Parasha Inspiration – Bo

וַיְחַזֵּ֤ק יְהֹוָה֙ אֶת־לֵ֣ב פַּרְעֹ֔ה וְלֹ֥א שָׁמַ֖ע אֲלֵהֶ֑ם כַּֽאֲשֶׁ֛ר דִּבֶּ֥ר יְהֹוָ֖ה אֶל־משֶֽׁה:

But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not hearken to them, as the Lord spoke to Moses.

Exodus 9:12

In this week’s parasha, Hashem hardens Pharaoh’s heart. This is a very important event. Pharaoh is ready to let the children of Israel go to worship Hashem. Yet, Hashem hardens Pharaoh’s heart. Why?

The answer points to the true lesson behind the ten plagues of Egypt. Who were the plagues really for? If the true purpose of the plagues was to prove something to Pharaoh, and to the Egyptians, why then would Hashem harden Pharaoh’s heart when he was ready to let the children of Israel go? Obviously, the lessons of the plagues are not just for Pharaoh, the lessons are for the children of Israel.

Consequently, the firstborn of Egypt pay the price for the children of Israel, learning their lesson. It is for this reason that the day before Pesach, the firstborn of Israel fast. We fast to honor the Egyptians, and their sacrifice in order that the children of Israel should learn who Hashem is. In many ways the suffering of the Egyptians in order that Israel should know Hashem is a strange foreshadowing of later events.

For, brothers, I want you to understand this truth which God formerly concealed but has now revealed, so that you won’t imagine you know more than you actually do. It is that stoniness, to a degree, has come upon Isra’el, until the Gentile world enters in its fullness; 26 and that it is in this way that all Isra’el will be saved. As the Tanakh says, “Out of Tziyon will come the Redeemer; he will turn away ungodliness from Ya‘akov 27 and this will be my covenant with them, . . .when I take away their sins.”

Romans 11:25-27

In Romans 11, Paul explains that Hashem has hardened Israel’s heart with regard to Messiah. Hashem hardened Israel’s heart, just as he hardened Pharaoh’s heart. Paul explains that Israel’s heart will remain hardened until the fullness of the Gentiles comes in. Think of how Israel has suffered over the centuries because Hashem has hardened our hearts. Think of the sacrifice made by Israel on behalf of of the Gentiles. Yeshua will return, may his return be soon, and in our days. Who knows? Perhaps the Gentile believers will fast commemorating the sacrifice of Israel on their behalf. Shabbat shalom.

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Rabbi Steven Bernstein

Steve was born on Lag B’Omer in Ann Arbor, MI but was raised in Gainesville, FL. The son of two University of Florida professors, he excelled in the sciences in school. In addition to his normal academic studies, he pursued his Jewish education studying with many Rabbis and professors of Judaic Studies from the University including visiting Rabbis such as Abraham Joshua Heschel and Shlomo Carlebach.