Midreshet Amit


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Hardening Pharoh's Heart

By: Molly Heller and Tyler Schwartz

Is it possible for a person to harden their own heart? Can a person become a gambler in a day? Or does the process of friendly betting lead to gambling away their assets?

The dilemma- In the Torah, G-d hardened pharaoh's heart numerous times. Moshe says let my people go and then G-d hardened pharaoh’s heart. Pharaoh says no and then G-d punishes him. It does not seem fair that G-d forced pharaoh to say no and then punished him for saying no. How could god harden pharaoh’s heart?Even before the Makot start, Moshe is informed that Pharoh’s heart would be hardened.
There are different approaches to this major dilemma:

The Rambam dealing with the issue of G-d removing his free will answers that Pharoh already hardened his own heart G-d just helps him in this process, along the path of evil that he already was leading himself on.

Sforno - When it said, G-d hardened Pharaoh’s heart, it was like G-d was giving Pharaoh a protective shield so that he could withstand the plagues and therefore, if he did let bnei yisrael go, it would be because he thought it was the right thing to do so. Hashem was preserving his free will (it would be truly out of his own free will. It was like god gave a Pharaoh a bullet proof vest to withstand the plagues. Pharaoh said no after the first four plagues, and after plague #5, god started hardening pharaoh’s heart.

Nechama Leibowitz - She says, when it said, G-d hardened pharaoh's heart- that’s a metaphor for how difficult it was for pharaoh to change his course/direction. Meaning, why do people keep playing slot machines? They already lost a little money, what’s a little more? If I can win back a little more I might as well keep gambling/keep playing, because eventually I’ll win. It’s a psychological idea- I better stick with it because I waited, I lost all this time for nothing?

That’s Pharaoh, he’s a gambler- I already withstood lice, blood, etc., if I let them go now, then that would have all been for nothing. I’m going to hold out as long as I can and eventually it will be worth it.
Many times it is hard for us to make the right decisions, to move to make the right choices and not harden our hearts just because we want something not to have been a waste of our time. We don’t want to be Pharohs.