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He who Hardens His Heart
Article No. 20, Tav-Shin-Mem-Hey, 1984-195
It is written in The Zohar (item 186): “Rabbi Yitzhak said, ‘We did not find anyone who hardened his heart before the Creator as Pharaoh.’ Rabbi Yosi, said, ‘But Sihon and Og also hardened their hearts.’ He replied, ‘This is not so. They hardened their hearts against Israel, but they did not harden their hearts against the Creator, as Pharaoh hardened his heart against Him, for he saw His might and did not repent.’”
We should understand the difference between not hardening their hearts before the Creator, or hardening their hearts against Israel. After all, all the hatred that the nations feel toward Israel is only because they are the Creator’s people, as our sages said (Shabbat, 89), “What is Mt. Sinai? It is that Sinaa [hatred] came down to the idol-worshippers.”
To return to the topic, meaning concerning the hatred of Israel: Pharaoh hated the people of Israel and wanted to enslave them. Moses came as a messenger of the Creator but he wouldn’t listen and said, “Who is the Lord that I should obey His voice?” Sihon and Og also hated Israel, but what is the difference with respect to Israel? The reason why they hate Israel. Did Sihon and Og harden their hearts because the people of Israel was unimportant, and this is why they hated them? Or did they harden their hearts against the Creator, that the Creator was unimportant in their eyes, and this is why they hated Israel? In that case, what is the difference with respect to Israel?
We should interpret the above words of The Zohar in the work. We need to know that there are two obstructers standing opposite a person and not letting him cross the barrier and achieve love of the Creator, since man is born with a desire to receive for himself and cannot do anything without a profit. That is, one can relinquish self-reception in order to bestow something upon someone if this gives him emotional satisfaction. In that case he can relinquish self-reception.
For example, a person can work for an important person. If, say, the ADMOR of Lubavitch comes to the airport with a suitcase, gives it to one of his followers, and gives him 100 dollars for his work. Certainly, the follower will not want to receive the pay from the rabbi and will give it back to him. If they rabbi should ask him, “Why don’t you want to receive it? Did I pay you too little for the work? If I had given an ordinary porter 10 dollars he would have been happy; why don’t you want to take it?” The follower would reply, “My privilege of serving the rabbi is worth to me more than any fortune in the world that the rabbi might give me.”
We therefore see that for an important person, a person can work without any reward. For this reason, when one comes to engage in Torah and Mitzvot [commandments] in order to bestow, a person can relinquish self-love for the sake of the Creator. At that time, what does the obstructer to the work of the Creator do so that one will not be able to walk on the path of the Creator? He does one thing: He does not let a person depict the greatness and importance of the Creator. It follows that all the strength that the Sitra Achra [other side] has is against the Creator. He tells him, “I know you are very powerful, meaning you can overcome your lusts, unlike weak-minded and softhearted people. You are the strongest of the strong. However, the reason why you are not walking on the path of truth is that the goal is not so important to you, to make you annul yourself for it. With this force it obstructs him from achieving the goal.
This is what The Zohar says in the name of Rabbi Yitzhak: “We did not find anyone who hardened his heart before the Creator as Pharaoh.” That is, he did not appreciate the Creator and said, “Who is the Lord that I should obey His voice?” This is the first obstructer.
The second obstructer is that when one sees that he has overcome his arguments, goes above reason, and does not regard what it tells him, then he comes with a complaint against Israel. That is, one who wants to walk on the path of the Creator is called Yashar-El [straight to the Creator], which is directly to the Creator. This means that he wants all the actions that he does to rise straight to the Creator, and does not want to have any other intention.
For this reason, what does the other obstructer do? He degrades the Israel in him and tells him, “The Israel in you is very weak, both in skill and in strength to overcome. You have a weak character, and this way you want to go—where all the works are only for the Creator—can be demanded from an Israel who has all the required qualities, namely good education, skills, and courage to fight the evil in him. He can walk on this path, and not you.”
Thus, by what does he obstruct him? He no longer speaks to him about the importance of the goal, as with Pharaoh’s argument, who disputed the importance of the goal. Rather, he tells him that the goal is very important, but “You are not important enough to be able to walk on such a lofty path, so walk on the path of the general public, and you do not need to be exceptional. Only this way is suitable for you.”
Likewise, we find in The Zohar (Shlach, item 63) concerning the spies: “‘And they returned from touring the land.’ ‘They returned’ means that they returned to the bad side, returned from the path of truth, saying, ‘What will we get out of it? To this day we have not seen good in the world. We have toiled in Torah and the house is empty. Who will be awarded that world? Who will come and be in it? It would have been better had we not toile so. We labored and learned in order to know the part of that world, as you advised us. ‘It is also flowing with milk and honey,’ that upper world is good, as we know in the Torah, but who can be rewarded with it? ‘However, the people … are strong,’ meaning the people that has been rewarded with that world is strong, not considering the rest of the world at all—to engage in it, to have great wealth—who can do so and be rewarded with it? ‘However, the people … are strong.’ ‘The rich man answers roughly, ‘and we also saw the descendants of the giant there,’ meaning you need a body as strong and as mighty as a lion, since the Torah weakens man’s strength.”
It follows that the argument of the spies, according to the interpretation of The Zohar, is that Israel is unimportant, as we explained that it is similar to the argument of the second obstructer, meaning that all the hardening is against Israel.
By that we can interpret the difference between Pharaoh’s argument, who hardened his heart against the Creator, and the argument of Sihon and Og, who hardened their hearts against Israel. Pharaoh said, “Who is the Lord that I should obey His voice,” meaning that all his strength was to lessen the importance of the Creator, as it was said, that he is the first obstructer. Sihon and Og, however, hardened their hearts against Israel, meaning to lessen the importance of Israel, which corresponds to the second obstructer.
To this, meaning to all those arguments, there is no other tactic but to walk on the path of faith above reason, disregard their arguments, and trust in the Creator that He can help everyone and there is no force that can resist the power of the Creator, so we should trust in the Creator to help.
We find such as this in The Zohar (Beshalach, item 187): “Rabbi Yehuda said, ‘Rabbi Yitzhak said, ‘Pharaoh was wiser than all his sorcerers. …In their entire side he did not see that Israel would have redemption… And Pharaoh did not think that there is another tie of faith that governs all the forces of the Sitra Achra. This is why he hardened his heart.’’” It follows from the words of The Zohar that Pharaoh means within reason, that it seems irrational that they would be able to exit their authority, unless through faith above reason, for this power cancels all the powers in the world.
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