Straight Talk Parshat Bo: The Big Minute
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Bo(Exodus 10:1-13:16)

The Big Minute

When God informs Moses of the tenth and final plague, he tells him that it will happen at "approximately" midnight. Rashi, the great commentator, asks why God was not more exact. Doesn't God have a watch? He answers that timekeeping was an inexact science in those days. Were God to have said "exactly" midnight, people might have confused their timings and thought that it was God, and not them, who had made a mistake. To avoid potential confusion, God says "approximately."

At first glance, this answer makes no sense. Let's put it in context for a moment. God has brought ten miraculous plagues upon Egypt - blood, locust with iron teeth, hail with fire inside, darkness that is palpable... These miracles are about to climax with the slaying of every firstborn Egyptian in a single moment. And God is worried that because someone might not have an atomic clock, he will think that God's not as cool as he says He is?!

The answer, quite simply, is yes. We, human beings, are always looking for ways to doubt God. We are constantly on the lookout for excuses. People often say to me that they don't believe in God. But if God were to split the ceiling and come through to talk to them, then they certainly would. There is no answer to such an argument, of course. God is not a performing dog. One can debate the hypothetical all day.

Of one thing I am confident, though - were such a miracle to happen, the person would still find a reason why it wasn't God. Maybe it was a dream, maybe he was hallucinating, maybe the rabbi pulled a good trick because he wants to convince me that God exists...

When a person does not wish for something to be true, for subjective reasons, all the evidence in the world will not convince him.

There is no lack of evidence for God's existence, for one who wishes to look. But for many, the thought of discovering God to be an objective reality has too many painful, even horrific ramifications: absolute morality, eternal consequences to decisions, and nowhere to run. Who would want all of that? People would so much rather that God not exist. And it is so easy to subconsciously ignore all the evidence, when one has already decided what one wishes to conclude.

For the person who does not wish to discover that which stares him in the face, then if the tenth plague begins a minute late, that will be excuse enough. It need not be rational. It need not be convincing. It need only be something to grasp onto. And a minute is plenty to grasp onto, when the consequences are great, and the conclusion has already been reached.

Published: January 24, 2009

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Visitor Comments: 1

(1) Anonymous, January 6, 2014 1:39 PM

Amazing!

This is so true and so well written. Thank you for posting it!

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