Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh. For I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his courtiers, in order that I may display [show] these, My Signs, among them
Rabbi Yehudah Leib
so do we have to bear witness that all choice, all human actions and undertakings, come about in accord with God’s will.
This is an amazing thing: truth depends upon human effort in this world of lies.
The wicked turn things upside down and are called “dead” within their lifetimes. The divine power vanishes from them; for them truth turns to lies. The righteous clarify that truth.
Rabbi Leib seems to be saying that the process of the Ten Plagues was to make clear that the Pharaoh was not in control. He was not control of his own actions and emotions, and he was not in control of the natural world.
Take a bunch of hyssop …
Rabbi Yehudah Leib
Even though they went out from Egypt with great victory, God wanted Israel to be in their own eyes like that bundle of hyssop, to know that they were just at the doorway, hoping to truly come inside.
Consecrate to Me every firstborn: man and beast, the first issue of every womb among the Israelites is Mine.
Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz
The essence of the firstborn, then teaches us what a person should do in his life, how he should devote his primary energy and creativity. … The things to which we have the emotional attachment, which can never be replicated, are the very things that should be given to God. In every matter, one must scrutinize himself as to whether he truly gave “the choicest first fruits of his land” to God.
Approaching every undertaking as if it were an entirely new beginning, even if the reality is otherwise, is an extraordinary difficult spiritual endeavor. Even with the guidance of our extensive teshuva literature, it is still incredibly challenging to become a new being, the likes of which never existed before.
What is the significance of the first-born? Rabbi Steinsaltz believes that the significance lies with the nature of human memory. The first experience frames and structures our memory. How we handled every new beginning is critical.