Sleight Of Hand

Teves 27, 5782
December 31, 2021
Candlelighting Time 4:27 PM

In this week’s parsha Moshe gets down to business with Pharaoh. He demands the release of the nation from bondage and his request is categorically denied. The Egyptian empire is slowly but surely dismantled and destroyed. Rashi explains from the Midrash how the plagues that wreaked havoc upon the strongest country of that time were comparable to an attacking force bent upon defeating an enemy. However, it is interesting to note that preceding each plague an action triggered that actual plague. Furthermore, the mechanisms of the world itself were utilized to confront Pharaoh and defeat him. Certainly, Hashem could have just sent some missiles at strategic points and demolished the entire nation in a flash.

It is important to understand the nature of Pharaoh’s reluctance to free the nation and the point of contention between him and Moshe. Also, it is significant to grasp the theme of his defiance against Hashem when he stated, ‘Who is Hashem that I should submit to His word?’ An interesting observation is what Rashi cites from the Midrash that Pharaoh would rise early and go to the Nile to attend to his needs. He attempted to portray himself as a god that did not have physical requirements. He essentially depicted himself as though the very nature of this world did not affect him, and he was superior to all and in charge of the very essence of this world.

Initially when Moshe encountered Pharaoh and demanded the release of the nation, he threw down his staff and it changed into a snake. The advisers of Pharaoh were able to perform the same action, and Pharaoh retorted that you are resorting to magic which we are well versed in. Indeed, since Hashem obviously knew that the Egyptian sorcerers would be able to mimic what Moshe had done, then why should they have done it in the first place?

Shaloh Hakadosh cites from earlier commentators that the plagues in Egypt were actually a renaissance of the world. The entire world was turned upside down and topsy turvy and then resumed its normal mode of operation. There was a suspension of the normalcy of the world’s functioning and afterwards, complacency returned and the conventional state of affairs of this world resumed. Although the original physical creation took place in the month of Tishrei, however a second creation occurred during the month of Nissan when we finally were able to leave. We witnessed together with the Egyptian populace how Hashem harnessed the very essence of the world’s resources to punish Pharoah and his henchmen and bring them to the brink of destruction before they actually capitulated and released the nation from slavery. The entire episode of the plagues was to hammer into Pharaoh that the world is not run by him, rather, we, the nation of Hashem who adhere to His Torah and perform His mitzvos, that determines what will happen and what will not. This new arrangement of how the world functions was created with the advent of the exodus from Egypt. When we study Torah, its impact is globally felt since the very existence of the entire universe is based upon studying Torah. Pharaoh was initially deluded that he had absolute control and he certainly perceived the ultimate truth as his domination of his empire was rapidly wrested away from him. When we relive the events of thousands of years ago, they have the extraordinary capacity to awaken within us our inner energy to emulate the faith and unwavering trust that our forebears had.


Even though it seems that Hashem eliminated Pharaoh’s ability to repent, He only removed His assistance in doing so. Would he have truly wanted to recognize Hashem and regret his evil ways, he could have done so. CHOFETZ CHAIM