vision was you didn’t think I was God, so I’ll strengthen your heart. But now, what you are trying to do, is consciously turn your back on all the evidence that you know to be true. That’s your vision? I’ll facilitate that vision too, because now you’re just a pawn. Ulemaan tesaper beaznei vincha uven-bincha, God says to Moses “this is that you should be able to tell your children and your children’s children,” et asher hitalalti bemitzrayim, “the way I have played with Egypt.” This is new language. I am now going to play with Egypt as if it’s my toy. This is my new agenda. v’et ototai asher samti vam, “through all the miracles that I have put in them,“ vidatem ki-ani Hashem. All of the language before that was viyadu Mitzrayim ki-ani Hashem - “ that Egypt will know that I am God; that isn’t on now. It is no longer about Pharaoh knowing that I am God. You must know that I am God. It’s about what you see through Pharaoh’s destruction. And from here on in, Pharaoh is a pawn . We have plagues 8, 9 an d10; at which point the Jews finally go free.
I want to end now by talking about : “what does it mean to be the people that came out of Egypt through these signs and wonders, through these acts that constituted a historical demonstration of the truth of monotheism ? What does it means to be borned into nationhood in that way? ”
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