Beshallach Study, 5782

Before we get to Torah, I wanted to share some of the concerning issues that David Brooks raises in his NYTimes op-ed, "America is Falling Apart at the Seams," from January 13. He describes a concerning situation that includes:

  • Increase in motor vehicle deaths
  • Increase in murder rate and the crime rate in general
  • Increase in disruptive classroom incidents in schools
  • Increase in drug and alcohol usage
  • Increase in drug overdose deaths
  • Increase in Hate Crimes
  • Increase in buying [and dying by] guns
  • Decrease in charitable giving
  • Increase in polarization, hatred, anger and fear.
  • Increase in depression, loneliness, and suicide
  • Long-term loss of solidarity / long-term rise in estrangement and hostility
  • Decline of religiosity

Some of these trends began before the pandemic. Since the pandemic they have gotten worse. They reflect a reality that the vast majority of people are not at their best during the stressful uncertainty of a pandemic.

Add those together and then reflect on the following:

  • People don't know what information or truth to believe
  • There's very little trust between political parties
  • Most Republicans don't believe the 2020 election was legitimate, despite the courts finding no significant issues.
  • Most Democrats won't trust the 2022/2024 election results if major voting rights legislation doesn't become law.
  • Most Republicans won't trust the 2022/2024 election results if major voting rights legislation does becomes law.

(ג) וְאָמַ֤ר פַּרְעֹה֙ לִבְנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל נְבֻכִ֥ים הֵ֖ם בָּאָ֑רֶץ סָגַ֥ר עֲלֵיהֶ֖ם הַמִּדְבָּֽר׃ (ד) וְחִזַּקְתִּ֣י אֶת־לֵב־פַּרְעֹה֮ וְרָדַ֣ף אַחֲרֵיהֶם֒ וְאִכָּבְדָ֤ה בְּפַרְעֹה֙ וּבְכׇל־חֵיל֔וֹ וְיָדְע֥וּ מִצְרַ֖יִם כִּֽי־אֲנִ֣י יְהֹוָ֑ה וַיַּֽעֲשׂוּ־כֵֽן׃ (ה) וַיֻּגַּד֙ לְמֶ֣לֶךְ מִצְרַ֔יִם כִּ֥י בָרַ֖ח הָעָ֑ם וַ֠יֵּהָפֵ֠ךְ לְבַ֨ב פַּרְעֹ֤ה וַעֲבָדָיו֙ אֶל־הָעָ֔ם וַיֹּֽאמְרוּ֙ מַה־זֹּ֣את עָשִׂ֔ינוּ כִּֽי־שִׁלַּ֥חְנוּ אֶת־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל מֵעָבְדֵֽנוּ׃ (ו) וַיֶּאְסֹ֖ר אֶת־רִכְבּ֑וֹ וְאֶת־עַמּ֖וֹ לָקַ֥ח עִמּֽוֹ׃ (ז) וַיִּקַּ֗ח שֵׁשׁ־מֵא֥וֹת רֶ֙כֶב֙ בָּח֔וּר וְכֹ֖ל רֶ֣כֶב מִצְרָ֑יִם וְשָׁלִשִׁ֖ם עַל־כֻּלּֽוֹ׃ (ח) וַיְחַזֵּ֣ק יְהֹוָ֗ה אֶת־לֵ֤ב פַּרְעֹה֙ מֶ֣לֶךְ מִצְרַ֔יִם וַיִּרְדֹּ֕ף אַחֲרֵ֖י בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל...

(3) Pharaoh will say of the Israelites, “They are astray in the land; the wilderness has closed in on them.” (4) Then I will stiffen Pharaoh’s heart and he will pursue them, that I may gain glory through Pharaoh and all his host; and the Egyptians shall know that I am Adonai. And they did so.

(5) When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, Pharaoh and his courtiers had a change of heart about the people and said, “What is this we have done, releasing Israel from our service?” (6) He ordered his chariot and took his men with him; (7) he took six hundred of his picked chariots, and the rest of the chariots of Egypt, with officers in all of them. (8) Adonai stiffened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he gave chase to the Israelites...

וחזקתי את לב פרעה ורדף אחריהם בעבור שפחד פרעה מהם במכת הבכורות ובקש מהם וברכתם גם אותי (שמות י״ב:ל״ב), לא היה בלבו לרדוף אחריהם אפילו אם יברחו, אלא שיעשה משה בהם כרצונו, ועל כן הוצרך לומר כי הוא יחזק את לבו לרדוף אחריהם. ולמטה (שמות י״ד:י״ז) אמר פעם אחרת הנני מחזק את לב מצרים ויבאו אחריהם, כי בראותם שנקרע הים לפני בני ישראל והם הולכים ביבשה בתוכו איך ימלאם לבם לבא אחריהם להרע להם, ואין בכל המופתים כפלא הזה, וזה באמת שגעון להם, אבל סכל עצתם וחזק את לבם ליכנס בים:

AND I WILL HARDEN PHARAOH’S HEART, AND HE SHALL PURSUE AFTER THEM. Because Pharaoh feared them at the plague of the firstborn and he asked them and bless me also, he was not disposed to pursue after the Israelites even if they were to flee, and he would rather have Moses do with them as he pleases. Therefore, it was necessary to state that G-d hardened his heart to pursue after them. Further on, it says once more, And I, behold, I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they shall go in after them. After the Egyptians saw that the sea had split before the children of Israel and that they walked in the midst of the sea upon dry land, which is the most outstanding wonder of all wonders, how could they be disposed to come in after them to harm them! This was indeed madness on their part. But it was God Who turned their counsel into foolishness and strengthened their hearts to enter the sea.

Another explanation: For I have hardened his heart - Rabbi Yochanan said: Does this not provide heretics with an opportunity to open their mouths to say that he had no means of repenting, as it say "For I have hardened his heart". Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish said to him: Let the mouths of the heretics be stopped up. Rather, (Mishlei 3:34) If it concerns the scorners, he scorns them. When the Holy One Blessed be God warns a man once, twice, thrice and he doesn't repent, and G-d will close his heart against repentance.... So to with the wicked Pharaoh, since Hashem sent five times to him and he took no notice, G-d then said: "You have stiffened your neck and hardened your heart; well, I will add impurity to your impurity"...

Moshe Greenberg on Ex. 7:3 I will harden Pharaoh's heart

The verse raises major moral and theological problems. If Pharaoh is foreordained to reject Moses' plea, if God will arrange for the confrontation to continue, how can Pharaoh be held responsible for his actions and how can we justify his being punished for what God causes him to do? "Although 'hardening of the heart' seems deterministic, events flow naturally from the ambitions and conflicts of a human being, Pharaoh, who is seized with the delusion of self-sufficiency. While events unfold under the providence of God, their unfolding is always according to the motives of the human beings through whom God's will is done without realizing it... Pharaoh conducted himself in conformity with his own motives and his own Godless view of his status. God made it so, but Pharaoh had only to be himself to do God's will."