Tutankhamun's mask (Image credit: Public domain CC0 Creative Commons)
Events have an interesting way of connecting to the Torah portion read the week they occur.
This week we read the portion "Bo," in which Pharaoh - after suffering numerous plagues, national calamities one after the other - is about to do the logical thing and agree to finally release his Jewish slaves to Moshe.
However, against all logic, the deal that would save Egypt from destruction is spoiled when at the last moment, Pharaoh insists that the Jews may not take their cattle along with them. Sounds pretty crazy no?
By the way, one can look at it from another angle and ask, why did Moshe insist upon the cattle too? Take your freedom and run! But no; this was not just another deal for Moshe. This was the birth of a nation, a nation of G-d that does not cut corners on G-d’s instructions as that would be a desecration of His name.
Returning to Pharaoh, we witness in him the first instance of the "hardened heart syndrome" vis-a-vis the Jewish people. Pharaoh invited ever more pain and punishment against all logic - we see for the first time how logic flies out the window when Jews are the target.
It was not the last time.
If the Germans only wanted to conquer the world, they certainly blew their chance by expelling the talented and loyal German Jews who could have loaned their skills to their beloved fatherland. Instead, these refugees helped the US build the atom bomb, and Germany was destroyed.
For Pharaoh and Hitler, it was never politics as usual when it came to the Jews. Their hearts were hardened and their minds unhinged.
The Arab world could prosper and not be the failed, miserable society it is today if their hatred and hardened hearts did not defy Israel’s outstretched hand. The little Jewish miracle country would gladly share her blessings, but her neighbors have hardened hearts. It has nothing to do with logic or conventional national interests; it is the "hardened heart syndrome.”
When the murderous leaders in Syria were offered the Golan Heights by not one but two of our “oh-so-smart leaders,” they refused the offer because it did not allow them access to the Kinneret.
Someone was at work again hardening hearts. Someone was protecting us from ourselves.
When chief terrorist Yasser Arafat was offered 97% of the land that he was demanding, including half of Jerusalem as his capital, he turned his back! He too had a severe case of the “hardened heart syndrome.”
What drives Iran to choose confrontation with the world's strongest superpower and suffer poverty and riots at home just to obtain the means to kill Jews? What have we ever done to them? Hardened heart syndrome.
A few days ago - and here we come to our Torah portion of the week - the world witnessed this same pathological syndrome as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas ranted on for two-and-a-half hours, in which his lips moved and out came the curses for US President Donald Trump. He repeated the big lie that the Jews have no connection to this land and other such verbal garbage.
In that speech, he accomplished what Israeli diplomacy could never do in the world arena. He also gave significant support to the "right" in Israel, as the left's mantra about "our moderate peace partner is our best option" sounded rather hollow all of a sudden.
Who or what makes leaders open their mouths and say things that make no sense - if their aim is to hurt Jews?
Perhaps we should ask Bilam, the great prophet of the ancient pagan world. He had the power of speech, and when he intended to use it to hurt the Jews, he blessed them. He was asked by a frustrated king Balak who hired him to curse, “Why did you bless them?”
Bilam, unlike the other members of the hardened lonely hearts club, knew the only true answer: “It is not me - it’s Him."
As in the past, as the hardened hearts howl and bluster, today Israel blossoms. Read the Torah portion this week and you will not need any talking heads to explain current events to you.
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