The Midrash “BeShalach”: Why didn’t the Jews continue their journey? Why did they camp in Pithom even though this decision involved additional risk for them? The answer lies in the fact that they were stuck because there was a sea in front of them; nor could they run to the desert, since wild beasts were waiting for them there.
But the people of Egypt did not agree with the Pharaoh’s plan: Recent losses were still too fresh in their memory. Therefore, Pharaoh used every means of persuasion and various tricks to force the Egyptians to agree. “Know! he told them. Even though according to the royal tradition in order to protect myself I should be riding in the rear of my army, in this battle I’ll be at the head!”
“Why are you going to behave so unusually?” they asked the Pharaoh. “Because this war is not against the Jews, said the Pharaoh. It is against their very G-d! So I’ll be at the head of the battle!”
The Pharaoh is not against the Creator since both of them help identify each other. This explains why the Pharaoh says: “Blessed is the Creator! I am a sinner…” There are many interesting developmental stages that oppose this state, but the major thing for Pharaoh is preventing a human being from engaging in altruistic actions and detaching from selfish fulfillment.
Regular egoistic inducements that are originally built in us do not count since they are given to us by nature. They are not considered “Egypt.” Only the actions that one does for one’s own sake and that are mentioned in the Torah, in the Pentateuch, are considered to be of importance.
This explains why, when exiting Egypt (rising from one’s egoistic intention), actions are annulled and Egyptians die as a result of the ten Egyptian plagues. The desires and people who follow the instructions of the Torah for their own sake remain under the power of the Pharaoh because they aspire to this kind of power. They are seriously engaged in the Torah and all earthly commandments for the sake of their own fulfillment and hold on to them very strongly. They are the ones who stay in Egypt and chase those who really want to run away from it.
The Pharaoh says: “I’ll be at the head of my army,” i.e., this is the moment when their oppositeness manifests itself: either for one’s own sake (Lo Lishma) or for the sake of the Creator (Lishma). “For one’s own sake” means for Pharaoh, “for the sake of the Creator” signifies those who exit from Egypt. At this point, a struggle between them begins.
Usually, Pharaoh follows his army. It means that all egoistic actions “feed and nourish him.” When his confrontation with the Creator starts, he heads the army since the most important thing at this time is ideology: whether you do it for your own sake or you do it being completely detached from yourself, i.e., for the sake of the Creator. That’s why the Pharaoh considers it a sacred war that is directed “against their very G-d!”
Right after that, Egypt starts withering since Pharaoh nourishes himself from the source other than Egyptians, from those who aspire to being with the Creator but so far are not there yet. This is why anti-Semitism emerges; however, this kind of “fuel” is absolutely essential.
Pharaoh gets stronger with the help of the desires that “are afraid of the Creator but work for the Pharaoh,” i.e., that follow everything that is commanded, however, they are doing so for their own sake. When they tend to change the intention and start working for the sake of the Creator, Pharaoh immediately feels that this might be his end and starts a war with their G-d.
At this point, our egoism faces a huge problem: What if the Creator wins? The mere fact that there are people who exited Egypt and then returned irritates Pharaoh since our egoism is afraid that the intention for the sake of bestowal might win. Egoism doesn’t have any other way but to reveal itself and try to survive, otherwise Pharaoh stops being the Pharaoh. It won’t be an intention for “one’s own sake” any longer.
Comment: They return and frustrate the Pharaoh.
Answer: They don’t return to Egypt, though! It’s a different level even though they have already reached the cities of Pithom and Ramses that were built for Pharaoh. At some point, they worked “for his sake”; however, now they return to the same level, but with an intention “for the sake of the Creator.” This is why the Pharaoh (our egoism) is not able to accept the fact that people return liberated and attack the Pharaoh’s “jurisdiction,” i.e., their own egoism.
From KabTV’s “Secrets of the Eternal Book” 4/23/14