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    Hardening the heart – Va’era

    Sometimes God hardened Pharaoh’s heart: sometimes Pharaoh hardened his own heart. In one sense the result is the same: the Hebrews were prevented from freely leaving Egypt.

    To say, however, that God hardened the king’s heart has quite a different implication than if Pharaoh made his own heart hard and cold. If the hardening was due to the king himself, this means that the king was inhumane and he got so used to bringing pain to the Hebrews that the force of cruel habit ruled his royal heart.

    The sages say, however, that if the wickedness of Pharaoh came from God it seems like whitewashing Pharaoh. How can this be possible? How can we blame God or let Pharoah off the hook?

    Surely every human being has the ability and opportunity to be a Mensch. If they have a conscience and really try to act properly God will help them, but if they deliberately defy God, they stew in their own juice until (to mix the metaphors) they can no longer turn over a new leaf even if they want to.

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