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Come unto Pharaoh
Bo, Tav-Shin-Mem-Aleph, January 1981
“And the Lord said unto Moses, ‘Come unto Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that I may set these signs of Mine within him.’”
We should understand the following:
- The question in The Zohar: Why does it not say “Go unto Pharaoh”?
- The question people ask, Why did the Creator need Pharaoh’s consent to bring out the people of Israel?
- The question people ask, Why did He deny him the choice?
- The reason “I will set these signs of Mine within him.” If the Creator wants to make signs, why did He have to do it by afflicting Pharaoh through the plagues? He could have made signs in different ways that would not harm Pharaoh.
To explain all this, we first need to bring the words of our sages, “One should always see oneself as half guilty, half innocent. If he performs one Mitzva [commandment], happy is he, for he has sentenced himself to the side of merit” (Kidushin 40b).
This is perplexing: If he has already sentenced himself to the side of merit, how can he see himself once more as half and half? Also, we should understand, if he has committed a transgression, he has sentenced himself to the side of guilt, so how can he say afterward that he is half guilty and half innocent? We should also understand, if he knows that he has few merits, how is it that he is taught to lie and make the similitude of falsehood, which is half and half?
Also, we should understand what our sages said, “Anyone who is greater than his friend, his inclination is greater than him” (Sukkah 52). If he is righteous, why does he deserve the punishment of having a greater evil inclination?
We should also understand what our sages said, “Transgressed and repeated? It becomes as though permitted to him” (end of Masechet Yoma). Why was it done so, that it would become for him as though permitted? And we also need to understand what our sages said, “To the wicked, it seems like a hairsbreadth, and to the righteous, as a high mountain” (Sukkah 52). Which is the truth?
The thing is that there is an order in the work of the Creator. Because the Creator wants to prevent the bread of shame, a person has to make a choice—to choose the good and loathe the bad. Hence, the Creator can deliver the people of Israel from the exile in Egypt if He gives them only the good inclination and subdues the evil, and then a person will not be in any exile. However, since the Creator wants man to make the choice, it is required that the people of Israel will emerge from exile in person. This is called “by his own conscious choice.” He must agree that the Pharaoh within him, who is the king of Egypt, will not govern the Israel in him.
Pharaoh comes from the words “Uncovered the head,” meaning revealing. That is, by wanting everything within him to be revealed, or he, the king of Egypt, controls the body with the quality of Egypt, afflicting a person when he wants to do something for the sake of the Creator, so when he wants revealing, meaning that everything will be according to his intellect, that his mind will understand that it is worthwhile to do the actions, he permits man to work. This is why Pharaoh asks, “Who is the Lord that I should obey His voice?” and “What is this work for you?” With this force, he controls the Israel in him.
Israel means Yashar-El [straight to the Creator], meaning that everything he does will be directly for the sake of the Creator, meaning in order to bestow. This is as our sages said, “‘There shall be no foreign God within you.’ Who is a foreign God within man’s body? It is the evil inclination” (Shabbat[Sabbath] 105b). This means that if he should do something for the Creator, it is foreign to him to do such actions. This is the opposite of Israel, who wants specifically straight to the Creator [Yashar-El].
Hence, in order to bring Israel out of the governance of Pharaoh king of Egypt, meaning to agree to make a choice, so he can do everything in order to bestow, we need specifically the light of Torah, as our sages said, “The light in it reforms him.”
By this we will understand why it is written “Come” and not “Go.” “Come” means “Come, the two of us together,” so that one will not think that he can submit his evil inclination by himself. Rather, as it is written, “Man’s inclination overcomes him every day. Were it not for the help of the Creator, he would not overcome it.” Hence, one should not say that he cannot defeat his evil, for he must believe that the Creator will help him. This is the meaning of “Come.”
The Zohar asks about what our sages said, “He who comes to purify is aided.” It asks, “With what is he aided?” and it replies, “With a holy soul. When one is born, he is given Nefesh [soul] from the side of a pure beast. If he is rewarded more, he is given Ruach [spirit].” Thus, each time a person is purified and overcomes his evil, a higher degree is revealed in him, which is called “Torah” or “the light of Torah.”
By this we will understand why the hardening of the heart comes to him, and why if the Creator wants to make signs, he must suffer for no reason by the hardening of the heart. The thing is that when a person wants to walk in the ways of the Creator on the path of truth, he should not say that he is incapable because he has many iniquities, since this is not about coming before the courthouse of above when he is judged on how many merits he has. Here it is about a person himself, judging himself, and saying that he cannot make a choice, since choosing is between two equal things between which he should decide.
For this reason, they said that one should see oneself as half guilty, half innocent, since the Creator deliberately made it so that the good and the bad will always be of equal weight, so he can decide. Hence, if he performs one Mitzva [commandment] and has decided to the side of merit, he becomes great.
At that time, they say, “Anyone who is greater than his friend, his inclination is greater than him.” In other words, the Creator deliberately hardens his heart so he would be able to make a choice once more, for in each choice, a person gains the letters of the Torah. Thus, the signs are not for the sake of the Creator but for the sake of man.
It therefore follows that the hardening of the heart is only for man’s sake, for by this he will be rewarded with the letters of the Torah. Although during the fact, a person does not feel all that he is meant to feel, when he has completed his discernment, what he has done all that time is revealed to him at once.
Like the allegory that Baal HaSulam once gave, this is similar to a person earning nothing but zeros. Each time, he sees that he has earned only zero. After the first time, he has one zero. After the second time, two zeros, and after the third, three zeros, until he accumulates many zeros. But at the end of his work, he earns a one. Thus, he might have one zero with the one, which is only ten, or he might have one million, or more. It follows that each time, letters of the Torah are added in him. This is the meaning of “that I may set these signs of Mine within him.”
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