Discovering the Real Motive

December 27, 2018 at 3:22 AM , , ,

“….But i will harden pharaoh’s heart, and i will increase my signs and my wonders in the land of Egypt….” – Shemot 7:3

״….ואני אקשה את לב פרעה והרבתי את אותותי ואת מופתי בארץ מצרים….״ – שמות ז, ג

G-d struck the Egyptians with the Ten Plagues as punishment for their cruel enslavement of Bnei Yisrael. These supernatural Plagues also forced Pharaoh to recognize G-d’s existence and might, as G-d told Moshe to convey to Pharaoh, “I have allowed you to stand, in order to show you My strength and in order to declare My name all over the earth” (Shemot 9:16).

These reasons seem sufficient, but in an earlier verse, where G-d initially told Moshe about the Plagues that He will bring upon Pharaoh (Shemot 7:3), Rashi introduces yet a third purpose in the Plagues. Commenting on the words, “I will harden [Pharaoh’s heart],” Rashi explains: “Since Pharaoh behaved wickedly and defied Me… it is better for Me that his heart be hardened, so that I can increase My signs and My wonders in him, and you will recognize My mighty deeds. And so is the custom of the Holy One, blessed be He. He brings retribution on the nations so that Israel should hear and fear.”

This is based on a principle taught earlier by Rashi, in his commentary on the very first verse in the Torah. Rashi writes there that all of existence was created by G-d “for the sake of the Jewish people and for the sake of Torah.” This is true not only of the world’s coming into existence, but of every event that transpires within the creation as well. Besides for everything being deliberately orchestrated through Divine Providence, the ultimate purpose of every occurrence in the world is achieved only when it brings a direct benefit to the Jewish people and the Torah. Therefore, even when an event seems to have occurred for other reasons as well, its true objective is the impact it will have on the Jewish people.

Rashi therefore emphasizes from the start that the Plagues were brought upon the Egyptians not only as retribution for their behavior toward the Jews and in order to cause them to recognize the Creator, but for the example that the punishment of the Egyptians served for the Jews, inspiring them to a deeper fear of G-d.

—Likkutei Sichot, vol. 36, pp. 33-36

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