Seven of the plagues in Egypt happen in this weeks Torah portion, and you have to imagine that the Egyptians are pretty used to the pattern by plague seven. Every month, Moshe would request that Pharaoh let the Jews go, then Pharaoh would say “no,” then another plague would devastate all Egyptians exactly as Moshe said it would. So, what’s interesting about the seventh plague, was that it’s effects were avoidable (using a method we Ottawans are intimately familiar with).
Even though Pharaoh once again refused to let the Jewish people go, G-d gave the Egyptians an out and said:
And now, send, gather in your livestock and all that you have in the field, any man or beast that is found in the field and not brought into the house the hail shall fall on them, and they will die.Shemos 9:19
In other words, just bring all your animals and people into your house during the inclement weather and they’ll all be fine. It seems like a pretty straightforward choice. What kind of fool wouldn’t make sure everyone was inside for the toonie sized hail that was on it’s way? Moshe is 6 and 0 right now on perfect predictions, you can’t ask for a better weather channel than that.
Yet, the Torah relates that:
Whoever among the servants of Pharaoh feared the word of the G-d drove his servants and his livestock into the houses. But whoever did not pay attention to the word of G-d left his servants and his livestock in the field.Shemos 9:20-21
First of all, how can there be people who don’t bring everything inside? Second of all, why does the Torah describe them as “whoever did not pay attention to the word of G-d” instead of “people with potatoes for brains?”
The answer to the first question is that people are stubborn. G-d didn’t have to harden Pharoh’s heart for many of the plagues. Often, Pharoh would just harden his own heart. Pharoh was not unique in this. Apparently, many other Egyptians were so stubborn in clinging to their old beliefs, that even one massive open miracle after another for months on end could not convince them to consider a new viewpoint.
And what does this have to do with “paying attention to the word of G-d”? The events around you every day are the words of G-d. G-d controls everything in your life from the traffic jam you got caught in to the bonus your boss gave you. Sometimes, you don’t have to be a prophet to hear His words, you just have to pay attention to the things that keep happening to you. They are a message from above (if you can figure out how to read them).
Many of the Egyptians didn’t pay attention to the things happening around them because they were too stubborn to consider that they might need to change.
Unfortunately, just as stubbornness wasn’t unique to Pharoh, it’s not unique to Egyptians in general either. Most of us are stubborn as rocks on one thing or the other as well. Of course, there are good times to be stubborn, like when holding fast to our moral path no matter what. But we should also keep an eye out for when Someone might be tapping us on the shoulder pointing out to us that we’ve missed the mark somewhere and need to reconsider.
Rabbi A and the JET Team