The stubbornness of Par-oh in the face of almost one year of devastating
plagues is unparalleled in human history. To simply say he hardened his
heart sheds no light on the weakness in his character that would blind him
to the path of submission that would have saved his country from disaster.
The Torah states that when Par-oh entered his palace, he suddenly had a
change of heart and would reject the demands of Moshe and Aharon for
freedom for the Jews. “And he came into his house and did not concern his
heart with this [warning] either”. Shemot 7:15 Rabenu Bahye adds that the
wicked king Nebudhadnezar was also proud of his palace and therefore
The question is: These monarchs had fame, success and power – Why did
their palace make them conceited when they had so much else of which to be
proud? The lesson is that arrogance is not an intellectual response, but
instead an emotional one. A beautiful home with its opulent décor aroused
feelings of ga-avah – arrogance – more that wealth and power did
We live in a society where exterior trappings define the man. Clothing –
cars – and big-boy toys define a person to friends and neighbors more than
the real person does. More dangerous is the fact that these not so
meaningful possessions transform the way one looks at oneself as well. A
simple man surrounded by lavish trappings sees a distorted self-image that
may very well lead to haughty behavior beyond one’s true worth as a human
being and as a member of society. Wrong decisions and poor choices are
sure to follow the blindness of conceit.
The Jewish home has been a paradigm for an environment conducive to
spiritual growth and boundless self-improvement through the ages. Even the
wicked prophet Bil-am praised, “Ma tovu ohalekha Yisrael – How goodly are
your tents Israel” as he perused the modest life style of our ancestors.
We should all take a close look at our priorities and re-establish our
homes as a beautiful environment to nurture ourselves and our children in
a life of happiness and contentment steeped in Torah values.