by Rabbi Yaakov Menken
This week, the straw finally comes that breaks Pharaoh - he releases the
children of Israel from Egypt, so that they can go out to worship G-d.
Moshe comes before Paro to warn him of the coming Tenth and Final Plague:
"So says G-d: at just about midnight, I will go though Egypt...and every
firstborn will die..." [11:4]
Moshe told Paro that at "just about" midnight -- "KA"-chatzos Halaylah --
G-d will go through Egypt. We see later (12:29) that G-d actually went out
"BA"-chatzi Halaylah, at midnight precisely -- and isn't it obvious that
G-d is more accurate than Timex? Why would He not specify the exact time?
In the Talmud (Brachos 4a), the Rabbis explain that G-d did indeed say that
the plague would come at midnight, and Moshe was responsible for the
change. Moshe was afraid that Pharaoh's advisors would err in their
calculation of midnight. Were they to make a mistake, thought Moshe, they
would conclude that Moshe or G-d was a liar.
Now think about this for a moment -- is that not hard to believe? Moshe
says that Ten Plagues are coming, and lo and behold each one comes about
exactly as described. Ten unnatural disasters all testify 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 from this, they determine that Moshe is a liar?
That is exactly what our Parsha says. This is the same Pharoah we learned
about last week, who, in the middle of an argument, reached the point that
no new evidence would change his mind. It's a part of human nature that is
difficult to fight, even when reality is literally staring us in the face.
Moshe felt that Pharoah's timekeepers 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 Pharaoh arose that night (etc.)." Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki
explains that Pharaoh "arose" from his bed.
This, too, is unbelievable. After nine plagues were accurately described,
Moshe announced that the 10th would involve the death of every firstborn,
including Pharaoh's own son. Did Pharaoh release Israel? Did he at least
worry? Did he sit by his son's bedside, concerned? No -- he went to sleep!
Not only did Pharaoh refuse to accept reality... he wasn't even worried
It is our duty, often, to avoid the same trap. Perhaps if we step back and
look at a situation objectively, we will realize that we are making a
mistake. And we might even see it before it's too late!