Friday, January 14, 2005

Parshat Bo

Last year, I felt a bit left out that I would go into Shabbos now knowing anything about the parsha. Since Parsha had always been my favorite class in school, and discussing Torah one of my favorite pastimes (seriously), I started a Divar Torah Yahoo!-Group with a few friends. This week's devar Torah was written by Zahava Friedman, so instead of writing my own...well, here's hers:

Time for another plague! Hashem sent Moshe to warn Paroh about the upcoming Macat Arbeh (Locusts, Grasshoppers). The servants of Paroh heard the warning, and pleaded with Paroh to allow the Jews to take their three day trip to serve Hashem in the midbar. Paroh was willing to grant this to bnei Yisrael, until Moshe mentioned that the women and children would be going, as well. With this information, Paroh immediately withdrew his word and Macat Arbeh began.
Before this episode, the pasuk tells us that Hashem hardened Paroh's heart. So we've got a question: If Hashem hardened Paroh's heart, why did Hashem even bother sending him warnings? Sending warnings seems rather cynical, "Repent Paroh! Oh wait... you can't!"
And Note: Only after Paroh davened to Hashem - (lashon vaye-etar), did the plague stop.
The Netivot Shalom has the answer... (written by the Slonimer Rav)
Rashi explains under the title "And I (Hashem) Hardened Paroh's Heart," that this meant, Moshe should go warn Paroh. But how does this answer the question, asks the Netivot Shalom. If Paroh's heart had already been hardened, warnings would not help?!
The Rambam, in Hilchot Teshuva (where he discusses different laws and issues regarding repentance), writes, it is possible for a person to commit many crimes or one huge crime that will prevent him from doing teshuva. And, the only way that he will be forgiven is when he dies with his wickedness, his death will atone for his sins.
So Hashem hardened the heart of Paroh because he was unforgivable after he treated Bnei Yisrael so terribly. To conclude this explanation, Hashem sent warning to Paroh, to teach us that some people must die in their wickedness in order to be forgiven.
The Netivot Shalom rejects the Rambam's concept in this context, and he brings down the Chidah, B'Nachal Kidumim who explains: Hashem sent warnings to Paroh because Paroh WAS able to do teshuva!
But again--how is teshuva possible, if Paroh's heart is hardened?
Says the Slonimer Rav, we could understand this concept through comparison: Within Gashmiyut, a person has natural abilities that he is aware of. Hashem also gives a person qualities which he is unaware of. Under normal circumstances, these hidden qualities are unrevealed. Only at a time of danger, when a person's usual abilities will not suffice, do the other, spiritual qualities surface. For example, a person who is drowning will seek different methods to save himself that he may not have thought of if it weren't for the danger he found himself in.
So too, in ruchniyut, a person has spirituality that comes naturally to him, and hidden spirituality, which lives deep inside if him. At a time of danger, a person's spirituality awakens the hidden strengths that Hashem has planted in him, so that the person can find his way out of the problem.
Similarly, with teshuva: teshuva can be natural, and easy for a person to attain, or it can be a higher type of teshuva, which exists above this "typical" teshuva. The Zohar names these types of teshuva: 1)teshuva t'taeh and 2)teshuva ila'ah. Having committed certain flaws, the first, basic teshuva, will not gain forgiveness, and only the higher, deeper teshuva can/will. Only the mesirat nefesh, and dedication of the soul, that accompanies the higher repentance, can attain forgiveness, and can fix what is unfixable within nature.
Just to clarify this concept before moving on: Hashem made rules of nature for the world. Hashem is totally capable of working above these rules, but normally Hashem works within these rules.
The emunah that each Jew has will awaken the nature that is hidden within him. Emunah is a very deep concept that can not be summarized in the word "belief." R' Zev Krov (in the book Da Ma sheTashiv LiatZmicha), explains emunah as something deeper than intelligence and emotion. Emotion is fickle and can change daily while intelligence is limited to a person's knowledge. The depth of true love, a connection between lovers, is limited by words. So too, our awareness of Hashem, our source of life, should tie us so strongly to Hashem, and leave us with unexplainable feelings. These feelings will be neither strange nor new to us, because they are natural and found within us, and once recognized, will be obvious to us. (Further understanding: Emunah in the coming of mashiach, is not do I or do I not believe that Mashiach will come, rather it is knowledge that he is on the way.)
When a person is fully in the hands of the yetzer hara, he needs something stronger than his normal abilities to pull him out. Chazal tell us that king Menashe sinned a lot. He davened to Hashem, and the Torah uses lashon vaye'etar--the same lashon by Paroh. Hashem had to make an "underground" in the heavens that would accept the prayer of Menashe, because he had sinned so greatly that he was unable to do teshuva. Manashe realized his teshuva (lashon vaye'etar-like the lashon found by Paroh) was above nature, and so he recognized and feared G-d, and malchut was restored to Yerushalayim.
Back to Paroh, Despite his hardened heart, Paroh was capable of this higher teshuva. Hashem sent warning to Paroh because Paroh could have prevented the plague. We see Paroh did teshuva because he said "Who is hashem, I will listen to His voice." The plague stopped after Paroh prayed and it was then that Paroh recognized that there are powers that exist in heaven and on the earth that work above nature.
When we are commanded to remember the exile of Egypt (which happens in this parsha!) The Ba'al Shemtov says: we were on the lowest of the 49 levels of Tumah, and Hashem arranged that our tefillot should reach a special underground entrance to his Kiseh HaKavod. This entrance out stepped nature, and freed us from the worst, and this is what we must remember each day.

Shabbat Shalom!
P.S. Feel free to discuss/respond to the d'var Torah, last week's was reply was great (thank you Chaim!)

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