Friday, December 31, 2021

Moshe Derangement Syndrome

Pharoah's reaction to makkas barad is interesting.   וַיִּשְׁלַ֣ח פַּרְעֹ֗ה וַיִּקְרָא֙ לְמֹשֶׁ֣ה וּֽלְאַהֲרֹ֔ן וַיֹּ֥אמֶר אֲלֵהֶ֖ם חָטָ֣אתִי הַפָּ֑עַם. This time -- הַפָּ֑עַם -- he admits he got it wrong.  What's so special about this particular makkah?  Malbi"m explains that Pharoah was warned before barad to take the livestock in and seek shelter.  It's one think to refuse to release Bnei Yisrael from slavery; it's another thing to be so stubborn as to not even take precautions that can save lives and $.  Even Pharoah realized he had gone to far.  Pharoah clearly had MDS -- Moshe Derangement Syndrome. He rejected anything Moshe said, no matter that doing so was cutting off his own nose to spite his face.  R' Baruch Sorotzkin reads הַפָּ֑עַם as indicative of the approach of Pharoah and other reshaim to admitting guilt.  It's always only הַפָּ֑עַם, this one time, this one detail that is wrong. There is no consideration that the prat maybe is melamed on the klal, that being wrong this time may reflect a broader misconception.  That's why once the moment passes, it's back to the usual routine.  (See HaKsav v'haKabbalah who learns the pasuk as meaning exactly the opposite.)   

Moshe comes to Pharoah and tells him that although he knows Pharoah will return to his old ways, makkas barad will come to an end.  The Torah then gives what seems to be a damage report:

 וְהַפִּשְׁתָּ֥ה וְהַשְּׂעֹרָ֖ה נֻכָּ֑תָה כִּ֤י הַשְּׂעֹרָה֙ אָבִ֔יב וְהַפִּשְׁתָּ֖ה גִּבְעֹֽל

וְהַחִטָּ֥ה וְהַכֻּסֶּ֖מֶת לֹ֣א נֻכּ֑וּ כִּ֥י אֲפִילֹ֖ת הֵֽנָּה

And then continues and tells us that Moshe davened for barad to be removed.  

You would expect the damage report to come after the plague was removed, yet the Torah sticks it in before even telling us that Moshe davened for the plague to stop.  Why break up the narrative this way?  As we discussed once before, Ramban and Sadya Gaon explain that these pesukim are not third party narration, but rather are part of the dialogue between Moshe and Pharoah.  Moshe was telling Pharoah that the wheat crop has not yet been ruined, so if he repents now, he can salvage something.

R' Baruch Mordechai Ezrachi brilliantly explains that there was a symbolic message for Pharoah in these particular crops being spared.  Pharoah was stiff necked.  He refused to buckle to Moshe's demands.  He thought that remaining inflexible was the ultimate sign of strength and would lead him to prevail.  Moshe therefore told him to take a look at which crops remained.  Rashi explains כי אפילת – מאוחרות, ועדיין היו רכות ויכולין לעמוד בפני קשה.  Because the wheat crops ripen later, their stalk is not stiff and hard, and therefore, they were were not crushed by the barad.  Sometimes the ability to bend, to show flexibility and give a little, is actually a strength. 

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