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by Rabbi Yaakov Menken

This week, the straw finally comes that breaks Pharoah - he releases the children of Israel from Egypt, so that they can go out to worship G-d. As we all know, this came only after 10 terrible plagues were released upon his entire country... and the 10th is described by Moshe in an unusual way.

In Shemos [Exodus] 11:4 Moshe tells Pharoah, "So says G-d: at just about midnight, I will go though Egypt...and every firstborn will die..." At just about midnight - KAchatzos Halailah? We see later (12:29) that G-d actually went out BAchatzi Halailah, at precisely midnight - and isn't it obvious that G-d is as accurate as Timex? In the Talmud (Brachos 4a), the Rabbis explain that G-d did indeed say midnight, and Moshe was responsible for the change - for fear that Pharoah's advisors would err in their calculation of midnight and say that after all that, Moshe was a liar.

Now think about this for a moment - is that not hard to believe? Moshe says that ten plagues are coming (one at a time, specifying each one), and lo and behold each one comes - very unnatural disasters - all of which indicates that Moshe knows what he's talking about. So we come to the last one, the Grand Finale, the Plague to beat all Plagues... and according to the advisors' miscalculation it comes at 12:00:30. And Moshe is a liar?

That is exactly what our Parsha says. When we are in the middle of an argument, we can easily reach the point that no new evidence can change our minds. It's a part of human nature that is difficult to fight, even when reality is literally staring us in the face - just like Pharoah's advisors. Moshe felt that they were liable to overlook the obvious conclusion - that they miscalculated - in favor of the comfortable one - Moshe was lying, and G-d has no control after all.

The proof comes later in the Parsha, when the plague of the firstborn actually takes place. In 12:29-30, we read that G-d went through Egypt at midnight, "and Pharoah arose that night..." - and Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki explains that Pharoah arose from his bed. It's the same thing all over again - after 9 plagues were accurately described, and then Moshe announces that the 10th will involve the death of every firstborn including Pharoah's own son, Pharoah goes to sleep!!

Not only does Pharoah refuse to accept reality... he's not even worried about it. The only thing we have to learn from this is to avoid falling in to the same trap. Sometimes it's worth stepping back, and admitting that we were wrong.

Text Copyright © 1995 Rabbi Yaakov Menken and Project Genesis, Inc.

The author is the Director of Project Genesis.



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