This week’s Torah portion, Bo, begins (Shemos 10:1) with Hashem telling Moshe to “come to Paroh, for I have hardened his heart.” Why did Hashem tell Moshe to come to Paroh? Rashi tells us that it was in order to “warn him (of the impending plague of locusts).” However, this requires an explanation. The verse itself tells us that G-d hardened Paroh’s heart. Paroh was totally wicked. He constantly refused to listen to Hashem despite all of the signs and plagues which G-d visited upon him. As a punishment for this, Hashem removed his free will. He lost the power to repent. This being the case, what was the point of Moshe warning him?
This can be understood based on the Alter Rebbe’s explanation to a teaching of the Sages. Our Sages say that there are certain sins regarding which Hashem does not provide one with the opportunity to do Teshuvah. The Alter Rebbe explains that this merely means that one is not given the opportunity. However, if he presses forcefully and overpowers his Evil Inclination, his Teshuvah is accepted.
Here Rashi is revealing to us, that despite the fact that Paroh was denied the ability to return, nevertheless he could have pressed the issue and done so. Otherwise there would have been no point in Moshe warning him. This should be a lesson to each of us. We must never become despondent. Even if we seem to be far from Hashem, each of us always has the opportunity to return, no matter what the circumstances are. When we do return, Hashem welcomes us back fully!
Wishing you a good Shabbos!
Rabbi Shmuel Mendelsohn
. See Igerres Hateshuvah Chapter 11.
. See Talmud Yoma Page 85, b.