וַיֹּ֤אמֶר יְהוָה֙ אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֔ה בֹּ֖א אֶל־פַּרְעֹ֑ה כִּֽי־אֲנִ֞י הִכְבַּ֤דְתִּי אֶת־לִבּוֹ֙ וְאֶת־לֵ֣ב עֲבָדָ֔יו לְמַ֗עַן שִׁתִ֛י אֹתֹתַ֥י אֵ֖לֶּה בְּקִרְבּֽוֹ
Then the Eternal said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh. For I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his courtiers, in order that I may display these My signs among them…
Sometimes we find ourselves stuck in a dispute with a difficult person. You feel unheard and powerless to change the situation. Nothing seems to temper the intransigence of the other person. The frustration can feel overwhelming. In this week’s Torah portion, Bo, Moses must have felt exactly that frustration. Again and again he approaches Pharaoh to release the Israelite slaves and repeatedly Pharaoh refuses. Parashat Bo describes the last three of the ten plagues but Pharaoh, the target of the plagues, is unmoved. The very model of that kind of difficult person, Pharaoh’s heart remains hardened and he continues to believe that he is in control. Little does he appreciate that it is God who is manipulating the entire situation. Finally, only after the death of Egypt’s first born – does Pharaoh relent. Moses must have issued such a sigh of relief.
Similarly, in our own lives, resolution to a difficult situation, especially involving a difficult person, can be slow and painstaking. Our own emotional resources may be insufficient to persevere. At that point, we need to turn to someone – a family member, a friend, or a professional - to support us and advocate on our behalf. It is a sign of strength to know when to ask for help.
And, like Moses, in the midst of difficulties, we can also draw on God’s support. We know that Moses felt insecure going into his encounter with Pharaoh, but we see him becoming progressively bolder with each plague. With the strength of God at his back, Moses was able to temper his frustration and accomplish what, at first, seemed impossible. We such divine support, we too can overcome such adversity.
Rabbi Jordan Cohen