Vaeiro: Pharaoh, the First Addict

by Twerski, Rabbi Dr. Avraham (See all authors)

Although we all read the Torah, no one understands the saga of the Exodus as someone familiar with addiction.

Pharaoh is warned of serious punishment if he does not allow the Israelites to leave, but he rejects the warning. Then the punishments begin: the Nile turns to blood, and there is a plague of frogs and lice. Pharaoh promises to release the Israelites, but as soon as the plague is stopped, he refuses again. This continues for nine punishments, and each time there is a promise on which he reneges. Only when all first-born die, does Pharaoh surrender.

So familiar. "I promise to stop," followed by continuation of the addictive behavior. His advisers tell him, "The country is being destroyed," but Pharaoh turns a deaf ear. Only a disastrous rock-bottom brings him to his senses.

I watch people in the synagogue who listen to the Torah and who wonder, "Could anyone be so obstinate, to fail to recognize that his behavior results in destruction?"

We know.