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Posted on January 18, 2024 (5784) By Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein | Series: | Level:

Come to Paroh. I have hardened his heart…so that I can put these signs of Mine in their midst, and so that you may relate in the ears of your son and your son’s son that I made a mockery of Egypt.[1]

By hardening Paroh’s heart, the makos continued. They would convince everyone of Hashem’s role in the drama of the plagues. Even future generations would be able to transmit the account of the absolute triumph of Hashem.

This is all well and good – but why are these facts related here, in conjunction with the plague of locusts? How was this makah in particular a greater demonstration of Hashem’s presence and power than those that occurred earlier?

The simple answer is that wasn’t the locusts at all. It was the hardening of Paroh’s heart that turned the tide of any residual disbelief into a full acknowledgment of His role.

How were people able prior to this plague to ignore Moshe’s warnings? They rejected Moshe’s claim to speak in the name of some unknown G-d of Israel. Moshe was simply a very clever trickster. Someone would figure out some day how he performed his “miracles,” but surely there was a reasonable explanation. Somewhere.

One thing, they acknowledged, could only be done by a supreme G-d: taking away human free choice. No trickster could accomplish that. Only G-d could burrow into the human mind and take control of it.

Arbeh made that happen. The makos had progressed from the first ones that caused discomfort and pain. They ramped up to wreaking economic havoc and destruction. Barad dealt a knockout blow to food security. It was near-fatal; some of the younger, supple grain was not damaged, and remained. The locusts, however, denuded the land of even that.

It was beyond comprehension that a sane Paroh (which most assuredly he was!) would not surrender at this point to save his people. But he didn’t. There was no rational way to explain his intransigence in the face of total ruination. Only the intervention of G-d could explain the hardness of Paroh’s heart.

“Come to Paroh. I have hardened his heart.” It will not be the locusts per se that will allow the Bnei Yisrael to “relate in the ears of your son and your son’s son that I made a mockery of Egypt.” (As Ramban points out, locust plagues were not uncommon in Egypt.) Rather, it is the hardening of Paroh’s heart that will allow the world to understand that I was the cause of the makos – not Moshe. So come to Paroh. Know that I have already hardened his heart to ignore the total devastation that the locusts will bring about.

When people take stock of Paroh’s resistance, they will understand that I am in control.

  1. Shemos 10:1