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יום הכיפורים תשפ"א באתר ישיבה
Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Va'era

Paro, Providence & The Paris 4

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"And I shall harden Paro’s heart, so as to multiply My wonders; & Pharaoh strengthened his heart."

One of Chazal’s most difficult dictums is, "Just as we bless G-d for the good, so must we bless Him for the bad. In this world we recite two brachot: Ha’Tov V’Hametiv (He is good & does good) for happy news; & Dayan HaEmet (G-d is the true judge) for sad tidings; but in the next world we shall only recite the former, as we will see the good in ALL that G-d does."

I often caution well-meaning individuals against telling mourners: "Gam zu l’tova, everything is for the best." While this may indeed be true, it cannot be imposed on one who is suffering; he must come to that conclusion all on his own. When a loved one dies tragically, high-minded cliches are generally useless, & often they are cruel & hurtful.

Moshe Rabbeinu also agonized over Jewish suffering in a world controlled by an all-powerful G-d of Mercy & Compassion. He also questioned how Paro could be held accountable for his obstinance if G-d hardened his heart. Both these issues take center stage in Vaera.

Hashem guides a person in the way he wishes to go, facilitating his decision while keeping his free choice intact. Paro wishes to act arrogantly & live in denial, & so G-d lets him do just that. Paro passes on all the many chances he is given to save his country; & so, what began as a simple request for a 3-day pass in the desert turns into our total redemption. Paro's stubbornness, in effect, provides our salvation.

But Paro was not alone among our historical foes in this regard. Imagine where we would be today if our enemies had not held fast to their intransigence & pathological hatred of us! We would have received a truncated, tiny, indefensible State in 1947; we would never have unified our holy capital in 1967; we might have accepted the horrendous deal which Messrs. Barak, Arafat & Clinton (Mr. Hillary) tried to force on us in 2001 at Camp David, which included ceding Har HaBayit to the murderous Palestinians!

But, B"H, our enemies were stubborn & selfish. Their hearts were hard, & they rejected peace. And so we prevailed, & the tragedy became triumph. Their rejection, thanks to G-d, became our reward, time & time again.

Next week’s sedra also speaks of Time (HaChodesh Hazeh Lachem), perhaps to teach us that tragedy - such as the one which befell the Jewish People last week in Paris - must always be filtered through the prism of time. Time provides the perspective that illuminates the darker moments of our life & reveals the blessings that lie hidden beneath the tears.

What is "good" or what is "bad?" Only time will tell.
Rabbi Stewart Weiss
Was ordained at the Hebrew Theological College in Skokie, Illinois, and led congregations in Chicago and Dallas prior to making Aliyah in 1992. He directs the Jewish Outreach Center in Ra'anana, helping to facilitate the spiritual absorption of new olim.
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