THE LAND OF EGYPT is in turmoil. Plague after plague has ravaged the land, punishing the people with suffering and humiliation, and demonstrating that there is none but the G-d of the Hebrews. Pharaoh and the people were warned, and Hashem fulfilled His warnings: the vital waters of the Nile turned to blood, frogs were rampant, lice infested everyone, and on and on.
THE LAST, AND WORST, of these plagues is the killing of the Egyptians firstborn, which had been foretold at the outset of Moshes mission: My son, My firstborn is Israel; and I say to you: Let my son go, so that he may serve Me; and if you refuse to let him go, behold I will kill your son, your first-born (Shemot 4:22-23).
AGAIN, DURING HIS FINAL AUDIENCE with Pharaoh, Moshe forewarns: All the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sits upon his throne until the firstborn of the maidservant who is behind the mill, and all the firstborn of animals. And there shall be a great cry throughout the land of Egypt, such as there was none like it, nor shall be like it anymore. But against any of the Children of Israel shall not a dog sharpen his tongue, against man or beast, so that you may know that Hashem discriminates between Egypt and Israel (11:5-7).
TRUE TO HIS ADMONITIONS at midnight of the fifteenth of Nisan, while the Children of Israel are feasting on the Pesach sacrifice Hashem slays the firstborn of Egypt. And Pharaoh rose up at midnight, he, and all his servants, and all Egypt, and there was a great cry in Egypt; for there was not a house where there was no dead person (12:30). On the words VAYAKOM PARO And Pharaoh roseup Rashi adds a one-word comment: MIMITATO from his bed.
BUT THIS ADDITION SEEMS UNNECESSARY: Where else do we expect Pharaoh to be at midnight? Of course he rose up from his bed! Why did Rashi feel the need to add this word, as if we might have thought otherwise?
VERY FEW OF RASHIS COMMENTARIES deal with this question. Those who do (Beer Yitzchak, R. Yitzchak Horowitz of Yaroslav; Lifshuto Shel Rashi, R. Shmuel Gelbard) point to the different implications of the verb for KUM, rise. In many cases, it means to bestir, to initiate an action. As such, it is usually followed by another verb, for example:
IN THESE INSTANCES, THE VERB KUM is not followed by another verb. CONCERNING THE PHRASE and pharaoh rose up, Rashi was confronted with the word KUM that cannot mean initiated or bestirred, because Pharaoh did not begin some other action. Instead, Rashis commentaries point out, KUM is used here in its second meaning: Pharaoh rose up that is, he stood up from his bed. Consequently, Rashis one-word comment prevents misunderstanding.
HOWEVER WITH RESPECT THIS EXPLANATION seems to miss the mark. It is obvious from the rest of the verse that Pharaoh is not initiating anything. Rashis one-word addition does not really remove any ambiguity.
THERE IS, HOWEVER, ANOTHER MEANING OF KUM, as indicated in the following verses:
IN THESE INSTANCES, KUM MEANS more than to stand up; it means to awaken. IN OUR VERSE AND PHARAOH ROSE UP it is unclear: Did Pharaoh awaken, or did he simply stand up? Therefore, Rashi tells us that Pharaoh rose from his bed because Pharaoh was not sleeping; he was lying awake, anticipating the fulfillment of Hashems frightening warnings. Pharaoh was not awakened by screams; the screams followed his arising from bed in the middle of the night to discover what had occurred: and there was a great cry in Egypt; for there was not a house where there was no dead person.
R. MENACHEM MENDEL MORGENSTERN, the Kotzker Rebbi, criticizes Pharaohs actions: knowing that the slaying of the firstborn has been promised by Hashem, how could the king of Egypt just go to bed? He should have spent the night repenting and praying. Instead, his heart was so hardened, that he did nothing but go to bed.
PHARAOH'S INERTIA SHOULD BE FAMILIAR to us all. often, we dread a social, moral or spiritual crisis in our society, and we wring our hands and shake our heads, but we are unwilling to take positive action.
A JEW IS TAUGHT: You shall not stand by your friends blood (Vayikra 19:16). Dont just lie there do something!