Va’era—”Install the right behavior when the remorse is strong”

“But when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunder had ceased, he sinned once more and hardened his heart, he and his officials.”  (Ex. 9:34)

Apparently, an aspect of “hardness of heart” is being unable to move beyond an imminent threat.   Pharaoh’s repentance lasts only as long as the plague is in his face.

One does not have to be as cruel as Pharaoh to be vulnerable to this kind of hardness.   I remember Reb Zalman once addressing this problem, his quaint fondness for computer analogies mixed into his old-world-style discourse.  He spoke of “installing the right behavior while remorse is strong,” imagining in that moment of intense regret how you might have handled the situation differently, mentally and with your body, so that the path from intent to behavior is “downloaded into the imagination.”

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