And G-d said to Moses, ‘Go in to Pharaoh because I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants so that I may show these, My signs, in his midst.’ (From this week’s Torah portion, Bo, Exodus 10:1)
Pharaoh’s stubbornness doesn’t make sense. “Do you not see that Egypt is doomed?” his servants desperately cry toward the end of this week’s Torah portion. Why does the Egyptian tyrant continue with his intransigence when reality explodes in his face time after time? Why doesn’t he change his ways when it is so obvious that his obstinacy is destroying Egypt?
Pharaoh’s intransigence is not for personal reasons. All the foundations of Egyptian civilization, a civilization that endured longer than any other civilization in the ancient world – were now being put to the test.
The king of Egypt was worshipped as a god. But Moses was forcing him to obey the real G-d, the G-d of Israel.
A regime that is founded on a particular assumption will not easily give it up.
Buses and restaurants may explode, missiles may screech into homes, guards may be needed at the entrance to every store, train stations may look like military checkpoints, there may be fences and walls surrounding towns and roads, concrete reinforcements on every roof, international arrest warrants for senior IDF officers, furious delegitimization campaigns throughout the world and intense anti-Semitism. But all of these plagues cannot change the ways of a regime that has predicated its very existence on the assumptions that have given rise to the plagues, in the first place.
10 plagues, 50 plagues, 250 plagues – it depends how you count. But no plague can convince the regime to act in a way that contradicts the foundations of its existence. The surrender of the Oslo assumptions would cause the collapse of the entire house of cards upon which the Israeli regime is founded.
There is only one plague that finally convinces Pharaoh to give up slavery. Not the plagues that cripple the people, but rather, the plague that cripples the regime. Before the exodus from Egypt, not one slave had ever escaped from Egypt. It was the oldest and largest concentration camp in history. And who were the masters? Those who were born to be masters; the first born. The plague of the first born threatened the entire assumption. That is why Pharaoh gave in and agreed to free the Israelites. The fact that the Egyptian children were dying did not faze him. But the plague posed an insurmountable problem for the Egyptian regime.
Nothing has made the Israeli regime open its eyes. “Do you not see that Israel is doomed? That missiles will explode in Ashkelon? That the rifles that you give to the terrorists will be aimed at us? That the entire world scorns us? That we will lose the legitimacy for our existence as an independent state?” None of that has made an impression on the Israeli regime and none of that will. Israel desperately needs leadership that sees reality for what it is: faith-based leadership.