- Posted by Elaine Zecher
- On January 12, 2018
- 0 Comments
Welcome to Shabbat Awakenings, a weekly reflection as we move toward Shabbat.
How could Pharaoh say such a thing? Was he that clueless that he thought no one cared enough? Sometimes when inner thoughts touch one’s lips, they slip out and create havoc and grave concern. Often, it reflects thoughtlessness and arrogance.
I imagine there must have been some Egyptians who might have adored and worshipped Pharaoh, but expressed concern in the privacy of their family abodes. Perhaps, they feared for their own lives when the source of their water turned to blood. And though it turned back, their anxiety must have remained high. “Has he gone mad?” They may have wondered as they captured yet another frog jumping across their lap. Maybe they couldn’t even bring themselves to say out loud that their leader demonstrated moral incompetence as they witnessed the pestilence affect their cattle and cause pain and anguish to their animals.
But the Egyptians remained silent. Their leader must have had some reason to persist in his intransigence. Did they make excuses for him? Did they pretend he just didn’t say it, and denied it with a straight face? Most likely, they preferred to remain in the dark caused by a plague, and their own collusion with the delusion of their leader.
But what had emerged from beneath the surface had come out before. Pharaoh was a bigot. Though he held much power, he felt threatened by these Israelite slaves, ignoring their humanity, a racist retort of ignorance with his truest self exposed.
The text described him as having a hardened heart as a response to the plea to free the Israelites. In the Torah, the heart and mind were viewed together. Both had turned to stone, unable to feel or to think.
I imagine that in the privacy of his own home, he must have expressed his own frustration. “What is the matter with those Israelites? Why should they be impressed with Moses’ God when I am the steady smart one here? Who needs that God when you have me? Those Israelites are shirkers. Those Israelites are from muddy pits.” Those who surrounded him probably nodded their heads in agreement, afraid that they might become the target of his wrath if they did not demonstrate their complicity.
And so it went. How long would they have to endure Pharaoh’s inability to control himself and his prejudice?
They needed back then the resource we have now to face moral and ethical ineptitude. We can look to the prophet, Micah, for inspiration: It has been told to you…what is good and what the Eternal requires of you: Only to do justice and to love goodness and walk humbly with your God. (6:8)
This is our prayer as we enter Shabbat tonight. May we find great strength from these foundational values of goodness, righteousness, and humility.
Tonight is a magnificent moment of the year when we demonstrate our commitment to these values through Shabbat Tzedek. Please make the effort to come! Services begin at 6:00 p.m. If you are looking for ways to have righteous impact, tonight will help you. Live stream HERE.
Torah study begins at 9:00 a.m. with a short service. The rabbis are leading the discussion with a focus on racial justice.
I’m grateful to engage with you and to know of your reflections. Connect with me directly HERE.