Political Fools – In Memoriam of Mr. David M. Warren (Menachem Dovid ben Harav Yosef Z’L)
“And behold, Pharaoh sent the (Israelite) nation.” (Exodus 13:7) Egypt was devastated by the ten plagues and Pharaoh expelled the Jewish nation as G-d had foretold. Yet, only three days later, the Egyptians proclaimed “What is this that we have done that we have sent away Israel from serving us?” (Exodus 14:5)
The Seventh of Passover is the 3324th Anniversary of Pharaoh and his army pursuing the Israelites to the Sea of Reeds where G-d utterly destroyed them. [There are those of the opinion that Pharaoh did not drown, saved by G-d at the Sea of Reeds (Pirkei D'Rebbe Eliezer 48; Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus, Israel 80 CE – 118 CE)]
Why did Pharaoh chase the Israelites? Did he not learn his lesson?
The Midrash Rabba (Compilation of Jewish Homiletic 400 CE – 600 CE; Shmot 20:1), in reference to Pharaoh, quotes the verse in Proverbs (King Solomo, Jerusalem 970 BCE – 930 BCE 26:3), “and a rod for the fool’s back.” The Midrash explains that, shortly after expelling the Jews, Pharaoh declared, “Behold, my nation was stricken (with ten plagues) and my son was killed. Why did I send them out?”
The Rashash (Zaskekvich, Russia; 1794 – 1872), commenting on the Midrash, explains - Pharaoh recognized that he was wrong to prevent Israel from leaving during the ten plagues but now he looked like a fool; in retrospect, he had destroyed his own empire for no reason. Was this to be his legacy? Will he always be remembered as the king who watched his kingdom brought to ruins because he was too stubborn to free a bunch of slaves?
Pharaoh could not let it be. The king who lost an empire because he defied the G-d of Israel, now chased the Jews across the desert. He witnessed the Pillar of Flame and the Clouds of Glory. He saw the Splitting of the Sea of Reeds and still pursued the Jews between walls of water.
As Proverbs says, “and a rod for the fool’s back.” Pharaoh lost everything. He knew the risks. He understood the dangers. But a man's legacy is worth more than his empire.