I will not let them go!

What does it mean that Pharoh’s heart was hardened?

In this week’s Torah portion (Bo) the Egyptians experience the continued onslaught of plagues leading to pain, suffering, and death. Before each plague, Pharoh is warned and given the opportunity to avoid them. However, he refuses due to “hardness of heart”. The commentators give various explanations as to the meaning of “hardness of heart”. These explanations include: 1) Poor decisions resulting in deserved punishment (Chizkuni), 2) A committment by Pharoh to continue what he believed was correct (Saadia Gaon) and 3) Denial of the severity of the plagues (Sforno).

We have all experienced this hardness of heart

We too, often exhibit self defeating behaviors at work and in our personal lives. In psychology this is known as repitition compulsion. We put ourselves in the same negative situations expecting more positive results. Motivations for this include: 1) subconcious desire to cause suffering to self to rectify past misdeeds, 2) An inabilty to recognize the detrimental nature due to strong feelings or commitment to a cause and 3) Denial of the consequences and desire to rectify the situation to your favor.


The solution

Family and friends are much better at recognizing our self defeating behaviors than we are. It is important to take their advice and realize they often know better than us what is in our best interest. Sometimes, prior experiences cause strong unconcious impulses and harmful defense mechanisms. In these cases, it is important to work with a therapist to uncover these motivations and develop healthier defense mechanisms.

Ariel Mintz, MD
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