Was Pharaoh really roaming around in pajamas in the middle of the night?
We may not have a way to verify that bold claim, but the sentiment is certainly true. When Makas B’choros struck at midnight, Pharaoh “got up” and called for Moshe and Aharon (Sh’mos 12:30-31). Rashi adds just one word, “mi’mitaso,” to explain that Pharaoh got up “from his bed.”
At first glance, this may not sound like a necessary clarification; where else would someone get up from in the middle of the night? However, Rav Chatzkel Abramsky zt”l (d. 1976) found great significance in this very brief comment in Rashi.
Moshe’s warning prior to this final plague could not have been clearer: “This is your last chance; if you don’t listen now, Egyptians will start dying!” Given Moshe’s impeccable track record, how would we have expected Pharaoh to respond to this frightening news? It is not surprising that he still refused to let the Jewish people go – his stubbornness was legendary. But, he was probably, at least, a little scared, right?
Despite knowing of the imminent danger to himself and his nation, Pharaoh put on his pajamas and went to bed! Instead of pacing nervously all night or running around giving his citizens and doctors a heads-up, Pharaoh tucked himself under his comfy covers and tried to get some rest and relaxation. When the clock struck midnight and the plague of death began sweeping through his nation, Pharaoh had to get up from his bed to deal with the crisis that he pretended was not coming.
This one-word comment in Rashi gives us great insight into not only Pharaoh’s extreme stubbornness, but his blatant, uncaring attitude toward his own people.
We discussed a similar idea back in Parshas VaYeira. The Brisker Rav highlighted that Avraham’s early “getting up” on the morning of Akeidas Yitzchak (B’reishis 22:3) indicates that he was able to sleep soundly the night before. A typical person would have tossed and turned all night with anxiety when tasked with making the ultimate sacrifice, but Avraham slept peacefully under the covers of his steadfast faith in Hashem.
The extraordinary emunah of Avraham Avinu and the outrageous indifference of Pharaoh represent two diametrically opposite ways to get a good night’s sleep. To the outsider, the calm and carefree demeanor portrayed by faith and callousness can look similar. Internally, however, there is a world of difference. Years of building connectivity to the Divine creates a warm-blooded trust that allows one to remain at ease during life’s most difficult challenges, as one truly feels that everything has meaning. By contrast, consistent disengagement from one’s internal sense of morality leads to a cold-hearted detachment that copes with life’s most difficult challenges by assuming that nothing has any meaning at all.
Each night, as we put on our pajamas, recite Sh’ma, and entrust our neshamos to Hashem, we have the opportunity to work on building this bitachon. As it grows, we will be increasingly able to let go of our troubles – not out of apathy, but with faith in the One who cares the most.