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There are times when we all need a wake-up call. We might be reluctant to face the reality of a situation, or we’ve put-off doing something for longer than we should have. Then something happens that opens our eyes to the need to act, hopefully before it’s too late.

Pharaoh is the one in need of a wake-up call this week in Parashat Vaeira. Pharaoh ignores Moses and Aaron’s initial request to allow the Israelites to leave Egypt, and God imposes “extraordinary chastisements” (Ex.7:4) in order to open Pharaoh’s eyes to the situation. The “chastisements,” are, of course, the Ten Plagues, seven of which take place in this week’s Torah portion with devastating consequences.

Although Pharaoh doesn’t always have free-will in this matter, because God hardens Pharaoh’s heart in order to display God’s own power (Ex. 7:3), we do have free-will in our lives. Even when hardships limit our choices, we still have the ability to determine how we will act in response. May our own stubbornness not harden our hearts to doing the right thing for ourselves and for those we love.

Rabbi Bellush