Parshat Bo by Denes Ban
The plagues are approaching their climax. The Egyptians have already been devastated by nine catastrophic plagues. But the worst is yet to come: in the 10th plague the Egyptians are being struck “middah kneged middah” (measure for measure), and as they killed all the firstborn Jews so God punishes them accordingly. But a small detail in the following verse reveals something interesting about human behavior:
(Shemot 11:4) “Moses said, "So said Hashem, at about midnight, I will go out into the midst of Egypt,”
So Rashi has a great question: why does it say cehatzot = „at about midnight” and why doesn’t it say Bhatzot = “at midnight”. Why was Moses vague about the time and did not give a specific accurate time of occurrence, when it happened exactly at midnight? Our Sages answer us that Moses was afraid that the Egyptians might not accurately measure the time,and the moment of the plague might occur a little before or after midnight and then that would give them an opportunity to doubt Moses and his predictions. Therefore he purposely provided an inaccurate time for the 10th plague, so that they could not claim that Moses was a liar and Hashem doesn’t exist.
Imagine Moshe has already accurately forecasted nine supernatural miracles and each of them happened exactly as he predicted. Now imagine we are in the middle of the 10th plague, and all of Egypt is witnessing that all firstborns were dying all around them, exactly as Moshe predicted, do you think that it makes sense that anyone questions Moses' credibilty: could it makes a difference to anyone if it happened exactly at midnight or a few minutes earlier or after?
So the Sages reveal to us an important insight of human nature: a cynic or a faultfinder will try to find something wrong in every situation. Human nature is such that a person's will and need to find fault is much stronger than any logic or rational. This means that even if you bring up the most clear and logical reasoning, if that person has an emotional connection to the issue they will automatically dismiss your arguments and it is almost impossible to change their mind. Have you ever been in a situation like this when you try to prove Israel’s right to defend itself, or the hypocrisy of the UN? This is also called cognitive dissonance, which is one of the most commonly used tools of the cynics.
Cynicism is a very dangerous flaw. As in the eyes of the cynic one minor imperfection, one slight mistake can undermine the validity of the overall message and reject the credentials of a person.
Added on: January 17, 2013