“And I (G-d) shall harden Pharaoh's
heart and I shall multiply my miracles and
wonders in the land of Egypt. And Pharaoh will
not listen to you, and I shall put my hand upon
Egypt.” (Exodus 7:3)
G-d told Moses that, by hardening
Pharaoh's heart and making him stubborn, G-d
would have the opportunity to “multiply my
miracles and wonders”.
The Sforno explains that G-d
strengthened Pharaoh’s heart so that Pharaoh
would act of free will rather than fear.
Otherwise, Pharaoh would have expelled the Jews
after the first plague. G-d wanted Pharaoh to
free the Jews in recognition that G-d is the
sovereign of the universe.
Why? Why does it matter whether Pharaoh
acted of free will or fear so long as he freed
the Jews? Surely the Jews didn’t need to witness
the miracles for they were minor compared to the
revelation at Mount Sinai.
The Medrash (Shemot Rabba 9:1) quotes
Ezekiel (33:11) “I (G-d) do not desire in the
death of the wicked, rather let him return from
his ways and live.” The Medrash explains that
this verse was one of the reasons for all G-d's
miracles at Egyptian expense.
The Yefe Toar, commenting on the
Medrash, says that part of G-d's justice is to
preserve man's free will, the ability to choose
and act of his own volition. Forcing Pharaoh to
react from fear would have undermined G-d’s
system of justice. G-d had to convince Egypt and
Pharaoh that it was wrong to enslave Israel and
to choose to release them.
Part of G-d's justice is giving Man the
ability to make decisions. G-d had to wait until
Free will is a gift of G-d that can
never be compromised. Doing the right thing is
only right when a person comes to the
realization that it is the right decision. The
concept of free will is grounded in
understanding our choices and acting upon them.
When dealing with others, especially children,
it’s important to remember to protect their free
will and enable them to make the right choices.
For more Divrei Torah on the Parsha: