The Pharoh of Egypt enslaved the Jewish people for over one hundred years – a very long time. When the right time came for the Exodus of the Jews, G-d sent Moshe to lead the Jews and negotiate the details of their departure with the Pharoh.
It was not simple to convince Pharoh to release the Jews, after all, Pharoh and the Egyptians had become accustom to the benefit of free labor – through the subjugation of the Jews.
The Torah relates that the Pharoh was extremely stubborn and would not accept G-d as a Higher Power. G-d then sent plague after plague to convince Pharoh of His might and control over each function hit by the plague. At times, during the intensity of a plague, Pharoh gave in – but it was only momentary, once the plague stopped, he reverted back to his stubborn behavior and refused to Moshe’s terms – even though his decision was detrimental to his people.
When one studies the Torah’s account of Pharoh’s reaction to the plagues, there is something very striking. When the first five plagues came to a halt, the Torah relates that Pharoh hardened his heart, becoming stubborn and would not release the Jewish people. However, starting with the sixth plague the Torah tells us that G-d hardened Pharoh’s heart.
It appears that had Pharoh been left to his own vices, and G-d had not intervened and hardened Pharoh’s heart, he would have let the Jews out.
Two questions are raised: Firstly, for what purpose did G-d harden his heart? Secondly, isn’t a person entitled to exercise his own free will?
The Torah actually answers the first question. The reason G-d hardened Pharoh’s heart was so that He could display His awesome power and control over all the various forces of nature that were manifest through the ten plagues so that the Jews and Egyptians would witness G-d’s total management and ownership over all of His creation.
Pharoh’s right to exercise his free will was revoked after the fifth plague because once he was shown clearly that G-d is behind all that occurs through the miraculous plagues, yet he dismissed it and fought against it, he thus abused his free will to recognize G-d. G-d therefore revoked his free will further proving His power and existence.
Recently, at a weekly session where I counsel Jewish patients at Geisinger Marworth Treatment Center in Waverly, PA we were discussing the necessity of surrendering one’s will to a Higher Power. This is necessary to succeed in the 12 step recovery process.
I brought up the idea of Pharoh’s stubbornness. All Pharoh had to do was to say to G-d, “I submit to you!” If this would have happened, the Jews would have been freed and the Egyptians would have to adjust their lifestyle to not having free labor, however, the Pharoh would have then still retained power over his nation.
By Pharoh resisting acknowledgement of G-d, he did a disservice to his people and to himself as well. In the end, he lost everything. Egypt, the world power, was completely battered, decimated and reduced to nothing, for at the end, the Pharoh and his remaining six hundred elite officers were drowned in the Red Sea.
Resisting G-d does not pay off. Acceptance of G-d opens up all possibilities of freedom, purpose and direction.
When the Torah mentions the two brothers, Moshe and Aaron, together, at times Aaron’s name is mentioned before Moshes and at times Moshe’s name is before Aaron. Rashi explains that the Torah posts each of their names in the prominent first position to show us that both Moshe and Aaron were on an equal spiritual plane.
Rabbi Moshe Feinstein o.b.m. asks the obvious question: How could it be that both brothers were on the same level? After all, we know that it was through Moshe that the waters split. Moshe was the one who was up in Heaven for 120 days living the existence of an angel. Moshe brought the tablets of the Ten Commandments down from Heaven. Moshe is our teacher of the Torah and G-d called Moshe His most trusted and humble servant. As great as Aaron was – he was the High Priest and he brought peace between feuding parties; he still was not on Moshe’s level. So what does Rashi mean that they were equal?
Reb Moshe explains that yes, Moshe rose above Aaron in quantitative spirituality way. However, what Rashi is teaching us is that both Moshe and Aaron achieved the same levels of fulfilling their spiritual potential.
Aaron achieved the maximum of his potential spiritual energy and Moshe did as well. Thus they are considered equal in their relationship to G-d because they each rose to who they were supposed to be!