Hardened Hearts

Moshe Kempinski

The headlines are simply maddening.

The statements and assumptions made by so called rational and intelligent leaders boggle the mind. President Obama declares that he will veto new sanctions on Iran and then warns senators not to be swayed by donors (read “the Jews”) regarding those sanctions. The United Kingdom’s pleas to Imams to fight “extremism” draws charge of “Islamophobia”. New York City may trash a report on Islamic terrorists to appease Islamic critics. The US government arms and trains Palestinian guards to protect their consulate in Jerusalem. On the night of the terrorist incident in the kosher market in Paris the CNN reporters try valiantly to “prove’ that it was not an anti-Semitic incident.

One wonders what facts on the ground and which events will ever wake people up to the fact that “there is a problem”.

Yet in reality the issue of not letting the facts get in the way of one’s conception is an ancient problem.

We read in Parshat Bo; “Come in to Pharaoh,” says G-d to Moshe “for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that I might place these my signs in his midst”. If in fact G-d hardened Pharaoh’s heart how could the All-Just G-d punish Pharaoh for decisions influenced by that hardened heart ?

It is clear from the verses that after each of the first five plagues, Pharaoh is the one who hardens his own heart.

“And Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he hearkened not unto them; as Hashem had spoken. (Exodus 7:13).Then again; “But when Pharaoh saw that there was respite, he hardened his heart, and hearkened not unto them; as Hashem had spoken.(ibid 8:11) This is followed by; “Then the magicians said unto Pharaoh: ‘This is the finger of G-d’; and Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he hearkened not unto them; as Hashem had spoken. (ibid:15)And; “And Pharaoh hardened his heart this time also, and he did not let the people go. (ibid:28). Finally we read; “… But the heart of Pharaoh was stubborn, and he did not let the people go. (ibid 9:7)

The Rambam ( Maimonides) explains, that there is indeed a point when a man may forfeit his free will and ability to repent. The more one succumbs to the temptation of the selfish animal instinct, the less control he tends to retain over his instinctive inclination and dictates. So in essence after five times of ignoring the Divine message, Pharaoh eliminated his own power of free will.

The Ramban ( Nachmanides)on the other hand suggests another thought . After the fifth plague, when the suffering became so intolerable it may be that Pharaoh wanted to free the Jews. This was not because Pharaoh had finally accepted the power of Hashem, but rather because he could no longer tolerate the punishments. In fact the five plagues had consistently battered Pharaoh and his people to the point wherein they had no more free will and no power to choose.

As a result Hashem had to harden Pharaoh’s heart, not to take away his power of choice, but rather to return it. Pharaoh had to be able to make a choice devoid of the repercussions of the plagues that had devastated Egypt until this day. He had to make a free choice without the facts of the miraculous plagues getting in the way. So G-d hardened his heart and gave him the ability to withstand all that he had witnessed. As a result his decision to continue to enslave the Jews would be a function of free choice and therefore he would be culpable.

Yet we must question what was occurring during the first five plagues. What could have hardened his heart so that those extreme measures that G-d inflicted upon him did not make a dent?

Pharoah would not allow the facts to get in the way of his perception and vision

” Get ready, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they increase, and a war befall us, and they join our enemies and depart from the land.” So they appointed over them tax collectors to afflict them with their burdens, and they built store cities for Pharaoh, namely Pithom and Raamses. ( Exodus 1:8-11)

Pharaoh would not let the facts that were afflicting him to get in the way of his vision of an eternal slave-work force. He had to harden his heart and avoid the reality swirling menacingly around him.

The west cannot at this point let the reality of extreme Islamic terrorism get in the way of their utopian post modernistic view of the world. They could also not let the Jews and their problems get in their way of a concept of a world order based on moral relativism. In fact the only time the world woke up was when another icon of their world view was attacked, that of “free speech”. Otherwise it is just tragedies of major proportions that move the world.

One shudders to think what plagues concocted by Islamic terrorism will shake the world out of their hardened hearts. It is our great prayer that all those who claim to represent the free and enlightened world find another more peaceful way to be liberated from their Hardened Hearts

LeRefuat Yehudit bat Golda Yocheved

Leave a Comment