The Logic of the Impossible- Part 3, Pharoah

This is the third and final post in a series of posts about the Logic of the Impossible. Part 1, which discusses how Moses related to G-d’s Name, can be found here. Part 2, which discusses how the Patriarchs related to G-d, can be found here. Now, we will see how Pharoah related to G-d.

Pharaoh

Let us now return to the events of the Exodus. When Moses and Aaron come to Pharaoh for the first time, they say:

“So said the Lord God (YHWH Elohim) of Israel, ‘Let My people go, and let them sacrifice to Me in the desert.’ And Pharaoh said, “Who is Havayah [YHWH] that I should heed His voice and let Israel go? I do not know Havayah [YHWH], neither will I let Israel go.” (Shemot 5:1-2)

We note that Pharaoh does not say, “I do not know God (Elohim),” from which it can be concluded that Pharaoh also lives within the logic of Elohim. But this can also be proven in another way.

Speaking with the Chief Rabbi of Russia, Berel Lazar, he drew attention to the fact that after the sixth plague, boils, the Almighty orders Moses to tell Pharaoh:

“So said the Lord God (Havayah [YHWH] Elohim) of the Hebrews,‘Let My people go so that they may worship Me. Because this time, I am sending all of My plagues into your heart and into your servants and into your people, in order that you may know that there is none like Me in the entire earth.’” (Shemot 9:13-14)

Rabbi Lazar raised the question — why were these words said after the sixth plague, and not after any other? In order to answer this question, let us note that the first six plagues did not have any long-term consequences, but the plagues that followed this phrase had long-term (locust, hail) or irreversible (death of the firstborn) consequences.

In order to understand why this happened specifically after the first six plagues, let us analyze Pharaoh’s behavior. From the text of the Torah, we know that the Pharaoh’s reaction to the plagues came in two forms: 

  1. Pharaoh was unrepentant.
  2. Pharaoh repented, but then changed his mind. 

An analysis of Pharaoh’s behavior is shown in the following table:

No. Plague Behavior of Pharaoh
1 Blood Did not repent
2 Frogs Repented but then reneged
3 Lice Did not repent
4 Wild animals Repented but then reneged
5 Murrain of the cattle Did not repent 
6 Boils Did not repent
7 Hail Repented but then reneged
8 Locust Repented but then reneged
9 Darkness Repented but then reneged
10  Death of the firstborn Repented, and allowed the Jews to go

 

The data given in this table show a pattern in Pharaoh’s behavior. During the first four plagues, Pharaoh’s behavior is repeated as follows: 

did not repent — repented — did not repent — repented

Further on, Pharaoh’s behavior changes. For two plagues in a row (fifth and sixth), he no longer repents.

It is after the sixth plague that the Almighty orders Moses to utter the aforementioned words on His behalf, and during the four subsequent plagues following these words, Pharaoh repents after each plague.

Pharaoh’s actions can be explained as follows. Having tried the same sequence of actions for four plagues (did not repent — repented — did not repent — repented), Pharaoh decides for himself that repentance didn’t change anything, because in both the case of repentance and in its absence, the plagues were temporary and stopped of their own accord. Pharaoh concludes that repentance makes no sense, since the plagues stopped without his repentance too. Starting with the fifth plague, Pharaoh changes his style of behavior and, for the next two plagues in a row, the fifth and sixth, he does not repent. 

At this point, we can say that Pharaoh thought that he understood and estimated the logic of Elohim.  The moment that he decided this, the Almighty commanded Moses to convey to Pharaoh the message of “this time.” God’s words can be interpreted as follows: “You thought that you figured out My logic? You said that you don’t know who Havayah [YHWH] is? Now, you will discover who Havayah [YHWH] is, and see that the logic of Elohim is no longer operable. Instead, you will now be confronted with the logic of YHWH, the logic of the impossible. And now you will repent to the end.” And this is what happened.

The Logic of the Impossible

At this point we should ask: What is the logic of the impossible?

Modern science gives us distant analogies. For example, the logic of quantum mechanics is fundamentally different from the logic of the world around us. In classical physics, if we measure the momentum and coordinates of a tennis ball in flight, the result does not depend on the order of measurement. In quantum physics, if we measure the momentum first and then the coordinates, or measure the coordinates first and then the momentum, the results will be different.

The same thing happens with Aristotle’s famous Law of the Excluded Middle, which reads as follows: at a point in time, something can be either A or non-A. In quantum physics, we cannot make a similar statement: either a particle or not a particle. Also, many principles of classical logic, such as commutativity, are not applicable to quantum mechanics. This example illustrates that there is logic that differs from classical logic, which corresponds to our common sense. As science develops, we will obviously discover other types of non-classical logic.

However, it is fundamentally important to understand that the logic of Havayah [YHWH]— the logic of the impossible — is not (God forbid) a pattern of non-classical logic. 

This last statement needs clarification. 

According to the teachings of the Alter Rebbe, the soul of man was created in the image of the higher spiritual worlds. The soul has garments in the form of an equivalent of the SefirotChochmah, Binah, and so on. The soul is an open system. On the one hand, it receives information from the world around us, while on the other hand, it is connected with the higher sefirot of the spiritual worlds. 

Our perception of the world, which we can articulate and formulate in the form of reasoning, thinking, unfolds at the level of Binah (understanding). Binah, in turn, receives information from Chochmah (wisdom) . 

It is important to note the following fundamental points: 

  1. The information of Chochmah is not articulated and is not recognized by us through the system of thinking (read more in Sefer Yetzirah with comments by Aryeh Kaplan).
  2. Binah reveals some of the information of Chochmah through the system of thinking. The quantity and quality of information disclosed depends on the level of our intellect. 
  3. However, even with the most brilliant development of the intellect, all of the information of Chochmah cannot be revealed. 
  4. The Torah is given by the Almighty from the highest level of Chochmah. Consequently, in the Torah, as in the sefirah of Chochmah, there is information that cannot be disclosed at the level of Binah
  5. This incomprehensible information contains the logic of the impossible, the logic of the highest epitome of Chochmah

This is the logic that lies forever beyond our comprehension, which can be brought to action by faith, trust in the Almighty and a desire for knowledge of the Almighty.

About the Author
Eduard Shyfrin received a Ph.D. in metallurgy from the Moscow Institute of Steel and Alloys, and went on to found several businesses. He is a member of Chabad and his Torah commentaries have appeared on Chabad.org. He is the author of From Infinity to Man: The Fundamental Ideas of Kabbalah Within the Framework of Information Theory and Quantum Physics.
Comments