|We all know the story; plagues came to Egypt because Pharaoh did not listen. Before the destruction brought about by the plague of Hail, the Egyptians were given the opportunity to save their animals.
Whoever among the servants of Pharaoh FEARED the word of G-d chased his servants and livestock in the houses. And whoever DID NOT PAY ATTENTION to the word of G-d, left his servants and livestock in the field (9:20-21).
There is a textual inconsistency in these two verses. The opposite of fear is not having fear. The verse should have said that those who feared G-d were successful (in saving their livestock) whereas those who did not fear G-d were not. Why, then, does the Torah refer to the ones who did not fear G-d as those who did not pay attention?
In addition, why did the servants need to be chased in the house? Didn’t they, who were left in the field, know they should flee to safety? Why were they not afraid for their lives and run to find safe places?
The answer is that they did not pay attention to the danger. No amount of knowledge can prevent people from putting themselves in a dangerous situation unless they take the knowledge to heart. Although this sounds overly simplistic, we see many people failing to heed a lesson. For example, some people who use hand sanitizer a few times a day, yet lead a nightlife engaging in activities that put them at a far greater risk of having a virus or even disease transmitted to them. They are clearly aware of the danger but do not pay attention to it.
Another area of immense danger, albeit emotional danger, is relationships. I.e., a young woman has been living with a man for ten years and anxiously wants to get married, yet he keeps saying he needs more time. He is in his mid-forties and they know everything about each other; is there any doubt that she is headed for disappointment? She is aware of the danger but does not pay attention to it. Overeating, texting while driving, smoking, and so many other behaviors for which there is a mound of evidence proving their danger, but that does not prevent people from doing them.
A wise person is one who SEES the future (consequences of his or her behavior). These people are called “wise” because they are willing to make the effort to look into how this particular action will affect their future. (Pirkei Avot 4:1)
Novels and movies about going back in time to rectify a situation are always popular. No price would be considered unreasonable for the opportunity to take the knowledge we have about ourselves now and change a bad decision we made in the past? The good news is that we don’t need a time machine for many of the mistakes we make because as long as we’re willing to think about the outcome of our actions, we can stop ourselves from foolish actions we will later regret.The people in Egypt had witnessed six plagues; was there any doubt that a mass of hail would fall and leave a path of destruction? We too fall into the same trap when we are not willing to confront the unpleasant realities in our lives. If we are willing to have these crucial confrontations (with ourselves), we are achieving the purpose for which we were created—to deal with life on life’s terms, not ours.
(Sources: Sichos Mussar 5721:27; Growth Through Torah, pp 154-155.; Priceless Sichot 5777)