The other day my son Shua sent me a picture of his 2 year old son Yehuda standing in his crib with his hand on his hip. The caption was, the king!
I responded; “The Pharoh was just about the same size.” My son sent back a laughing emoji.
Our Sages tells us that the Pharoh of Egypt was the height of an Amah – measuring roughly two feet! His beard was the same size.
Commentators explain that an Amah was not his actual size. Our Sages were conveying that he was a dwarf.
The Talmud tells us that Nevuchadnetzar King of Babylon who ruled over the world was a dwarf as well. It is also said about Napoleon that he was very short.
Obviously these leaders were not stymied by an inferior complex because of their size, and perhaps as compensation for their short size they were propelled to aspire to greatness.
The Talmud tells us that our leader Moshe was 10 Amos tall! Again, it is conveying that he was quite tall.
The Medrash relates that the door to the entrance of Pharoh’s inner chamber was short and adequate to fit the Pharoh’s short build. However, this forced anyone else who entered to bend and bow toward the Pharoh who considered himself a deity.
When Moshe and Aaron entered, a miracle occurred. The entranceway expanded so that they were able to enter without bending over and did not appear as if they were bowing to the Pharoh, a false god.
One who observed this miracle should have been convinced that there is something special about Moshe and Aaron and they should have taken their requests into consideration. However, the Torah tells us otherwise. G-d tells Moshe, Pharoh’s heart is hardened and he won’t give in to the signs which prove the obvious hand of G-d.
The Medrash tells us that Pharoh went further; he eventually expressed his denial of G-d’s existence which is tantamount to not having a heart at all.
The Medrash offers an amusing tale to bring out the point. There was a ship setting sail with all the animals aboard. The donkey was in charge of collecting the fee. When he came to the clever fox, the fox asked, how dare you collect the fee from us if the lion, the king of our kingdom is with us on the ship? The donkey replied I don’t care; I will collect the fee even from our king, the lion, for the money goes to the treasury. When the fox related this to the lion, the lion approached the donkey and killed it at once. The lion then ordered the fox to dismember its organs for him to feast on later. The fox did as it was told but in the midst of preparing he ate the heart of the donkey. When the lion came back, he noticed the heart was missing and asked the fox where it was. The fox replied, you know, this donkey had no heart, for if he had a heart he would never in his right mind have asked for a fee from you, the king over all of us.
The Medrash concludes, so is the case in regards to Pharoh, who incidentally is compared to a donkey; it was as if he had no heart. For if he would have had a heart he never would have denied G-d, held His nation hostage, and suffered from the plagues. He would have been much better off by giving in.
Pharoh’s continued denial even after G-d ramped up the plagues displayed a personal insistence on his heartless behavior. He continued his denial of G-d despite the overwhelming proof invested in each plague, so much so, that G-d revoked Pharoh’s ability to choose and give in. Such ability comes from the heart, and because he was heartless he was unable to do so.
Pharoh was probably the most stubborn person depicted in the Torah. Yet, the Torah also calls us a stiff necked nation, which conveys a certain stubbornness. So what is the difference?
The Torah calls Pharoh stubborn because he was heartless. However, although we have a certain stubbornness and tenacious spirit, at times we use it for good and at times for the bad. When it is used for the bad it settles in our neck. But this stiffness ultimately eases off because we always have the wellspring of compassion and the ability to discern and contemplate within our soft heart, which directs and enables our true G-dly character to brilliantly shine forth!