When children sing the song about frogs on your nose and frogs on your toes, it all sounds very cute, but if, the next time your kitchen is infested with ants or the like, you imagine each one growing by several hundred percent and starting to croak, you begin to appreciate how terrifying even the cutest plague must have been. So if you were Pharaoh, and Moshe gave you the opportunity to decide when the plague would stop, your natural response would probably be- “right this second, if not sooner.” Shockingly, Pharaoh’s answer is- “tomorrow”. Why?
Perhaps Pharaoh was unable to resist the bait that Moshe presents him. With Moshe’s opening offer to Pharaoh to “Glorify yourself over me,” Moshe offers Pharaoh a “face-saving” solution. He can maintain some illusion of control over the situation, even if only in his own eyes, by deciding the time the plague will stop. But to ask for the plague to stop immediately is essentially to admit defeat. So the price of maintaining this illusion is the extension of his own suffering, and the suffering of his people.
Pharaoh is willing to pay, and the hardening of his heart which follows is only natural. It’s a phenomenon we can perhaps see all around us, and perhaps we can see it in ourselves. How often do we choose to stroke our own egos, to insist on telling ourselves the story that we are in full control, at the expense of our own suffering, and the suffering of others, rather than submit to the reality that we need help, and we need it now? The temptation to “glorify ourselves” is powerful, and the most damaging result of this choice is that it tends to feed itself, because it really does work, to a point. The suffering passes, we reassure ourselves that we really are in control, and we harden our hearts in preparation for the next assault of reality.
This is my own little insight about the 929 chapter of the day, in 300 words or so. I’d love to hear your comments and start a conversation
What’s 929? A near-impossible challenge of consistency. A song of Jewish unity. A beautiful project worth checking out. Learn more at 929.org.il