In the beginning of the Bo portion of the Torah, the Creator tells Moses to go to Pharaoh. The Creator also, curiously, tells Moses that he has ‘hardened Pharaoh’s heart’. The question then comes up: if the Creator has ‘hardened’ the heart of Pharaoh, what is the point of Moses going to speak with Pharaoh?
In order to understand this question and its answer, we need to understand something about spirituality. There is a cosmic law that deals with what Kabbalah calls ‘spiritual purity’ and ‘spiritual impurity’. Spiritual impurity is a blockage caused by negative actions and consciousness, such as the Desire to Receive for the Self Alone, which prevents a person from getting closer to the Light of the Creator. This is what happened to Pharaoh; he witnessed the 7 plagues in the Torah parashah (portion) of Va’era – and was not moved by them because he had a huge spiritual blockage in the way.
So Moses was wondering, Why am I to go to Pharaoh now, when God has hardened his heart? And the explanation was given to Moses so there would be no doubts: The Creator had not given Pharaoh a choice as to releasing the Israelites or not, but had instead hardened his heart after the first 7 plagues, when he did not move towards softening it on his own.
Pharaoh witnessed acts of nature from the Creator and was not impressed. He still believed he had control over nature and thought he was calling the shots. The Creator, however, explained to Moses that Pharaoh had in fact given up his free will – Pharaoh had opportunity after opportunity, in the form of the 7 plagues, to soften his heart and change his ways, but he never did. In the end, Pharaoh relinquished his free will by refusing to consider the moral ramifications of his actions, by acting in cruelty rather than compassion. Moses witnessed Pharaoh as a man who had closed himself off so much that he had lost even the possibility of redemption and freedom.
This is what happens to us when we close ourselves off from the Light; it becomes harder and harder to come back, although there is always an opening left (except for Pharaoh). It is therefore very important that we consciously fight closing ourselves off by striving to be constantly open to the Light, no matter our situation. By simply being open to the Light, we actively restrict the buildup of any spiritual impurities that would form blockages, allowing us to thrive along our spiritual path.