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This week’s parsha, Parshas Bo, contains the last three of the Ten Makkos. Even with the increasing intensity of each Makkah, Paroh continued to refuse to allow Bnei Yisrael to leave Mitzrayim. Hashem had told Moshe that He would harden Paroh’s heart so he would not let the Bnei Yisrael leave, in order to make sure Paroh received his just desserts and would recognize Hashem as the true God. However, in certain aspects, Paroh didn’t need any help from Hashem and denied Moshe’s requests of his own volition. And after a point, Moshe had had enough.
At the beginning of the Parsha, Moshe is sent to warn Paroh about the upcoming plague of locusts, the eighth plague to hit the country of Egypt. After declaring that this plague would be so incredible, the likes of which would never be seen again, the pasuk says, “וַיִּ֥פֶן וַיֵּצֵ֖א מֵעִ֥ם פַּרְעֹֽה” And he (Moshe) turned and left Paroh” (Shemos 10:6). Understanding the proper context in the pasuk, this was a very big deal. Throughout Moshe’s interactions with Paroh, he had always gone to great lengths to treat him with the respect befitting a king. Numerous examples of this appear throughout these parshiyos, including the first pasuk in this week’s parsha when Hashem Himself tells Moshe, “בֹּ֖א אֶל־פַּרְעֹ֑ה”, “come to Paroh” (ibid: 1). (This verbiage is a sign of respect towards the office of a monarch, regardless of whether he might deserve it on a personal level.) What caused Moshe to finally snap?
The Ohr HaChaim explains that that this was indeed the last straw for Moshe. He had tried so hard to continue to show Paroh respect even after his continued denial of Hashem’s wishes; and at this point, Moshe thought he had finally made a breakthrough. At the end of last week’s parsha, following the Makkah of Barad (Hail), Paroh had admitted to his wrongdoings, “חָטָ֣אתִי הַפָּ֑עַם יְהֹוָה֙ הַצַּדִּ֔יק וַֽאֲנִ֥י וְעַמִּ֖י הָֽרְשָׁעִֽים” “I have sinned this time. Hashem is righteous and I and my people are the guilty ones” (9:27). Paroh asks Moshe to daven for him, which he does, but then Paroh immediately returns to his previous attitude; prompting the Makkah of Arbeh, and Moshe’s disrespectful exit.
The Ramban explains a bit differently. The Makkah of Barad was extremely frightening; while the wild animals of Makkas Arov might appear more dangerous than some extreme weather conditions, the fact remains that they were still natural beings. However, the icy hail mixed with fire of Barad went against all laws of nature; a truly frightening sight! But the Egyptians had survived; still, not without cost. The Barad knocked out half of the Egyptian crops, and with the locusts threatening to eat the rest, the Egyptians would soon starve. Moshe felt he could play on this, and instead of allowing Paroh time to respond to the threat of locusts like he’d done by other Makkos, he turned and left immediately to allow Paroh to stew in his dread. His tactic worked as Paroh’s servants convinced him to call Moshe back in to negotiate, but ultimately, Paroh continued to allow his heart to be hardened.
Click here for last year's Dvar Torah for Parshas Bo
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