Hashem's Relationship with Existence
Rabbi Yosef Kalatsky
1. Is Forgetfulness a Blessing or a Curse?
The Torah tells us that Hashem instructed Moshe to present himself to
Pharaoh and demand that the Jews be released from their bondage.
"Afterwards Moshe and Aaron came and said to Pharaoh,' So said Hashem, the
G-d of Israel, 'Send out My people that they may celebrate for Me in the
wilderness.'" Pharaoh replied,"Who is Hashem that I should heed His voice
to send out Israel? I do not know Hashem, nor will I send out Israel!"
The Midrash says that when Pharaoh was told that "Hashem, the G-d of
Israel" wanted the Jews to be released, he immediately consulted his books
that listed the names of all the deities but did not find "Hashem"
listed. Pharaoh therefore responded to Moshe,"I do not know Hashem." It
is important to comprehend the context of this exchange between Pharaoh and
Moshe because from it we can gain a profound understanding of human nature.
Prior to his conversation with Pharaoh, Moshe was a fugitive in Midian for
many years. Hashem commanded Aaron to meet Moshe in the desert on his
return to Egypt and to go together to confront Pharaoh at his palace. As
the Midrash describes, Pharaoh's palace had four hundred gates, guarded by
hungry beasts that would attack any one who dared to approach the palace
The Midrash describes that as Moshe and Aaron approached Pharaoh's palace
their long white beards swayed in the wind like palm branches and their
eyes radiated like the sun. When they reached the gates of the palace, the
hungry and ferocious beasts became docile and licked at their feet.
After Pharaoh heard that two tall men with white beards and powerful eyes
had reached his gates and that his guard animals became like domestic pets
in their presence, he became concerned and fearful to the degree that he
needed to do his bodily functions immediately. He had no time to secretly
leave the palace and go to the Nile. He normally went to the Nile for his
bodily functions so that his subjects would think that he had none and that
he truly was a deity. In the event of emergencies, Pharaoh had a room in
the inner sanctum of his palace where he could hide and do his bodily
functions. So this is where he went.
The Midrash tells us that when Pharaoh was in this inner chamber relieving
himself, Hashem sent ten mice to bite him. Pharaoh screamed from pain as
the mice gnawed at him. After this experience with the mice Pharaoh
composed himself and went to meet his uninvited visitors, Moshe and Aaron.
Moshe told Pharaoh that "Hashem, the G-d of Israel" wants His people
released and Pharaoh responded," Who is Hashem that I should heed His voice
to send out Israel? I do not know Hashem, nor will I send out Israel!" The
Midrash states that Pharaoh had forgotten what had happened to
him. Moments earlier Pharaoh was screaming in fear and pain and now he was
arrogantly telling Moshe, "Who is Hashem that I should heed His voice to
send out Israel?" The Midrash is teaching us that Pharaoh would not have
been able to speak in this arrogant manner if he hadn't forgotten his
terrifying experience from moments before.
Chazal are teaching us that it only takes an instant to forget an
experience or a feeling. Regardless of the nature of the experience, they
are telling us that the moment one is removed from that situation one
forgets that experience as if it never happened.
The Rambam tells us in Hilchos Talmid Torah that a person needs to study
Torah until the moment of his death. The reason for this is because people
forget. How do we understand this? Is the Rambam telling us that if one
had 30 seconds left to live that he is obligated to continue to study Torah
because in these final moments he will forget?
Forgetting an experience completely does not happen in an instant. The
moment that one is no longer engaged in that experience (whether it is
Torah study or anything else) the impact and vividness of that experience
immediately begins to fade. In order for Torah to remain real and vibrant
within us, we need to study every moment.
We learn from the Gemara that Hashem created the Yetzer Ha'ra (evil
inclination) and Torah is the "antidote". Does this mean that studying
Torah once will cure a person from the Yetzer Ha'ra? Does one moment in
time have an affect on the next moment? It seems clear from the Rambam as
well as what we have learned from the incident between Pharaoh and Moshe
that a person begins forgetting from the moment an experience ends. This
is why the Rambam states that one is obligated to study Torah every moment
until he dies.
The Gemara in Pesachim explains that forgetting is a kindness which Hashem
has provided to mankind. Since there is death and tragedy in the world, we
would not be able to survive if we could not forget the pain. Survival
would be impossible if we continuously remembered tragedy with the same
degree of vividness. Therefore Hashem blessed us with the process of
forgetting. In fact, death and forgetting are similar processes. The life
cycle begins with birth and through continual deterioration and breakdown
of the physical body the cycle ultimately ends with death. Similarly,
knowledge comes into existence and then gradually begins to fade in one's
memory until it is forgotten.
According to the Gemara if Moshe did not break the Luchos (tablets with the
Ten Commandments) after seeing the Golden Calf, every Jew would have
remembered every iota of Torah he ever studied and it would have remained
completely fresh and vivid in his mind for the rest of his life. It is
only because Moshe broke the Luchos that we forget the Torah we learn. Why
is the forgetting of Torah a consequence of the breaking of the Luchos?
Furthermore, it says that at Sinai, the Jews reached the spiritual level of
Adam before the sin in Gan Eden when death did not exist. When Klal Yisroel
said, "We will do and we will listen," they reached the ultimate spiritual
level and death was eliminated from the existence. However, after Klal
Yisroel sinned with the Golden Calf and Moshe broke the Luchos, existence
reverted to the spiritual level we had after Adam's sin and we became
subject to death once again. Then, since death was again part of
existence, forgetting became a necessary part of existence as well.
In the spiritual realm, existence is forever and therefore time has no
relevance. However, since we are part of a physical existence we are
subject to time limitations including death, and the forgetting process.
The Chazal are teaching us that we must feel the vibrancy and reality of
Torah within us constantly since every moment that we are not actively
engaged in the process of renewing the Torah through study we are gradually
forgetting the Torah.
2. The Connection with the Infinite
This week's parsha begins, "And G-d (Elokim) spoke (vayidaber) to Moshe and
said to him, 'I am Hashem. And I appeared to Avraham, to Yitzchak, and to
Yaakov as Kael Shakai, but through My Name Hashem (Yud Kay Vav Kay "YKVK")
I did not become known to them." Meaning the four-letter Name of Hashem
(YKVK) that represents "I was, I am, and I always will be" - the infinite
G-d - was only revealed to Moshe and not to any of the Patriarchs. It was
through this Name that Hashem established a special relationship with Moshe
and enabled him to perform great revealed miracles. The Patriarchs were not
able to perform revealed miracles since they did not know this Name of Hashem.
Despite Moshe's unique relationship with G-d, he questioned Hashem's
actions. The Torah tells us at the end of parshas Shemos, "Moshe returned
to Hashem and said, 'My Lord, why have You harmed this people (the Jews),
why have You sent me? From the time I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your Name
he harmed this people, but You did not rescue Your People." Hashem said to
Moshe," Now you will see (teer'eh)..." Moshe questioned Hashem's practices,
which was considered a lack of faith. As a result of this lack of faith,
Hashem told Moshe that he would "Now see (teer'eh)" the redemption from
Pharaoh, implying that he would not see the future redemption to come -
meaning entering into the land of Israel.
In order to understand the level of Moshe's lack of faith and Hashem's
rebuke, we need to first comprehend the significance of what Hashem
revealed to Moshe, namely YKVK, which is the Name of Hashem that enabled
Moshe to perform revealed miracles.
In parshas Shemos, Pharaoh replied to Moshe," Who is Hashem (YKVK) that I
should heed His voice to send out Israel? I do not know Hashem (YKVK) nor
will I send our Israel!" So that said, "The G-d of the Hebrews...." After
Pharaoh rejected the Name YKVK, which as we see from the pasuk is
associated with Yisroel, the Torah refers to the Jews as "the Hebrews
(Ivreem)", the Lord of the Hebrews (Elokai Ha'Ivreem), and not
"Yisroel". Why do we have the change from Yisroel to Ivreem and from YKVK
As we have said previously, the name Yisroel is associated with the
spirituality of the Jews, while, "Hebrews" (Ivreem) represents their
physicality. Before the giving of the Torah at Sinai the Jews were
referred to as Ivreem and after Sinai they were referred to as Yisroel.
Similarly, YKVK represents the infinite G-d, which is outside of this
physical existence. Elokai (the Name of Hashem which corresponds to the
attribute of Justice) is a Name that connotes a power.
The Egyptians were pagans who worshiped many gods and could relate to the
concept of "an all powerful G-d, an infinite being". However when Pharaoh
rejected the Name YKVK, he denied the existence of an infinite G-d Who
transcends the physical world. Consequently, by denying this level of
spiritually, Pharaoh could not comprehend or relate to the status of Yisroel.
Rabbenu Bachya explains why the monarch of Egypt was called "Pharaoh." He
says that the letters spelling "afar" (dust/earth) are contained in the
name "Pharaoh." Meaning that the Egyptians only believed in the earthiness
of existence. For the Egyptians, spirituality did not exist. Pharaoh
believed that the magicians in his court were able to perform wonders only
by manipulating physicality within the context of nature. The natural
order could not be overcome, overridden, or transcended in any way.
YKVK is diametrically opposed to afar because it is a Name of G-d that
refers to the infinite which makes physicality and earthiness
irrelevant. Moshe proclaimed Hashem's Name YKVK to Pharaoh and commanded
him to release Yisroel. This meant that the infinite G-d who has relevance
to spirituality and not physicality was commanding that His spiritual
people (Yisroel) be set free. By stating the Name YKVK to Pharaoh, Moshe
challenged Pharaoh's ideological framework. However, Pharaoh could not
fathom anything beyond physical existence and therefore he said,"I do not
know Hashem (YKVK)..."
Now we can understand why Hashem rebuked Moshe for his lack of
faith. Hashem revealed his name YKVK to Moshe which was a level of
revelation that was not experienced by the Patriarchs. In so doing, Hashem
enabled Moshe to override nature and go beyond physical existence in a way
that was not available to any of his forefathers. Moshe had direct
relevance to the Infinite G-d whereas the Patriarchs did not have the
ability to perform revealed miracles; nor did they have the same level of
intimacy with Hashem as Moshe had. Yet, they never questioned Hashem's
actions. Moshe on the other hand said, 'My Lord, why have You harmed this
people (the Jews), why have You sent me? From the time I came to Pharaoh to
speak in Your Name he harmed this people, but You did not rescue Your
People." Since Moshe demonstrated this lack of faith, Hashem told him that
he would see the redemption from Egypt but not the entry into the Land of
3. Hashem's New Relationship with Existence
The Torah states that after Hashem commanded Moshe to go to Egypt he said,
"I am heavy of mouth and heavy of speech. Then Hashem said to him,' Who
gave man a mouth, or who makes one mute...Is it not I Hashem?'" Didn't
Moshe know that Hashem is the giver of speech as well as everything else?
Did Moshe need Hashem to remind him of this fact or is there another
meaning to this exchange?
The four-letter Name of Hashem "YKVK", as we explained earlier, enabled
Moshe to perform revealed miracles; whereas, the level of revelation given
to the Patriarchs through the name Kael Shakai only allowed them to perform
concealed miracles. Chazal tell us that the Name Kael Shakai was the Name
that Hashem used to limit the infinite energies He unleashed at the
beginning of time in order to create the world. Contrarily, YKVK is the
Name of Hashem, which is associated with the Infinite G-d and therefore
unlimited. When Hashem presents Himself as YKVK there is nothing which is
able to obscure, limit or conceal His presence.
The Torah gives us examples of miracles which Hashem performed for Moshe's
forefathers. Avraham was able to defeat the four kings by performing great
miracles; however, these miracles were concealed within nature. Noach did
not necessarily need to build an ark to survive the Great Flood because
Hashem could have performed a miracle and suspended him and all the
creatures above the waters. As the Ramban explains, the reason why Noach
was instructed to build an ark was so that Hashem could bring about the
miracle of his survival through a concealed and natural way. If all of
existence had survived through a revealed miracle, it would have been
difficult to deny G-d's existence and thus free choice would have been
diminished. Therefore, in order to maintain free choice in a proper
balance, Hashem's involvement with existence was in a concealed manner -
prior to Moshe's revelation of YKVK.
Moshe, for his entire life, was known to have a speech impediment. If
Hashem had commanded him to address Pharaoh and Klal Yisroel then G-d would
have miraculously removed this impediment. This miracle would have been a
revealed miracle for all to see. Moshe understood that historically
Hashem's relationship with existence was through concealed
miracles. Therefore, when Moshe said to Hashem, "I am heavy of mouth and
heavy of speech" he was not questioning Hashem's power to give him the
ability to speak properly. He was questioning the revealed nature of the
miracle. Since Hashem had always interacted with the world in a cloaked
manner, this revealed miracle would indicate a change in the way Hashem
relates to the world. Hashem's response, "Who gave man a mouth, or who
makes one mute...Is it not I Hashem?" confirmed to Moshe that G-d intended
to bring about revealed miracles and that His approach to the world was in
fact changing. The series of miracles, which ensued surrounding the
redemption of Klal Yisroel from Egypt and the subsequent receiving of the
Torah at Sinai, demonstrated Hashem's new revealed interaction with existence.
The Torah tells us that when Moshe's mother, Yocheved, placed Moshe into
the basket; she only put pitch on the outside of the basket and not on the
inside. Rashi cites Chazal that the reason for this is that pitch has a
foul smell and a tzaddik (such as Moshe), should not smell this odor. It is
normal for a mother to prevent her child from smelling a foul odor so why
does the Torah tell us that only a tzaddik such as Moshe should not smell
this foul odor?
There is an opinion in the Midrash that states that the quality of the wood
used by Yocheved to make Moshe's basket was the most inferior quality
wood. Why would Yocheved use the most inferior wood? The Midrash explains
that since a tzaddik values his money as much as his own life, Yocheved
would use the least expensive wood. Spending more than what was absolutely
necessary would have been considered a waste of money. Why should money be
an issue? If saving Moshe's life was contingent on the quality of wood,
shouldn't Yocheved have spent any amount of money to ensure his safety?
The answer is that Yocheved and Amram (Moshe's father) were convinced that
Moshe would survive the water regardless of the quality of the wood that
was used, because Moshe was to be the Redeemer of Israel. They believed
that Hashem would perform the miracle necessary to ensure Moshe's
survival. However, they understood that the miracle must be concealed.
Thus, the basket made by Yocheved was only to cloak the miracle. Therefore
inferior wood was sufficient for the sake of concealment of the miracle.
Under normal circumstances, a basket made to withstand the water must be
sealed with pitch on the inside and outside. Proper concealment of the
miracle would have occurred if the basket was waterproofed on the both
sides. The Torah tells us however, that Moshe's basket had pitch only on
the outside and not the inside. Why didn't Yocheved coat the inside of the
basket with pitch? This seemingly contradicts the principle that miracles
must be concealed. Rashi cites the Midrash that a tzaddik should not smell
the foul odor of the pitch. Therefore Chazal tell us that protecting
Moshe, the tzaddik from any discomfort was the overriding factor. This is
why the miracle had to be partially revealed.
4. How to Overcome Any Circumstance
We read in this week's parsha that Hashem told Moshe to inform the Jews
that G-d was going to free them from their enslavement in Egypt. Using four
expressions of redemption Hashem said to Moshe, "Say to the Children of
Israel: 'I am Hashem, and I shall take you out from under the burdens of
Egypt; I shall rescue you from their service; I shall redeem you with an
outstretched arm and with great judgments. I shall be a G-d to you..."
Moshe addressed the Klal Yisroel as he was commanded by Hashem," So Moshe
spoke accordingly to the Children of Israel, but they did not listen to
Moshe because of shortness of wind (kozteir ruach) and hard work." Despite
the fact that Moshe had proven to the Jews that he was the Redeemer of
Israel and the agent of G-d, the Jews had no capacity to understand nor
were they receptive to Moshe's words because they were overwhelmed with
their bondage. Even though the Bnai Yisroel heard and understood Moshe's
words, they were incapable of processing and internalizing Moshe's words.
The question is - what is kozteir ruach?
The Ohr Ha'Chaim Ha'Kadosh explains that the majority of Jews in Egypt did
not study or adhere to Torah and were idolaters. These Jews were subject
to the physical bondage and had kozteir ruach. However, a small minority of
Jews (The Levites) did study and abide by the Torah (Bnai Torah.) They did
not have kozteir ruach. As the Ohr Ha'Chaim states, "Torah broadens the
heart," meaning that Torah gives a person the breadth and depth of
understanding as well as the capacity to effectively deal with difficulties
If someone is not a Ben Torah (someone who studies and integrates Torah
into his life) then his capacity for being able to cope with difficult
situations is limited. Since the Jews were slaves and not involved in the
study or observance of Torah, they had a limited capacity and depth of
heart to overcome their bondage and therefore were not receptive to Moshe's
words promising redemption.
We say every morning in davening (praying) "Open our heart with your
Torah." The only way that one can open his heart and have the capacity to
deal with all of the overwhelming issues of life is through the Torah. If
a person experiences hardships and has difficulty overcoming them, it is an
indication that they need to study more Torah. As the Ohr Ha'Chaim
Ha'Kadosh says it is only by being a Ben Torah that one is able to deal
with the difficulties of life and to overcome any situation.
In the early 1970's groups of Russians left the USSR and came to the United
States. Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetsky zt'l, who spoke Russian, engaged one of the
elderly Russians in a conversation to discover how much Torah he remembered
from his childhood. The elderly Russian shared with Rabbi Kamenetsky that
he did not even remember the Shema. However, since he was in a
concentration camp with a rabbi, he did remember one verse of Torah from
the rabbi's constant repetition.
He explained that this rabbi was forced to carry heavy bags of wet salt up
and down an steep hill all day and as he carried this great burden he
groaned and said," Because you did not serve Hashem with goodness of heart
and with happiness!" The Nazis killed the rabbi's wife and eleven children
and he was subjugated to the torturous task of carrying the heavy salt
every day while being beaten and humiliated. Despite the unimaginable
difficulty of the situation, the rabbi recited,"Because you did not serve
Hashem with goodness of heart and with happiness!" every time he carried
the salt. It was clear to the elderly Russian that the rabbi was not
demoralized and broken.
Rabbi Kamenetsky asked the elderly Russian the name of the rabbi from the
concentration camp. The Russian told him that it was the Klausenberger
Rebbe zt'l. The Klausenberger Rebbe had lost his entire family, thousands
of his Chassidim and members of the community in the Holocaust, yet he was
able to cope with the situation. The Rebbe was able to put the world into
perspective and not experience kozteir ruach. He was able to survive this
situation only because of the Torah, which he possessed. Despite his
personal suffering, the Klausenberger Rebbe had the depth and breadth of
heart to be able to overcome unimaginable difficulties.
The average person, who is not engaged in Torah study, is confronted with
difficulties, which do not even compare to those of the Klausenberger
Rebbe, yet they are overwhelmed. The pasuk says that Hashem will take away
the "stone heart and give us a heart of flesh." Meaning, that the Torah can
sensitize a person's heart in a way that can give him the capacity to be
able to overcome any situation and not have a shortness of spirit
- kozteir ruach.
5. Miracles are not Enough for True Belief
In this week's parsha Moshe addresses the Bnai Yisroel and communicates to
them the four stages of redemption which Hashem had instructed him to
say. In the fourth expression of redemption Hashem states," I shall take
you to Me for a people and I shall be a G-d to you; and then you shall know
that I am Hashem your G-d, Who takes you out from under the burdens of
Egypt." This pasuk is telling us that when the Klal Yisroel will accept the
Torah at Sinai, only then they will know that Hashem is one who took them
out of Egypt.
The Torah tells us that before the Bnai Yisroel arrived at Sinai, Hashem
performed the great miracle of the splitting of the Red Sea. Moshe
stretched out his arm and split the Sea, thus allowing the Jews to cross to
safety. The Egyptians pursued them into the Sea. Moshe again stretched out
his arm and caused the Sea to close. The Torah states, "On that day, Hashem
saved Israel from the hand of Egypt, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on
the seashore. Israel saw the great hand that Hashem inflicted upon Egypt;
and the people revered Hashem, and they had faith in Hashem and in Moshe,
His servant." After witnessing the splitting of the Sea, the Bnai Yisroel
acknowledged that Hashem had saved them from the hands of the Egyptians and
they sang His praises, "This is my G-d and I will exalt Him..." And as the
Chazal tell us, Hashem's presence was palpable even to the lowly maidservant.
Yet it states that it was only at Sinai that Klal Yisroel acknowledged that
Hashem had taken them out of Egypt, even though at the Red Sea they
apparently acknowledged that Moshe was Hashem's servant. In other words, if
the Jews understood that Moshe was able to take them out of Egypt only
because he was acting as the dedicated servant of Hashem, then why was this
reality unconfirmed until Sinai?
The Rambam states in The Laws of Hilchos Yisodie Ha'Torah that all the
miracles that were performed by Moshe such as the splitting of the Red Sea,
the plagues on Egypt, and the receiving of the mun (the miracle food of the
desert) etc. were not intended to prove that Moshe was a prophet. But
rather, every miracle was needed to fulfill a specific purpose. For
example, the splitting of the Sea was intended to punish the Egyptians and
the miracle of the mun was needed to provide sustenance for the Jews in the
Rambam says that if a person's beliefs were to be based on miracles alone,
they would be on weak ground and subject to contention. For example, if
the miracles that were performed by Hashem through Moshe were intended to
establish Moshe as a prophet one could have said that all of these
supernatural events only came about through sorcery. Therefore the Jews
could only come to an absolute and definite belief in Moshe as Hashem's
prophet only by witnessing Hashem openly and directly communicating to
Moshe in their presence.
At Sinai, every Jew in existence stood at the foot of the mountain and
witnessed first hand how Hashem spoke openly to Moshe and commanded him to
convey His Torah to the Klal Yisroel. Since Klal Yisroel witnessed the
interaction between Hashem and Moshe with their own minds, emotions, and
souls they concluded with absoluteness that the word of Moshe was
synonymous with the Word of G-d.
From the words of Rambam, we can understand that it was not through
miracles that could have been misinterpreted, but rather through the Sinai
experience that every Jew acknowledged Hashem as their G-d and Moshe as his
prophet. This is why Hashem said that only at Sinai would the Jews
conclusively acknowledge that Hashem had taken them out of Egypt. This is
the reason why Judaism is based on solid foundation. Judaism and Torah are
based on the absolute truth and fact - not on presumption and assumption.
6. The Cost of Truth
The Torah tells us that Moshe and Aaron went before Pharaoh to demand the
release of the Jewish people from bondage. Moshe informed Pharaoh that he
was the agent of Hashem and that Pharaoh must comply by freeing the Bnai
Yisroel or else Hashem will bring punishment upon Egypt.
In order to prove that he was the agent of Hashem and that the ultimatum
that he gave to Pharaoh was real, Moshe had a miracle performed before
Pharaoh. Moshe was told by G-d to tell Aaron to throw his staff on the
ground and it would be transformed into a snake. Pharaoh was not
impressed. The Midrash tells us that Pharaoh boasted to Moshe that the
Egyptian court had many experts in witchcraft who could perform the same
"trickery" as he did. In order to demonstrate this, Pharaoh's magicians
threw their staffs on the ground and they too were transformed into snakes.
The Torah tells us that after Aaron's snake transformed back into a staff
it devoured the Egyptians' snakes. This of course was not possible through
sorcery because, as the Sforno explains, sorcery can only affect
appearances and function within nature. It was clear to Pharaoh that the
miracle of Aaron's staff devouring the snakes was not
sorcery. Nevertheless, Pharaoh was not impressed. The obvious difference
between Aaron's action and the magicians was not sufficiently compelling to
convince Pharaoh that Moshe was the Redeemer of Israel.
Moshe saw that Pharaoh was unaffected by the miracle of the staff and
subsequently performed another miracle. Moshe informed Pharaoh that he was
going to transform the water of the Nile into blood and all the fish in the
Nile were going to die. Why did Moshe specify to Pharaoh that the "fish
were going to die?" Is it not obvious that fish can only live in water and
not blood? As the Sforno explained, sorcery cannot change the essence of
any existence, it only gives this appearance. Therefore if Moshe's plague
were to come about through witchcraft the fish would have lived. If the
fish were to die then that would imply that the water was changed to real
blood and that could come about only through the Will of Hashem.
Once again Pharaoh was not impressed or moved in any way although the
difference between the plague of blood and witchcraft was obvious. Pharaoh
was convinced that his magicians could basically perform the same
miracle. The fact that Pharaoh's sorcerers could not transform water into
real blood was not enough of a difference for Pharaoh to acknowledge Hashem
or Moshe as the Redeemer of Israel.
When Aaron performed the miracle of the Lice, The sorcerers no longer
denied that G-d was the cause of the miracles and they said to Pharaoh,
"This is the finger of G-d!" Despite this, Pharaoh remained steadfast in
his denial of G-d's power. The difficulty is how could Pharaoh not
acknowledge the reality of Hashem's power even when all of his expert
magicians told him that this was definitely the Hand of G-d?
The answer is that there is a cost factor associated with seeing the truth.
Therefore if the cost is too great one goes into a state of denial.
Pharaoh, the King of Egypt, had deified himself claiming that he created
the Nile. If Pharaoh acknowledged that Hashem was the omnipotent G-d then
he would have reduced himself to a mere mortal. Therefore Pharaoh rejected
and would not consider that Moshe's actions had any greater significance
The Egyptian army who chased the Bnai Yisroel into the Sea did not even
pause to be amazed at the most spectacular event that had taken place in
the history of the world. Since the Egyptians were so focused on the
destruction of the Jewish people, they did not want to be distracted by
this miraculous event. However, when the Sea began to close upon them and
death was imminent, the Egyptians acknowledged Hashem. It was only then
that their self-importance and self-image, which was their cost factor, no
longer had any relevance because they were about to die. Their impending
death made the Egyptians see reality clearly.
When does a person acknowledge truth? It is when the cost of this
acknowledgement is not too great. However if accepting the truth were to be
too costly, then one would shut down and refuse to acknowledge reality. We
see from Pharaoh and the Egyptians that regardless of how strong the truth
may be; a person may not acknowledge it. If a person were conflicted with
his own ego or circumstance, one would rationalize almost anything not to
The Chazal teach us that a wise man is one who understands the consequences
of his deeds. This understanding is more than an intellectual comprehension
of the results of one's actions. It is the internalization of the
consequences of one's actions. The wise man is able to sense the truth of a
situation and understand its consequences. The only reason a person does
not sense the truth is because he chooses to deny reality in favor of his
Copyright © 2003 by Rabbi Yosef Kalatsky and Project Genesis, Inc.
Rabbi Kalatsky is the founder of the Yad Avraham Institute, a New York-based learning center whose mission is to disseminate Torah to Jews of all backgrounds and walks of life.