Last week’s Parsha concludes with the seventh plague of hail mixed with fire, during which Pharoh finally gave in to G-d’s power and proclaimed, “This time I have sinned: Hashem is the Righteous One, and I and my people are the wicked ones.”
The Torah tells us that after Moshe prayed and the plague abruptly stopped, Pharoh’s stubbornness kicked in once again and he did not set the Jews free.
This week’s Parsha opens with G-d telling Moshe to go to Pharoh to warn him about the impending plagues. G-d tells Moshe that He hardened Pharoh’s heart in order that He display His wonders to Pharoh.
G-d tells Moshe, “all this is in order that you tell your sons, and your son’s sons that I made a mockery of Egypt with My signs that I placed on them – that you know that I am Hashem!”
A question raised is, if Pharoh was ready during the seventh plague to let the Jews go, why did G-d allow Pharoh to harden his heart and not allow them out?
Rabbi Dovid Feinstein o.b.m. explains: The reason G-d demonstrated His power through all the plagues was so that the story be told by us throughout the generations.
The Torah relates that G-d foretold to Avraham, during a prophetic experience, that his descendants will be enslaved for 400 plus years. However, since the Egyptians oppressed the Jews excessively during this time, G-d reduced the servitude experience by 190 years, and calculated the 400 years from an earlier date.
Pharoh was aware that the Jews were sentenced to be enslaved for 400 years and felt assured that they would remain in Egypt for the duration. He therefore resisted Moshe’s demands to release the nation before the time was up.
Reb Dovid says something astounding. Had the Egyptians treated them decently as slaves, without any abuse during that time, the Jews would have been in Egypt for the requisite 400 and possibly at the end of 400 years Pharoh would have released the nation willingly without the need of plagues and miraculous Divine intervention. Had that come to pass, there would have been no overt display of G-d’s greatness and might to impress upon the minds of our youth.
Once Pharoh didn’t abide by his mission to simply enslave the Jews without cruelty and maltreatment, the narrative account of the awesome plagues and miraculous redemption from Egypt that we relate to our children each year at the Pesach Seder became a reality.
Essentially, G-d shortened the exile by 190 years so that we should have this wonderous period in our history to be able to teach our children the wondrous miracles He performed on our behalf.
Our Exodus from Egypt is so integral to our belief that we are mandated to mention it in the third paragraph of the Shema during the day and at night so that we don’t forget it.
Before the Jews left Egypt, G-d told Moshe to please instruct every Jew to borrow garments and items from their Rai’aihu – their friend, and thus the Egyptians would provide them with great wealth.
A simple understanding of this is that the Jews should ask to borrow garments and riches from their fellow Egyptians before they left. However, the Talmud teaches us that whenever the word Rai’aihu is used it only refers to a fellow Jew to the exclusion of non-Jews.
Commentators explain this in a novel way which portrays how our positive actions and demeanor is looked at by outsiders.
G-d tells Moshe, “I have to make good on a promise that I made to Avraham that with the freedom of his descendants from slavery, they will receive great wealth.” To make this happen, G-d instructed Moshe to tell the Jews to begin borrowing and sharing their own personal items one Jew with another – their Rai’aihu. When the Egyptians will see the caring that the Jews have for each other, they will recognize the beauty of the kinship we have to each other, and they will then intuitively react by graciously giving the Jews their accumulated wealth – which they owed the Jews for all their tireless work.
The awesome care, consideration and kindness which we show and do for each other generates appreciation from outsiders who observe us!