Newsletter #2

Torah Portion Vaerá ואךא (Exodus 6:2-9:35)plagas

This week´s Torah portion is troublesome. It raises questions at practically every turn, but otherwise it wouldn´t be part of the Torah, right? In fact, I came up with more questions than the number of times the text refers to the Pharaoh hardening his heart , and we haven´t even gotten through all the plagues yet.

The Pharoah´s stubbornness is a main theme in this parashah. Pharaoh is not impressed by the first two plagues, seeing that his Egyptian magicians are able to replicate them. He pleads with Moses to get rid of the frogs with a promise to let the people go, but his heart stiffens when there is relief. The magicians are not able to produce the lice, and despite their warning that this is indeed God´s work, the Pharoah´s heart again stiffened. Again with the insects, Pharaoh pleads and promises, but as soon as there is relief, he becomes stubborn.

That was Pharaoh´s character, and it does sound very familiar to our human nature. When we are in dire straits we tend to plead and pray and promise that we will do good. And generally, when there is relief and all is well, we tend to easily forget those promises. However, this Torah portion seems to go deeper than just that idea, and the line that troubles me the most is this:

“But I will harden Pharaoh´s heart, that I may multiply My signs and marvels in the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 7:3)

God says this to Moses and Aaron before any of the plagues, and so this one single line creates three difficult questions in my mind. First of all, what does it mean for God to harden someone´s heart? Secondly, how does God do that? And most troubling is why?

If God already had in mind to harden Pharoah´s heart, does that mean that we do have a destiny established by God? Could Pharoah have acted differently in any of these situations?
My idea is that yes, Pharaoh could have chosen a different path. God did not need to actively harden Pharaoh´s heart in any of these situations because it was already ingrained in his character to be stubborn. All God had to do was to simply let him be human and use his free will as he desired. Upon saying that he would harden Pharaoh´s heart, God was implying the he already knew what Pharoah´s reaction would be.

Again I ask, does that mean that we have a destiny already mapped out by God? Not necessarily. Circumstances can change, and the All-knowing certainly has the ability to switch scenarios accordingly between the infinite amount of possibilities in our lives.~~~~~~~~Shabbat Shalom, Ahuvah

 Read Torah from Around the World #255 de la WUPJ aquí.

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