Parashas Vaeira

This week’s parashah discusses the first seven of the ten plagues that Hashem cast upon Egypt. In regard to several of the plagues, the Torah relates that while the plague was in progress Pharaoh promised he would let the Jews go, but after the plague ended he reneged. The Midrash comments (Shemos Rabbah 12:8): “Thus it is with the wicked – when they are struck with calamity they humble themselves, but after the calamity passes they return to their wicked ways.”
In discussing this Midrash, the Maggid describes two types of people: those who are hard-hearted and slow in accepting what they are told, and those who are soft-hearted and simple-minded. The hard-hearted person is a shrewd person who does not believe anything anyone says until he investigates the matter thoroughly and verifies that the assertion is true. The simple-minded person is a person who is easily swayed by anyone who talks to him and accepts whatever he is told without discernment. As Shlomo HaMelech says (Mishlei 14:15): “A fool believes anything, but a shrewd person discerns correctly.”
Now each of these types has an advantage and a disadvantage. The hard-hearted person is hard to convince, but once he accepts a statement he maintains his stance firmly and is not moved by people trying to lead him to reverse his stance. The soft-hearted person, on the other hand, is easy to convince, but is liable to being talked out of what he previously accepted. The two types are described in Avos 5:15, which speaks of the person who is slow to learn and slow to forget, and the person who is quick to learn and quick to forget.
Pharaoh had the disadvantages of both of the above types. Initially, when Moshe first came to him bearing Hashem’s word, he did not want to believe him – he said (Shemos 5:2): “Who is Hashem, that I should heed His voice to send Yisrael out? I do not know Hashem, and I will not send Yisrael out.” Afterward, Moshe provided clear proof of Hashem’s existence and control over the world through the plagues, until Pharaoh recognized Hashem and admitted, after the plague of hail, that “Hashem is the righteous One, and I and my people are the wicked ones” (Shemos 9:27). But despite the clear recognition of Hashem that Pharaoh gained, once the plague of hail ended, Pharaoh and his servants immediately changed their stance and denied Hashem and Moshe.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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