By: Rabbi Shlomo Ezagui
The Torah tells us the two most powerful and underlying emotions in a human being are pain and pleasure – fear and love. “Keep away from bad, do good, seek peace and pursue it.” Mysticism tells us, “Fear and love are two wings” that lift the bird. In any and every decision we make, these two values are at the root and foundation of our choices.
If any relationship is to fly, we must balance and find peace between these two emotions, fear and love. The things that bring pain to the relationship, we fear. It is this fear that will keep us from doing those things that harm the relationship. The love in the relationship motivates to do those things that intensify and bring enjoyment to the relationship.
The story in the Bible of the evil Pharaoh and his bad behavior which was sabotaging himself, his people and his slaves is a classic lesson in human behavior and is therefore part of our eternal Torah. Learning the lesson helps us identify these traits in people. Knowing the pattern hopefully helps us avoid these problems to begin with.
First, Pharaoh refused to listen to Moses and his brother Aaron to let the Israelites free. He was in denial that G-d was not happy with him and therefore he was not behaving right. Pharaoh was finally moved from that position to acknowledge there is a problem and these people should be let free.
Pharaoh kept on promising he would let his slaves free, with some conditions. His resolve to change was not yet total and complete and he retained some strings attached to his bad ways. Although the actual shift from bad to good can be in an instant, it must be however a complete turnaround retaining no attachments to the old ways. If the person still entertains thoughts of pleasure and affection to his bad habits and is not fully disgusted by the “old ways” they retain their hold on him.
Therefore even when Pharaoh promised and said, he would let the people go, at the last minute he always had a change of heart. He was full of remorse and regrets. His bad habits got the better of him and again and again he would relapse back to his old ways.
It was only after being afflicted by ten plagues the Egyptians finally got the message they needed to change. They did have the chance to avoid all that strife and damage to themselves but unfortunately many people, unless they actually hit rock bottom they find it difficult to take charge and change course.
According to Mysticism, rewards and punishments in the Torah are a direct result of the choices we make. G-d commands us what to keep away from and what to do, “to improve the world – with the blessings and shine of G-dliness.’ “For our own sake.” When we wash our hands coming out of the bathroom, or rest once a week on Sabbath, or start and end the day with a prayer, and all that we are commanded to do, the good that comes as a reward are direct outcomes and effects of the proper G-dly and goodly behavior.
G-d made man in His own image. In order for G-d to create the world G-d decided to create ten different tools with which to make a finite world out of His own G-dly infinity. Wisdom, understanding, love, kindness, severity, judgment, compassion, bonding and nurturing are some of the tools G-d used to make this world.
Because the Egyptians perverted the character of bonding and intimacy within the human existence this spiritual defect gave birth to one of the ten plagues.
Every plague of the ten, is an outgrowth of the corrupted behavior that encompassed the entire spectrum of their existence. Only after suffering the results of their bad choices they finally came to terms with the need to change and that is when “the children of Israel went out with an outstretched arm.”
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