Parashat Vaera / פרשת וארא

Parashat Va’era
פרשת וארא
“And I appeared”
“And God spoke to Moses…” (Exodus 6:2)

Torah Portion: Exodus 6:2-9:35

Haftarah: Ezekiel 28:25-29-21
B’rit Chadash/New Covenant:
Romans 9:14-33

Shabbat |9 January 2016 | 28 Tevet 5776


“Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and when he stumbles, let not your heart exult. Lest G-d will see and it will be bad in His eyes” (Proverbs 24:17).

We may not laugh over Pharaoh’s downfall because there is a Pharaoh in each one of us. This is the stubborn MELECH (king) who rules in our hearts, in our ego, our vanity, and pride. I. me.!

Writ large in the drama of Moses coming against Pharaoh in the name of G-d is the story of our inner lives, our daily conflicts, and struggles in the test of free will to which we are all subjected. One side of us — Moses, “conscience” — knows what we should do. But another side — Pharaoh, “the evil urge”, the king riding the chariot — resists. There are constant ups and downs in the trial of free will. Today one “wants to” — Pharaoh relents. Tomorrow, he hardens his heart again and resists.

HaShem does not harden hearts against people’s free will, but he does tell us what to expect, and if we stubbornly ignore that loving insight, he did harden our heart by his actions, but it came about because of our stubbornness. In support of the above, the appendix to Rotherham’s translation shows that in Hebrew the occasion or permission of an event is often presented as if it were the cause of the event, and that “even positive commands are occasionally to be accepted as meaning no more than permission.” After quoting Hebrew scholars M. M. Kalisch, H. F. W. Gesenius, and B. Davies in support, Rotherham states that the Hebrew sense of the texts involving Pharaoh is that “HaShem permitted Pharaoh to harden his own heart, spared him, gave him the opportunity, the occasion, of working out the wickedness that was in him. That is all.”—The Emphasized Bible, appendix, p. 919; compare Isa 10:5-7.

Does it need plagues to beat this Pharaoh down? Or can we find better ways to get free and to take our destiny into our hands?

Shabbat Shalom!