Israel Forever

For the week ending 22 January 2005 / 12 Shevat 5765

The Greatest Wonder

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

What do you think was the greatest wonder of the Exodus from Egypt?

One could point to the splitting of the sea in this weeks Torah portion or to any of the ten plagues described in the preceding chapters. But the great commentator Ramban (Nachmanides) surprises us by insisting that the greatest wonder of all was the fact that Pharaoh, against all reason, pursued our ancestors into the sea where all his forces drowned.

Here was the leader of a superpower who had suffered the pain and humiliation of ten plagues before pleading with his Hebrew slaves to leave his country. Here was the witness to the most spectacular display of Divine intervention in the form of a highway in the sea for his intended victims. How was it possible then for him to insanely issue the suicidal order to charge into those deadly waters?

The answer has been provided by the wisest of men, King Solomon, who wrote (Mishlei 21:1) that "the heart of the king is in the hand of G-d, and He can direct it however He wishes."

While individual man has free will to choose good or evil, the same freedom is not allotted to the ruler whose decisions affect his entire nation and sometimes others as well. When the time came for Pharaoh to serve as an historic lesson of what happens to a despotic ruler who stubbornly ignores the warnings of G-ds Prophet, his reason is removed from him and he rushes towards his own destruction.

This offers us a perspective on all of the puzzling decisions made by rulers throughout history. It also offers us hope for a Divinely orchestrated change of heart in our current enemies which will guarantee the security of Israel forever.

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