Home Subscribe Services Support Us
Print Version

Email this article to a friend

Parshas Bo

Total Control

Volume 6 Issue 1

by Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky

"Come to Pharaoh," says the Almighty at the beginning of this week's portion. "For I will harden his heart and the hearts of his servants in order to put my wonders in his midst."

The concept of a hardened heart, influenced by Divine intervention, is grappled with by countless commentators and myriad meforshim. After all, how do we reconcile a Divinely hardened heart with free-will?

Some explain that Divinity only influenced Pharaoh's physical resilience, as Hashem did not want to score a definitive knockout in the early rounds. Others discuss how Divine intervention can actually hinder the opportunity of penitence.

All in all, the natural order was changed, and the imposition on Pharaoh's free-will rarely occurs to the rest of humanity.

What troubles me, however, is the juxtaposition of Hashem's request that Moshe once again beseech Pharaoh, followed by the words, "because I will harden his heart."

Aren't those two separate thoughts? Shouldn't the command be "go to Pharaoh because I want him to free My people"?

From the word flow it seems that Hashem's hardening of Pharaoh's heart was a reason for Moshe to go to Pharaoh. Was it?

A friend of mine told me the following story. Years ago, he visited an amusement park. Among the attractions was a haunted house. It was pitch black inside, save for dim lights that illuminated all types of lurking monsters strategically placed to scare the defiant constituency that dared to enter the domain.

Reading the warnings for park patrons who were either under 12 years old, below a certain height, or suffering high blood pressure or heart disease, my friend hurried his family past the attraction. He only glanced at the almost infinite list of other caveats and exculpatory proclamations from the management. He surely did not want his kids to challenge him to the altar of the outrageous.

Then he noticed the line that was forming. The only life form it contained was tattooed motorcyclists, each more than six feet tall and broadly built.

In spite of the ominous warnings that were posted, they stood anxiously in line waiting to prove their masculinity to themselves and the groups that hurried by the frightening attraction.

But nestled among the miscreants of machismo, he noticed a young boy, no more than seven-years-old, standing on line. He was laughing and giggling as if he were about to ride a carousel.

My friend could not contain himself. Surely, he could not let a young child like that show him up.

"Sonny," he called to the boy. "Can't you read? This is a really scary ride. And besides, you're not even ten!" The boy just laughed. "Why should I be scared?"

"Why should you be scared?" my friend asked incredulously. "This is the scariest ride in the park! It is pitch black in there! You can't see a thing -- except for the monsters!"

The boy's smile never faded. In fact it broadened. Then he revealed the source of his courage.

"You see the man over there?" He pointed to a middle-age fellow who sat in front of a switch-filled control box.

"Well that's my dad! If I just give one scream," exclaimed the child, "all he does is flip one switch and all the lights go on, and the monsters turn into plastic dummies!"

Rav Yecheil Meir Lifschutz of Gustinin explains that Hashem began the final stages of the redemption commanding Moshe, "Go to Pharaoh." Hashem's next words were said as the reason to disregard any of Pharaoh's yelling, shouting, and cavorting. They are totally meaningless, "Because I will harden his heart. I am the one in control. I am the one who hardens hearts and causes tyrants to drive you from their palaces." With one flip of a heavenly switch they will chase after you in the darkest night and beg you to do the will of he Creator." So "Go to Pharaoh," says the Almighty "because I am the one who hardens his heart!"

When faced with challenges, we can approach them with a sense of certainty if we know that there is a higher destiny that steers our fate. We can even walk into the den of a Pharaoh with the confidence of one who knows that it is the Master of Creation who is pulling the switch.

Dedicated by Dr. and Mrs. Keith Staiman and family in memory of Ruth Wohlfarth

If you would like to be on a shiur update list which sends messages regarding Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky's various lectures in NY City and Long Island and other locations, please send a blank email to You will receive bulletins about those classes.

If you want to be on a shiur announcement faxlist, fax request along with your fax number (dedicated line, please) to 516-569-7954

Copyright © 1998 by Rabbi M. Kamenetzky and Project Genesis, Inc.

If you enjoy the weekly Drasha, now you can receive the best of Drasha in book form!
Purchase Parsha Parables - from the Project Genesis bookstore - Genesis Judaica - at a very special price!

The author is the Associate Dean of the Yeshiva of South Shore.

Drasha is the e-mail edition of FaxHomily, a weekly torah facsimile on the weekly portion
which is sponsored by The Henry and Myrtle Hirsch Foundation



View Complete List

Rabbi Raymond Beyda - 5767

Chanukah and Mechiras Yosef: The Hidden Connection
Shlomo Katz - 5764

The Meaning of Miracles
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5766


Waning or Waxing
Rabbi Label Lam - 5774

The Root of the Problem
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5759

Tightening the Hellenistic Screws: A History of Chanukah, Part I
Rabbi Naphtali Hoff - 5774

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

The Challenge
Shlomo Katz - 5774

We Cannot Hide
Rabbi Label Lam - 5763

A Little Oil Goes a Long Way
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5766

Looking for a Chavrusah?

The Wagons that Yosef Sent
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5763

"Coming into Egypt"
Rabbi Pinchas Avruch - 5762

Sparing Embarrassment Of His Brothers Was Worth The Risk
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5773

> Light Up Right
Rabbi Label Lam - 5770

Every Little Bit Counts
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5763

A Glaring Omission
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5766

His True Identity
Rabbi Label Lam - 5768

Project Genesis Home

Torah Portion

Jewish Law



Learn the Basics




Ask The Rabbi

Knowledge Base


About Us

Contact Us

Free Book on Geulah! Home Copyright Information