by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek
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Parashas Bo(69)Israelites are freed. We also learn the laws of Passover, these are the first laws given to the People of Israel.
And Moses and Aaron came to Pharaoh and said to him: "So has Hashem, the G-d of the Hebrews, said: 'Until when will you refuse to be humbled before Me? Send My people out that they may serve Me."
To be humbled: Rashi: [Understand it] as the Targum does: 'l'itk'na'a'; from the word poor (Hebrew) 'ani') humbled; you have refused to be 'poor' and lowly before Me.'
WHAT IS RASHI SAYING?
Rashi, based on the Targum's translation, tells us the meaning of the word: "lai'anos". I might have thought it meant: "to be afflicted" as we find later on in the Book of Exodus (22:21): "You shall not persecute ( Hebrew: 'lo ta'anun" ) any widow or orphan." And as we say in the Hallel prayer: "I have believed even though I say 'I am afflicted (Hebrew 'Einisani') very much." (Psalms 116:10). Both of these verses have the Hebrew root "einu" meaning 'afflicted.' Rashi tells that here in our verse,this meaning is incorrect; the correct meaning is 'to be humbled'.
What is the difference if the word "lai'anos" means 'affliction' or if it means 'to humble' regarding the significance of the plagues?
A DEEPER UNDERSTANDING
An Answer: If we translate the word to mean 'afflicted' it conveys that the purpose of the plagues was to punish, to hurt, to afflict Pharaoh. If, on the other hand, we translate the word to mean 'to be humble' it means that G-d was not necessarily interested in hurting Pharaoh; He only wanted to humble him and have him repent.
Can you find evidence that G-d's main purpose in the plagues, was to humble, but not necessarily to afflict, Pharaoh? Hint: Look at the previous plague, the plague of Hail, particularly verses 9:19,20.
A DEEPER UNDERSTANDING
An Answer: In verse 9:19 & 20 it says that Pharaoh and the Egyptians were warned and advised to bring their cattle and people into the house so the hail wouldn't strike them.
Clearly they were given a way out (even without freeing the Israelites), a way to avoid the affliction of the plague of hail. Those who heeded the warning and went inside were saved. Only those who were not humbled - who remained stubbornly defiant - and stayed outside, only they were punished.
We see that G-d was not interested in afflicting them, only in humbling them.
This is the reason that Moses mentions this point now, in the series of plagues and the warnings, and not previously, because with the hail we saw clearly G-d's purpose in the plagues - to humble and bring them to repent but not just to punish them.
This is G-d's way. He does not desire the death of the sinner, only that he should repent and improve his ways. (See Ezekiel 33:11)
What's Bothering Rashi?" is a production of "The Institute for the Study of Rashi."
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
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