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There is a shocking verse in this week’s haftarah.

The haftarah selection is from the Sefer Yechezkel (28:25-29:31) and discusses the downfall of the Egyptian kingdom that existed toward the end of the era of first Beis HaMikdash. Bnei Yisrael had forged a friendship with Egypt and relied on the Pharaoh of the time to help them against their common enemy, Nevuchadnezar of Bavel.


Yechezkel tells the nation that this relationship is a mistake, as this latter-day Egypt shares the same arrogance of the Egypt in Sefer Shemos. Egypt denied G-d then and still does. In criticizing this arrogance, the Navi makes reference to the original Pharaoh who said, “The Nile is mine, and I have created myself” (Yechezkel 29:3).

How could any human being believe even for a moment that he has created himself? Each person knows that he didn’t will himself into existence. What could such a statement possibly mean? Pharaoh was a wicked person, but he was not a complete fool.

We suggest the following. As human beings, we have no recollection of how we came into the world. A person’s earliest memories usually begin at the age of three and a half, and even those who remember earlier events don’t seem to have any from before the age of two. Thus, we cannot remember our births and it almost feels as if we simply always existed. Sure, we hear of events that took place before we were born, but they are not part of our experience. As far as we can recall, we were always here.

Intellectually, we know this can’t be true but experientially, that’s really all we know. If we wanted to deny that we came into the world as a result of our parents, we could. If we wanted to deny G-d’s existence, we could, as many atheists do. We never actually saw G-d and we never saw ourselves being created. G-d hides Himself in the world and in a similar sense He has hidden our births from our memories.

A very arrogant person, like Pharaoh, doesn’t want to be beholden to anyone or feel dependent on anyone but himself. He never actually sees or senses anyone else’s involvement in how he came to be and thus imagines himself to be totally self-sufficient – in other words, he “created himself.”

We, however, live our lives as Yehudim, those who express hoda’ah, gratitude and recognition for all that Hashem has done for us and for what other people have done for us as well. We combat the potential arrogance one can have with no memories of birth, and make sure to clearly understand that we were created.

Sefer Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh (Volume 1, paragraphs 69-71) notes: “Pharaoh said, ‘The Nile is mine, and I made myself’ (Yechezkel 29:3). We see here an example of someone who entertained the ridiculous idea that he created himself. One might think that this was just some fool from long ago and that has nothing to do with us.  He disappeared along with his error, so why should we bother with this ancient mistake?

“The truth is not so. We have a tradition from our teachers that the whole Torah, with all its details, relates to every single person. Each person has within himself an aspect of Avraham, Yitzchak, Yaakov, Moshe, and the other great people of the Torah.  Similarly, each person has within him the opposite kinds of forces – Lavan, Pharaoh, Bilaam, and the other evil people mentioned in the Torah.

“‘Avraham’ is a force of purity that exists in each soul, and so it is with all the holy Avos and the other tzaddikim mentioned in the Torah.

“The evil personalities mentioned are also forces of spiritual pollution present in each soul, as the Rambam writes (in a letter to his son), ‘Pharaoh is truly the yetzer hara.’ The person named Pharaoh once existed but is no more, but the Pharaoh of the soul literally exists in each and every one of us. We must recognize him well and know how to wage war against his false views and the foolish thoughts he sends our way.” (Paraphrased)

As mentioned, this amazing concept applies to all the tzaddikim mentioned in the Torah as well, including Moshe Rabbeinu. It follows then that if a person uses his mouth to speak to the Creator, there is an element in it of “peh el peh adaber bo – mouth to mouth I speak to him,” Moshe’s highest level of prophecy. Certainly, we cannot be on the level of Moshe Rabbeinu, as it says, “No prophet like Moshe has risen [or will rise] in Yisrael” (Devarim 34:10), but everyone has a little “Moshe Rabbeinu” in him that can be accessed. This means that that if a person speaks to HaKadosh Baruch Hu and feels as if Hashem is right there listening to his words, then he reaches the level of Moshe Rabbeinu’s prophecy on a very small scale (paraphrased from Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh, Volume 2, perek 14).

This subject compels us to quote and explain a well-known Rambam.

“Every person is fit to be as righteous as Moshe Rabbeinu” (Rambam, Hilchos Teshuva 5:2).

How is it possible for us to be like Moshe? What can the Rambam possibly mean? Elsewhere, the Rambam writes: “We believe that [Moshe Rabbeinu] is the father of all the prophets before and after him, all of whom were beneath him in stature. He was chosen above all mankind, achieving a greater knowledge of the Almighty than anyone before or since. Moshe Rabbeinu reached a level that surpasses human attainment and approximates the angelic” (Rambam’s 7th Principle of Faith).

Rav Elchonon Wasserman explains that the Rambam is not saying that we are all fit to reach Moshe’s level of prophecy. What he does say is that we can all be as righteous as Moshe.

No, we won’t ever speak to Hashem face to face like Moshe did (Bamidbar 12:8), but if we live our lives properly and according to the ways of Hashem, and we passionately maximize our personal growth abilities and potentials, we can be as righteous as Moshe.


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Rabbi Boruch Leff is a rebbe in Baltimore and the author of six books. He wrote the “Haftorah Happenings” column in The Jewish Press for many years. He can be reached at