1997Exodus Chapter 9:1-12
1.Then the Lord said to Moses, Go to Pharaoh, and tell him, Thus said the Lord God of the Hebrews, Let my people go, that they may serve me.
2.For if you refuse to let them go, and will hold them still,
3.Behold, the hand of the Lord is upon your cattle which is in the field, upon the horses, upon the asses, upon the camels, upon the oxen, and upon the sheep; there shall be a very grievous plague.
4.And the Lord shall separate between the cattle of Israel and the cattle of Egypt; and nothing shall die of all that is the children's
5.And the Lord appointed a set time, saying, Tomorrow the Lord shall do this thing in the land.
6.And the Lord did that thing in the morning, and all the cattle of Egypt died; but of the cattle of the people of Israel died not one.
7.And Pharaoh sent, and, behold, there was not one of the cattle of the people of Israel dead. And the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he did not let the people go.
8.And the Lord said to Moses and to Aaron, Take handfuls of ashes from the furnace, and let Moses sprinkle it toward the heaven in the sight of Pharaoh.
9.And it shall become fine dust in all the land of Egypt, and boils shall break out with sores upon man, and upon beast, throughout all the land of Egypt.
10.And they took ashes from the furnace, and stood before Pharaoh; and Moses sprinkled it up toward heaven; and it became boils breaking out with sores upon man, and upon beast.
11.And the magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils; for boils were on the magicians, and on all the Egyptians.
12.And the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he listened not to them; as the Lord had spoken to Moses...
YOUR TORAH NAVIGATOR
1.In verse seven, who is responsible for hardening Pharoah's heart? In verse twelve
who is responsible?
2.Why the difference in language?
3.If Pharoah was in charge of his heart in verse seven, why was his free choice taken away in verse nine?
YOUR MIDRASH NAVIGATOR
Okay, so the previous questions have set you up for the following Midrash. A Midrash looks for textual irregularities in the Torah and then uses them as opportunities to either expand the narrative or solve the problem by comparing the text with other verses that use the same word or phrase. The Midrash is the form by which the text uncovers layers of meaning within the text. Rememberer, you noticed that Pharoah's heart was "hardened" in one verse and that "the Lord hardened Pharoah's heart" in a subsequent verse. While we would ask the question, "Why would God take away Pharoah's free choice?" The Midrash would merely note the discrepancy in the two verses and through solving that textual irregularity, address this question. For the Midrash, understanding the Torah is the first priority.
Midrash Shemot Rabba Chapter 11:6
6. And they took soot of the furnace... Breaking out with boils upon man and beast (Exodus 9:10). What is the meaning of breaking out? Along with the boils, they were smitten with leprosy. The word [breaking out is used in the chapter of Leviticus that deals with leprosy, as it is written:]"... and if leprosy should break out throughout the skin (Leviticus 13:12)."
"And the magicians could not stand before Moses..." (Exodus 9:11). Why were they not able to stand before Moses? Because it was they who had counselled pharaoh to cast into the Nile every male child that was born, so that Moses should die. Moreover, it was they who had condemned him to be slain for removing the crown from the head of Pharaoh to his own head, hence the magicians could not stand before Moses.
And the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh (Exodus 9:12). When God perceived that Pharoah did not relent after the first five plagues, he decided that even if Pharaoh now wished to repent, he would harden his heart in order to exact the whole punishment from him. As the Lord had spoken unto Moses-for so it is written: and I will harden Pharaoh's heart (Exodus 7:3).
YOUR NAVIGATOR AGAIN
1.How does the midrash understand what "And the magicians could not stand before Moses" means?
2.Is the Midrash using information that is in the Torah to prove their point, or does it come from somewhere else?
3.Does this Midrash assume that Pharoah ever had free choice? Why was it taken away from him?
4.Has there ever been a point in your life where you have felt that circumstances have hardened your heart and you no longer had a choice?
Prepared by Rabbi Avi Weinstein, The Bronfman Youth
Fellowships in Israel