Let My People Know

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz: “Pharaoh is merely an extreme example of an ordinary person.”

The basic feeling of “I am always right,” which kept Pharaoh from any kind of soul-searching, is not a phenomenon that was limited to him alone.

In this regard, Pharaoh is merely an extreme example of an ordinary person.

Granted, an ordinary person does not grow up under the same circumstances as Pharaoh, does not commit the same sins, and does not think the way Pharaoh thinks; but despite all these distinctions, Pharaoh is still fundamentally an ordinary person.

The real obstacle to remorse and the possibility of repentance is always the same, both in its extreme expression in the case of Pharaoh and in its more banal expression in the case of an ordinary person.

Ezekiel cites in the name of Pharaoh – not the Pharaoh of Exodus but a different Pharaoh – the saying, “Mine is my Nile; I have made myself great” (Ezek. 29:3), which essentially means, “I am the world’s epitome of perfection.”

This is how Pharaoh formulates the idea, but it exists – albeit in subtler form – in the mind of every person.

Only when one frees himself from this way of thinking does the gateway to remorse open for him.

–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz