The Hardening of Pharaoh's Heart: Enabling or Withholding Free Will?
The Torah readings of the 10-plagues which befell the Egyptians discuss HaShem making Pharaoh's heart "hardened" and "heavy" (Shmos: 10; 1). HaShem says that Pharaoh's heart was hardened in order to place all of HaShem's signs in Pharoah's midst. (10; 1) The fact that Pharaoh's heart was hardened was not a removal of Pharaoh's free-will by HaShem. Pharaoh was opposed to freeing The B'nei Yisrael consistently. After experiencing the plagues, Pharaoh was feeling compelled to go against his own feeling and desires in order to be spared of such great suffering. HaShem was enabling Pharaoh to act in accordance with his desires, that being to keep The B'nei Yisrael enslaved, notwithstanding the plagues. Had Pharaoh, in his heart, decided that enslaving The B'nei Yisrael was wrong and had he performed teshuvah, he would have been able to free The B'nei Yisrael. However, this was not the case and was not supposed to be the case. Therefore, Pharaoh's free-will was enabled to withstand such punishment brought against Mitzrayim, enabling all of the plagues to come (for the reasons they occurred) and The B'nei Yisrael to be free from Egypt at the precise time of The Redemption - 430 years into the exile - to the day, at high-noon, this being the 15th of Nisan, a day of protection for The Jewish People throughout time. (Shmos: 12; 40 - 42) (see Rash"i on these verses)
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