Pharaoh Was Warned, Given an Explanation. Nevertheless . . .

2017-03-20 – Today is the first day of spring. Three weeks from today my family and Jews around the world will be celebrating the spring festival Passover (פסח – Pesach). I always host a Passover Seder (feast). You can see my illustrated Passover Haggadah – the liturgy for the Seder by clicking here (if you want to come back later, you can find it by clicking the art oh9 link at the top of my blog).

In the weeks leading up to a Seder, I give some thought to things happening in the world and my life that connect to some aspect of the story of Passover. If Passover is new to you, here’s a quick synopsis:

Moses’ demand of the Egyptian Pharaoh was terse: “Let my people go!” But why would Pharaoh comply? Moses’ Israelites were his slaves, building great works for the nation. But Moses had divine miracles up his sleeve: 10 plagues that broke Pharaoh’s will and brought freedom to the Israelites.

My question for this year is: Why 10 plagues?

The answer, according to the account in the book of Exodus, is that after each plague, Pharaoh hardened his heart.

He was warned. He was given an explanation. Nevertheless, he persisted.

Sound familiar? Of course, this is a paraphrase of Sen. Mitch McConnell, speaking about Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Only the pronouns are different.

The thing that interests me about this is that, in my point of view Sen. Warren was persistent for a good cause. Pharaoh was persistent for a bad cause. How can this be?

The struggle for justice is just that: a struggle. There are two sides (at least) and neither side is giving up without a fight. Pharaoh persisted, but so did Moses—10 times, the Bible tells us—before Pharaoh relented and freed the Israelite slaves.

And even that was but a momentary slip on Pharaoh’s part. Before the freed slaves could get very far, Pharaoh reverted to his hard-hearted self and sent his army out to take it all back. (If you don’t know how it turned out, Moses split the Red Sea allowing the Israelites to escape and Pharaoh’s army was drowned.)

It’s a war of persistence.

Sen. McConnell labeled Sen. Warren’s tactic with uncharacteristic accuracy. She persisted. But Sen. McConnell persists in his own war. It can only be overcome by following Sen. Warren’s lead. #ThePersistence.


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14 responses to “Pharaoh Was Warned, Given an Explanation. Nevertheless . . .

  1. Moadim LeSimcha! I like the way you bring the biblical story close to us…even so far as connecting it to politics (American at that – doesn’t mean much to me😉).
    One thing I would like to add is that Pharaoh was in control only in the 1st few plagues. At a certain stage it was Hashem Himself who “stiffened his heart” and he really became no more than a puppet. It is slightly problematic with the notion of Free Choice, but it may be said that as his choice in the 1st plagues was absolutely free, taking free choice away from him was a well deserved punishment in itself (a solution based on Harav Hutner Ztz”l.)

    • Chagim u’zmanim l’sasson! Thanks. I know about Pharaoh’s stiffened heart and was thinking about using it, but it would have made the post more complex and long. When that happens, I usually save the second part for another time–if I remember. There’s so much to write about.
      I used the Moadim l’simcha, Chagim u’zmanim l’sasson in my illustration for the kaddesh my haggadah, which you can find at
      Although I don’t consider myself religious, I’m fairly knowledgeable and I often use biblical stories to illustrate points in my life or politics.

      • Wow! Your own Haggadah?? Really? I must look into it Bli Neder, just had a glimpse and it’s so artistic! Thanks for sharing! Are you an artist as well as thinker? 😉

      • I started it in the 80s with a translation. In the 90s I did a couple kids versions for my kids. Finally I pulled it all together a couple years ago. I wouldn’t say I’m an artist. 30 years to do 16 pictures is pretty slow for an artist. But I am artistic.

      • Great, Steve! I myself am a slow worker /artist, with year long projects…
        I’m also new to this arena, and have just launched my own Divrey-Torah blog. Can I ask you some questions, from your experience here?

      • Thanks a lot!
        I want to try to be heard here too, and I see in Torah it’s basically US and in English? So there’s no real point in posts in Hebrew? No matter for me, but still that’s a new territory…
        About getting heard – how do you do go abour it? Can you and people already here be of help somehow, if it’s not too much bother?

      • I wish I knew that. I just post my blogs on Facebook and Twitter. I still don’t get many visitors.
        As for the Hebrew, it’s very slow for me to read and I’d have to use a dictionary. So I just click to have it translated, even if it makes mistakes.

      • Ok! Thanks. Perhaps I’d better start translating and turn the blog English again… Looking forward to hearing more of your Jewish insights…

      • It depends on your target audience. I’m guessing I would not be typical. My peak fluency in Hebrew was 45 years ago. I’m not going to read Hebrew casually. It’s too hard for me.
        The thing that happened 45 years ago was that I left the yeshiva. I went into an ulpan to get a more secular take and it worked pretty well, but then I came home to the US and didn’t keep it up.
        Most of my friends who share my political and social beliefs are anti-religious. I am not anti. I think there is wisdom to be learned. But I don’t practice much, though I do really like the Seder. So I sorta keep that up.
        Your readers may be more into it than me, so Hebrew might be appropriate.

      • For some reason the link took me to a page where I could write a new post. I did go to your page and found an English one about the 7th day of Pesach. I thought it was interesting that both the Israelites and Egyptians were tested.

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