Thursday, January 26, 2012

Pharaoh's Defeat

By Moshe Feiglin

And Moses and Aaron were brought again to Pharaoh; and he said to them: 'Go, serve Hashem your God; who exactly is going?' (From this week's Torah portion, Bo, Exodus 10:8)

The real issue debated in the exchange between Pharaoh, Moses and Aaron is Pharaoh's political/theological status. "The river is mine and I made myself," says Pharaoh, according to the Midrash. Modern man has repeated this statement in varying forms, many times over. I am the focal point of creation, it is my will that determines what will be and everything else is simply a narrative or other post-modern postulation.

Pharaoh's regime is the culmination of the worship of man. It is the complete opposite of the message of liberty with which the Creator, through the Nation of Israel, imbues humanity.

The threat of the plague of locusts begins to erode Pharaoh's self confidence. He is already willing to negotiate. And like a seasoned politician, he does all that he can to keep all the cards - political and theological - in his hands.
And Moses and Aaron were brought again to Pharaoh - Pharaoh speaks to Moses through an intermediary. He protects his regal distance and status.

'Go, serve Hashem your God - not the G-d of all G-ds, but your G-d.

Who exactly is going? - Pharaoh wants a report. He shows Moses and Aaron that the Jews are still under his jurisdiction.

After the plague of hail, the seasoned politician backs down a bit from his political stand, but not from his theology. His personal status has been challenged. But he still holds firmly to the idolatrous idea that G-d is the G-d of the Jews, alone. In other words, I - Pharaoh - am god. But there is another god with whom I have entered into a conflict: And Pharaoh hurried to call for Moses and Aaron and he said, ' I have sinned to Hashem your G-d and to you.' (Exodus 10:16)

After the plague of darkness, Pharaoh no longer insists that the G-d of the Jews is theirs alone. From here on in, the G-d of Israel is the One G-d:
And Pharaoh called Moses and he said, 'Go, worship G-d. Just leave your flocks and cattle behind. Your children will also go with you.' (Exodus 10:24)

With the last remnants of his strength, Pharaoh attempts to cling to his power. As the end approaches, the fading despot becomes very dangerous:
And Pharaoh said to him, 'Leave from before me. Just beware not to see my face again, for on the day that you see my face, you will die. (Exodus 10:28)

Now Pharaoh receives the blow most dangerous to any leader:
And G-d made the nation find favor in the eyes of Egypt. The man, Moses, was also very great in the land of Egypt and in the eyes of the servants of Pharaoh and the eyes of the nation. (Exodus 11:3)

It makes no difference who is sitting on the throne. What really matters is where the heart of the nation resides. From that point on, Moses can carry out a coup and rule the empire instead of Pharaoh:
And he called for Moses and Aaron in the night and he said, 'Arise and go out from my nation, all of you and the Children of Israel, and go to worship G-d, as you said. Your flocks and cattle shall be in your midst, take them, as you have said. Go out and bless me, as well.

Pharaoh's defeat - both political and theological - is complete. Get out and stop threatening my regime. And from wherever you will be, bless me as well - for your G-d is The G-d.

Shabbat Shalom

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