Thursday, January 19, 2012

talking to the walls makes a difference

1. Bnei Yisrael was not receptive to Moshe's message that the redemption was immanent.  Moshe Rabeinu went back to Hashem and argued (6:12) that his mission was futile: If Bnei Yisrael won't listen, kal v'chomer then certainly Pharoah won't listen either. 

Everybody is troubled by this kal v'chomer.  Bnei Yisrael didn't listen because they had no time to think and listen; they were being beaten and persecuted day in and day out.  Why does the fact that they didn't get the message mean that Pharoah won't get it either?  (Previous post on the torah of the Noam Elimelech on this.)

The Sefas Emes answers that the road to Pharoah's ears was through Bnei Yisrael's hearts.  Pharaoh was not the real cause of Bnei Yisrael being freed or enslaved.  As we see later in the parsha, Pharoah eventually lost even his bechira -- he was not in control of his own destiny or that of Bnei Yisrael.  However, so long as Pharoah appeared to be in charge, so long as Bnei Yisrael believed that he controlled their destiny, there could not yet be a full geulah.  Geulah means recognizing ain od milvado -- there is nothing other than ratzon Hashem.  All the obstacles to freedom fall away once that one truth is accepted. 

Hence Moshe's argument -- if Bnei Yisrael are not yet ready to accept that message, all the rest is moot and nothing will help. 

2. Taking a step back, Hashem certainly knew that Bnei Yisrael wouldn't listen.  Why then did he send Moshe only to be rebuffed? 

Turning to the Sefas Emes again, he explains that this parsha was written to teach us that even when people don't listen -- even when the listener's mind is closed and words of Torah seem to bounce off a hardened shell of indifference -- those words still leave an impression.  There is no such thing as wasted chizuk and hisorerus.  

(A nice Sefas Emes to keep on your pulpit shtender to peek at when the you feel only the walls are listening : )  


  1. Anonymous12:45 AM

    if a #2 "impression" was left in the hearts of Bnei Yisrael, then an
    impression could conceivably have
    been left on Pharoah (point #1), an impact on the Egyptian king
    'better than nothing'
    (it seems that Hashem alone foresaw & that He alone detected the hidden effect on His people of the message of immanent redemption,
    though in time Moshe stressedly, blessedly rose to where he too could search the people's soul)

  2. >>>if a #2 "impression" was left in the hearts of Bnei Yisrael, then an
    impression could conceivably have
    been left on Pharoah

    Ah, but there's a difference between a jewish heart and Pharoah's heart.

  3. Anonymous3:48 AM

    should the powerful speech that left a deep impression in the Jew leave only a shallow impression on Pharoah, it might yet begin to have a practical effect on him (as in, the tzedakah of the nations is sin: Jews hear tzedakah inwardly, while the kings hear it only enough to act shelo lishmah-- for fame, to prolong dominion, to reproach Israel etc., bava basra 10b)

  4. Anonymous12:25 AM

    otoh, why should Pharoah "get the
    message" at all? indeed, what
    message was there, other than that
    this people had a deity more mighty than Egypt's? Hashem was not clearly a Champion of 'the oppressed' as such, but merely the late-arriving god of the Hebrews,
    Who'd finally seen enough of commonplace persecution of His worshipers, Whose intervention had nothing to do with revolutionary

    (of course Pharoah might've asked,
    'why has this particular people this terribly powerful god?', but
    with Bnei Yisrael at the 49th
    level of impurity, how could he be
    blamed for want of eternal answer?)

  5. Anonymous1:41 AM

    >>> nothing to do with revolutionary cause(comment 4)

    as when Hashem's initial commitment to favor
    Avra(ha)m reverberates in unqualified isolation-- He will bless those who bless Avraham (even if A. deserves it not, or deserves it less than another); & those who (even justifiably) curse Avraham, He will curse! far as Pharoah is concerned, the Hebrew god is simply showing favor to His devotees-- why should he listen to this alien god's sudden, even impudent challenge to Egypt's royal pride & prerogative?