In the earlier plagues, Paroah’s heart was hardened. From the sixth plague onward, the Torah states that Hashem hardened Paroah’s heart. The obvious question then, is how can Paroah be punished for his deeds if his free will was removed by Hashem.
There are a number of explanations. Rambam focuses on the removal of free will as a punitive act of G-d. Rabbi Yosef Edelstein offers the following answer from the Chafetz Chaim:
The Chofetz Chayim explains that Hashem did not, in fact, take away Pharaoh’s free will. When the Torah says that He hardened Pharaoh’s heart, it means, simply, that G-d took away the divine assistance that is usually offered to a person who sincerely wants to repent. In the fifth blessing of the Shemoneh Esrei, which deals with teshuva (repentance), we ask Hashem to “…influence us to return in perfect repentance before You.” (Artscroll Siddur, p. 103; emphasis mine.) In choosing this wording, our Rabbis wanted to teach us that we need help from G-d Himself if we want to achieve complete repentance. By hardening Pharaoh’s heart, Hashem is, in effect, saying to Pharaoh, “If you want to repent, you’ll have to do it on your own. I withdraw My helping hand from you.” Pharaoh’s free will is not taken away, then; he can still choose to change his ways, and act righteously. But the path will not be so smooth.
This week’s recipe is a nod to Hashem’s act of hardening Paroah’s heart.
A heart-shaped potatonik with a ‘no’ strip on top. Potatoniks are a bit starchier than regular potato kugel. This recipe reminded me of the potatoniks we used to buy at Moishe’s bakery for Shabbat when we lived in the East Village of Manhattan. If you live near a dollar store somewhere in Galus, Valentine’s Day has a strange proximity to Parshas Bo. That gives you a good shot at picking up a heart shaped pan for almost nothing at the Dollar Store. Once again – way to go, Dollar Store!
Paroah’s Hardened Heart Kugel
Put 1/4 – 1/3 cup vegetable oil in the pan. Place on the bottom rack of the oven set to 420 F.
- 5 potatoes, peeled and chopped
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1/4 – 1/3 cup flour
- 3/4 teaspoon baking power
- Chop potatoes into small chunks in food processor with steel knife. Empty potatoes into a bowl of water so they don’t get brown.
- Place eggs and onion in food processor and grind until smooth and creamy. Stop the food processor and add salt, pepper, flour with baking powder sprinkled on top.
- Process for another five seconds.
- Add the potatoes and process just until all the ingredients are mixed. Pour contents into hot pan and spoon some of the extra oil on the sides, to the top of the potatonik. Bake in over for 40 minutes or until it’s brown on top.
- Top with a diagonal strip of salami or corned beef that you can cut with a meat knife.
- 1 1/2 cups brown sugar, packed
- 1 cup white sugar
- 2 cups water
- 1/2 cup instant coffee (or 1/2 cup cocoa powder for chocolate liqueur)
- 3 cups vodka
- 3 tablespoons vanilla extract
- Boil water.
- Add coffee (or cocoa) slowly, to avoid lumps.
- Add sugar and boil for an additional five minutes.
- Remove from stove. When cooled, add vodka and vanilla.
- Mix thoroughly. Bottle and close cap tightly.
- Store in a cool dark place for a minimum of two weeks.
Have a great Shabbos and B’tayavon!