Thought for Shabbat – January 12, 2018
Moses talks to Pharaoh and proposes a cataclysmic revolution in the way that Egypt is structured. Firstly, the Pharaoh must release all of the Israelites from slavery. Secondly, the Pharaoh has to do so while acknowledging the power of God and the superiority of that power to his own. This is not just about the impact of the loss of the Israelites. This will change the way the entire Egyptian nation views the Pharaoh and perhaps a bit of how the Pharaoh views himself.
Each time God brings a plague, Pharaoh is witness to God’s power. Pharaoh resists freeing the Israelites. Even when he decides to free them, he changes his mind. Eventually (spoiler alert for next week’s portion), there are ten plagues, the last of which is the most devastating of all, the death of the first born. What if Pharaoh had relented after the first or second plague, or even the fourth or fifth? That could not happen. In addition to having his heart hardened by God, Pharaoh was not ready to make the change he needed to make in his society.
As a result, because he did not make the change when he had the opportunity, the change was forced upon him in a horrific way. It takes courage to change because in order to change, one has to acknowledge the flaw in an ongoing practice. As a result, “this is the way we’ve always done it” is often a good enough answer in politics, religion and personal relationships.
Hollywood moguls and powerful actors have taken advantage of their positions for decades in forcing themselves physically on actresses. But they did not operate in a vacuum. People in the industry and beyond joked about the “casting couch” and saved their criticism for the actress who had “slept her way to the top”. Those who knew about this culture of sexual assault and said nothing bear some responsibility for the existence of a culture that forced women to endure an unbearable environment. While we welcome the opportunity for change, one has to wonder what took so long.
Change is inevitable in all areas of life. Whether it is in a relationship with a loved one or friend, a religious practice or a political issue, it takes courage to recognize that change is necessary when we have become used to the world and our lives as they are. It takes courage to advocate and push for that change. The first actresses who spoke out against Harvey Weinstein risked being ostracized and unemployed in their industry. However, their courage began a movement. May we all find that same courage to recognize the need for change in our lives and the world around us. And may that courage inspire us to action.
Rabbi Yaier Lehrer
THERE WILL BE NO SERVICES TONIGHT AND TOMORROW MORNING IN LIGHT OF THE WEATHER FORECAST OF EXTREMELY DANGEROUS DRIVING CONDITIONS. THERE WILL BE A SUNDAY MORNING MINYAN AT 9 AM WHICH I HOPE YOU WILL SUPPORT SO THAT THOSE WHO NEED TO SAY KADDISH CAN DO SO.
Also, please save the date and remember to come to Adat Shalom on January 25 at 7:00 PM for “Come Together”, an opportunity for dialogue among various faith communities in the Fox Chapel area. We will examine those things we have in common and those things which make our faith unique. The program will be interactive with lots of opportunities for questions and discussion. At least five local churches will be joining us that night.