Written by the rabbi
Dedicated to the memory of
Yaakov Ben Behora
The Talmud (Berakhot 4a) questions why Moshe told Pharaoh that the death of the first-borns would take place "kachatzot halailah" - at about midnight - rather than the exact time of midnight. Surely, Moshe could have been accurate to the nanosecond.
The answer: Perhaps Pharaoh’s wise men would make a mistake in their reckoning of the time and then say: "Moshe is a liar."
This interpretation would seem to fly in the face of all reasonable thought. After all, Moshe had correctly predicted nine terrible and unusual events that had literally plagued the Egyptian people. He then predicted the most terrible of all - the death of Egypt’s first-borns. Imagine that he had said that this would take place exactly at midnight. Let’s assume that the palace clocks were inaccurate and according to their time all the first-borns died at midnight plus twenty seconds. What is the response of Egypt’s best and brightest?
"You see how Moshe is nothing but a liar."
The level of self deception and refusal to face facts is so mind boggling that we might well wonder at the sanity of such wise men or, alternatively, at what the Tamudic sages were trying to tell us in this seemingly odd interpretation.
Perhaps the lesson to be drawn from this discussion is that the Rabbis profoundly understood the true nature of man and the depths of his psyche:
1. We don’t like to face unpleasant truths.
2. The power of rationalization to substitute good reasons for real reasons is boundless.
3. Man will grab at the thinnest of straws to deny the reality which stares him in the face.
Should we be surprised by the ancient Egyptian think tank’s reaction? After all, modern Jewish history has seen its Egypts and their wise men, perhaps those Ph.D.s who met at Wansee or commanded Einsatzgruppen. It has witnessed the birth of a Jewish State in which Jews no longer have to live under non-Jewish rule, in which Torah flourishes, and in which we are called to help shape our destiny.
Is it possible there are yet those wise and many who are more than wise who are still waiting because they think that this great drama of reishit tzemichat geulateinu is but an illusion? Do their sojourns in the Egypts of Jewish History continue because the details of the reishit do not meet their redemption clocks?
May it be that those who dwell in Goshen’s darkness see a great light.
Moshe emet - it is we who may miss the mark.
This is a weekly column contributed by Aloh Naaleh an organization devoted to motivating Jews to make Aliya.
Aloh Na'aleh POB 4337, Jerusalem 91042
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