- Seder Enhancement Material
Rabbi R. Mann
Questions & Answers
Was Moshe a good negotiator? At first glance it would seem he
wasn't a good negotiator. The second plague, frogs seemed to
bring Pharoh to his knees. (see Shemos 8:4). Pharoh asks Moshe
to pray to G-d to remove the frogs and promises to allow the
Jews to leave. Moshe proceeds to pray and G-d, in response, removed
the frogs. When Pharoh saw that the frogs were gone he hardened
his heart and refused to release the Jews. Why didn't Moshe insist
on conditions before removing the pressure? Did Moshe learn from
this mistake? The same pattern is repeated. (see Shemos 8:28).
Pharoh promised to free the Jews under the pressure of Arove
(wild beasts). Moshe warns Pharoh to be serious, prays to G-d,
the plague is removed and Pharoh again hardens his heart. Moshe
still does not learn. He repeats the same "mistake"
by Barad (see Shemos 9:35) and by Arbeh (Locust)
(see Shemos 10:20).
Question 1: Why didn't Moshe use the leverage he had to pressure
Pharoh into concessions--instead of accepting his worthless promises?
Did Moshe actually trust Pharoh?
Answer: We see from this that the purpose of the Makkos
(plague) was not to beat Pharoh into submission. G-d had the
power to save the Jews without any Makkos. Or he could
have gone straight to the slaying of the first born. (See Shemos
7:3-7). The purpose of the Makkos was not to destroy but
to teach that there is a Supreme Being outside the scheme of
the Universe who created the world and has absolute control over
it. The purpose of the Makkos (plague) was to break down
the false idolatrous ideas of Egypt and to teach them about Hashem-the
Creator of Heaven and Earth who brought the world into being
from nothingness and retained absolute control over everything
that happened. G-d wanted Pharoh to use his free will to arrive
at this conclusion. Had Moshe refused to removed the plague until
Pharoh complied--then the Jews would have been released but it
would be as a result of a freely arrived at choice. Thus the
plague created the pain which forced Pharoh to deal with the
reality. In the moment of pain he recognized G-d and asked Moshe
to remove the plague. Moshe complied. He removed the plague.
Now Pharoh could reflect on what had happened and arrive at the
proper conclusion-- not out of a sense of duress. The only value
of a miracle is to draw our attention to the facts which can
lead us to the truth. However we must excuse our own power of
choice. No one can coerce us. If G-d wanted to he could force
the entire world to believe in Him. But the goal is that we should
accept Him and serve out of our own free will. This is a fundamental
foundation of Judaism.
Question 2: If it is the will of G-d for the Pharoh to accept
Him on the basis of free-will, why does it say repeated that
G-d "hardened" his heart. The plain meaning seems to
be that G-d made him stubborn thereby preventing him from the
Answer: The great Bible commentator S'forno explains that it
doesn't mean that G-d took away Pharoh's power of choice. To
the contrary it means that G-d strengthened Pharoh on an emotional
level so that he would not be overly frightened and crushed by
the awesome blows that were brought down upon him. The average
person would have been too emotionally overwhelmed to resist.
If that were to happen then Pharoh would give in from the force
of the blows and this would defeat the purpose of allowing him
to recognize Hashem as a result of free-will. Thus G-d strengthened
him emotionally and gave him the fortitude necessary to avoid
emotional panic and exercise the power of Bechira (choice).
Question 3: After Moshe's initial meeting with Pharoh failed,
G-d told him to return and perform a miracle i.e. to throw his
staff on the ground and it would turn into a snake. This would
seem to be impressive but Pharoh called his magicians and each
one did the same (with their secret devices) Moshe's snake then
devoured their snakes. However the ability of the magicians to
duplicate Moshe was enough to enable Pharoh to remain stubborn.
Why did G-d give Moshe a sign which was subject to imitation
thus undermining in its authenticity?
Answer: G-d does not want to overwhelm people into believing
in Him. He wants us to use our minds, think carefully, make the
appropriate distinctions and reach a logical conclusion. That
is why He gave Moshe a sign which the magicians could imitate.
However if anyone was interested in the truth they could clearly
discern between the magic of the sorcerers and the genuine miracle
of Moshe. The magicians used slight-of-hand and would always
keep the audience at a certain distance. Moreover the staff of
Moshe consumed the snakes of the magicians. There was enough
therefore for the thinking person to discern and to distinguish
the true from the false. It is only through the proper use of
our G-d given intelligence that we can know Him and serve Him.
Question 4: The Matzah is the symbol of the Exodus. The reason
is because the redemption came about suddenly, and without prior
notice so that the Jews did not have enough time to allow the
dough to rise. However why didn't the Jews know that the redemption
was imminent? Moshe told them in advance to prepare a sheep for
the Korban Pesach and to sprinkle the blood and that G-d would
pass over their houses and slay the first born of Egypt. They
knew that the big night was coming and freedom was at hand--why
didn't they have enough time to prepare normal, leavened bread?
Answer: The purpose of the Seder is to engage in spontaneous
discussion. Not everything should be scripted. Therefore while
I have an answer to this question I have decided not to express
it and to allow you to use your own creativity in resolving this