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RABBI CHAIM LOBEL הרב חיים לובל

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Illusions - In Memoriam of Mr. David M. Warren (Menachem Dovid ben Harav Yosef Z’L)

“And the magicians of Egypt did the same with their secret rites, and Pharaoh hardened his heart . . . Pharaoh abruptly turned and went home, and he paid no attention even to this.” Exodus 7:22

The Plague of Blood had transformed the Nile River and all the Egyptian well water into blood. The Egyptians were forced to purchase their water from the Israelites, whose well water was unaffected. However, if the Egyptians stole the Israelite water, then that water, too, turned to blood.

Upon witnessing this wondrous display of G-d’s power, Pharaoh turns to his magicians who perform the illusion of changing a small amount of water into blood. “And Pharaoh hardened his heart . . . and he paid no attention even to this.”

Did the magicians of Egypt truly do the “same” as G-d had done? Could Pharaoh not differentiate between magic tricks and miraculous wonders?

Focusing on the words, “even to this”, the Sforno (Rabbi Ovadia ben Yaakov 1475-1550; Bologna Spain) explains that G-d had emphatically altered the very laws of nature whereas the magicians had only performed a simple illusion, yet Pharaoh chose to accept the illusion. Pharaoh personally witnessed the plague, fully recognized what happened, yet chose to accept the illusion. Even when confronted by the harsh reality of the Plague of Blood, Pharaoh chose to believe what he wanted to believe.

On an intellectual level, Pharaoh’s decision to believe in a fiction of his own creation, at incredible personal risk, seems foolish. Yet, it’s a decision we can readily appreciate. The desire to fashion our own fantasy world rather than confront the harsh reality can often seem overwhelming.

However, there is another way.

"Here I (G-d) am! If you remove from your midst perversion . . . then G-d will guide you always and sate your soul in times of drought.” (Isaiah 58:9 – 11)

The Radak (Isaiah 58:11, Rabbi David Kimchi, 1162-1235; Provence, France) explains that G-d's "guidance" means G-d will be intimately involved in all of person’s endeavors. This in turn will satiate a soul in times when the world is void of all spirituality.

We can all look back at our past and in retrospect realize that G-d was truly part of our lives. One must understand that he is only satiated when he knows that G-d is intimately involved in his life. Only then can one live in reality, with the will to be a better person, removing the illusion that G-d does not care and not sending us clear messages. And Only then do life’s aspiration and visions have any meaning and fulfillment. As Isaiah declares, “sate your soul in times of drought.”

Shabbat Shalom


 
   
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