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How Pharaoh acted towards Moses

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RABBI SHMUEL BLOCH

“Who knows, maybe this is my answer, my salvation” he reasons to himself.

He pulls over and goes inside. Examining the program, he notices one horse called Spatula in the sixth race that is listed as 3,000 to 1 odds.

”If I use my last $100 and Spatula wins, I will make $300000” he excitedly thinks. “Stranger things have happened and soon I will be back on my feet.”

He can nearly taste victory

Impatiently, he waits for the sixth race. He thinks dreamily of all the money he is going to make. The time arrives. He strides to the window confidently and wagers his last $100. He can nearly taste victory. However, he is not a total fool. He realizes that at a 3000 to 1 shot, Spatula could use some help. So he begins to pray.

“Oh Hashem, shine your benevolence on me and Spatula. I need your help so much. Please let Spatula get out of the gate together with the other nine horses. Maybe if she gets a good start, it will give her confidence.”

So it happens. The gates fly open and the frenzied contestants charge onto the track. Spatula is with them.

The man prays again. “Oh thank you Almighty for giving me hope, he continues. Now if only you could help her to keep pace with the others… so she does not lose desire… even for 30 seconds or so”

Once again the prayer is answered as Spatula gallops valiantly to the middle of the pack. The man’s eyes are starting to widen. The fantasy is still alive. His prayers intensify.

“Dear Hashem, I am so grateful for everything you have done for me. The race is half over. Please, please push Spatula to the front just to get a taste of being in the lead”.

Once again, the man turns Heavenward

Sure enough within seconds Spatula is in the lead. The crowd go wild and are in shock. A 3,000 to 1 shot is in the lead. Once again, the man turns Heavenward.

He prays again. “My appreciation knows no bounds Hashem. Who would have imagined such a thing happening. Please let her pull away from the others by a length or two. It is in your hands Hashem! Show me your power”

Incredibly, Spatula quickens her pace. She is now two full lengths ahead. The man is sweating now. His plea is frantic. His voice is cracking.

“Please Hashem; put Spatula 5 lengths ahead right now! Please do it!”

To his utter amazement Spatula forges ahead by 5 lengths. Only seconds separate him from the finish line. The man sits down and says calmly. “Thank you Hashem but I don’t need you anymore. I can take over from here and can do everything myself to ensure Spatula wins”

Rabbi Noah Weinberg comments that the story is silly but conveys a powerful lesson. When we need help and things are desperate we turn to Hashem. However, when everything is fine  and looking fantastic, we turn to ourselves and give ourselves all the credit for things working out exactly the way we want them to.

Hashem reassures Moses

Such a perspective is not new. In fact Pharaoh himself acted this way in this week’s Parshah.

Hashem reassures Moses that He will liberate the Jewish people from Egypt and that the redemption is about to begin. Hashem instructs Moses that he, together with Aaron, speak with Pharaoh requesting that Pharaoh release the Jewish people and send them away from Egypt. If Pharaoh refuses, then there will be terrible consequences for Egypt in the form of the 10 plagues. Pharaoh does reject Moshe and Aaron’s request and the first plague begins which turned all the waters of Egypt into blood.

The result of all this was “The necromancers of Egypt did the same by means of their incantations; So Pharaoh heart was strong and he did not heed them, as Hashem had spoken” (Shemos, chapter 7 verse 22).

Next came the plague of frogs. The frog infestation caused unbearable annoyance with their constant croaking. Rashi, the great Torah commentator, explains that the frogs actually crept into the Egyptian’s innards and endangered their lives. This plague was so awful and dreadful that Pharaoh himself called Moses and Aaron and begged them to ask Hashem to end it. He then promised to free the Jewish people. “Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said “Entreat Hashem that he may remove the frogs from me and my people and I shall send out the people that they may bring offerings to Hashem” (Shemos, Chapter 8 verse 4).

Moses then prays to Hashem and all the frogs died. “Pharaoh saw that there had been a relief and kept making his heart stubborn. He did not heed them as Hashem had spoken”  (Shemos, chapter 8 verse 11) The Kli Yakar (Rabbi Shlomo Ephraim Lunshitz, 1550-1619) points out that regarding no other plague is the word “relief”  mentioned. He continues by saying that unique to this plague was that there were piles of dead frogs all over Egypt. When the other plagues ended all remnants disappeared. The sight of piles of dead frogs rotting and smelling across Egypt should have caused Pharaoh to remember what happened and to keep his word. Nevertheless, since there was some relief from the plague, this was enough to cause Pharaoh to remain obstinate and stubborn.

We fall back into our old habits

Rabbi Yisrael and Osher Anshel Jungreis in their book “Torah for your Table” explain that Pharaoh’s reaction and subsequent refusal teaches us a frightening reality about human nature. When we are under terrible stress, we too call on Hashem to help us and ease our plight and our burdens.

However when the crisis does pass, we fall back into our old habits and negative routines. The challenge of every person is to recognize that Hashem is in control at all times, even in times of plenty, when everything is going our way and we are successful in everything we do. Recognising that all is a gift and a blessing from Hashem infuses us with appreciation and positivity. Our goal, they write, is to pray from inspiration rather than from desperation.

We can learn so much about how we should really act by understanding how all too easy it is to imitate Pharaoh’s actions. We must never forget Hashem when all is well and everything is going great.

Hashem has never let us down and He never will. Try talking to Hashem about anything and everything whether for good or for the not so good for a limited period of time, such as week.

After doing this, you too will see how your life has been transformed and how wonderful and meaningful real, heartfelt prayer can truly be.

  • Rabbi Shmuel Bloch is a regular contributor to SA Jewish Report Online. To see more of his writings on this website,CLICK HERE!

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