This week's parsha
Unless otherwise noted, "This week's Parsha" comprises articles taken from contributors to the Chabad.org website. We show the original author's name here, so that proper attribution is given. For the sake of brevity, footnotes cited in the original author's writings are omitted from this website. If you need to see the citations, please refer to the original articles on the Chabad.org website.
In At The Deep End
In this week's Parshah the Red Sea splits and the children of Israel cross to safety.
G‑d tells Moses: "Speak to the children of Israel, that they go forward..."
The Midrash tells us that as they stood at the shore of the sea, the people of Israel split into four factions.
The Gold of Egypt
"Speak to the Children of Israel, and they shall borrow from their neighbors gold and silver vessels" (Final instructions before the Exodus -- Exodus 11:2)
Did you follow the news stories last year about the Egyptian Law Professor who was initiating a suit against world Jewry before the International Court of Justice? He demanded the Jews return the gold and silver that their ancestors had taken with them on their way out.
Why Didn't Pharaoh Release the Israelites?
"But I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and I will increase My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt." – Exodus 7:3
Free Choice is the essential component which justifies the concepts of reward and punishment. It would be inappropriate to punish a robot for performing an immoral act which it was programmed to do. Nor would one reward a stove for cooking a sumptuous meal, or a bee for producing delicious honey. Humans, on the other hand, are rewarded and punished for their actions because they choose to do good or evil. This is why this week's Torah portion has always puzzled Jewish philosophers: How could Pharaoh be punished for refusing to comply with G-d's demands to grant freedom to the Israelites, if G-d Himself "hardened his heart"? To borrow a line from our Patriarch Abraham: "Will the Judge of the entire earth not perform justice?!"
Many interesting answers are given to explain this seeming injustice. Nachmanides offers an answer which is as profound as it is astoundingly simple. Nachmanides argues that had G-d refrained from hardening Pharaoh's heart, he would have then been deprived of the ability to make a coherent and true choice. Indeed, the plagues would have compelled him to let the Israelites go — an option he most certainly would not have chosen in the absence of G-d's strong hand.