Parasha Va’era


Parasha Va’era

In our Parasha Va’era we are reading about The Plagues that God struck Egypt with, as the ultimate proof of God’s absolute power managing this world.

“That you may know that there is none like God, our God”

One of the most beautiful examples of this proof is the miracle of turning Moses’s cane into a snake and turning it back to its original shape.  In Egyptian mythology, the snake occupied a central place.  Most pharaohs wore a crown on their heads with a snake embedded in its center, as a symbol of the power of their rule.  When Moses stands before Pharaoh and, by a divine miracle, turns the cane into a snake, and again turning the snake into the cane, he points to the nothingness of the pagan belief. A snake has no more power than a stick held by the person and who does with it whatever he wants to.

Later, we read that God explains to Moses that the purpose of the plagues inflicted on the Egyptian people was also meant to be a lesson for the Israelites:

“And you shall know that I am the Lord”

Not only the idolatrous Pharaoh needs the internalization of the faith, but also the believer Jews need it as well.  The reason is because faith, EMUNA, is not an insight that a person arrives to at some point in his life, and from that point on it is fixed in his heart.  Preservation of faith requires a constant work of internalization and internal strengthening of religious concepts.

We think that idolatry has disappeared from the world, at least from the Western world.  Indeed, it is rare to find the primitive worship of the forces of nature, as was customary in some ancient and primitive cultures.  This does not indicate that human perception has improved on a fundamental level.  Humanity has refined and moved to a more mature discourse, which creates new ways of worshiping idols, such as the materialistic concept that makes man dependent on a cruel fate, servitude to the accumulation of assets that suppresses moral values, and the belief in the unlimited ability of modern man to shape his life without having God in it.  These are pagan concepts in essence, which do not recognize the cosmic-divine management of this world, and create a consciousness which relies on other centers of power.

One of the concepts that Judaism disagrees with is the mixing and blurring between the human effort and the result that the person seeks to achieve through that effort.  It is easy to be tempted to think that effort inevitably leads to a result, but this perception is wrong just if we observe the range of the results possibilities for that supposed effort.  Every human endeavor depends on many factors, sometimes very many, which are beyond the control of man.  And the effort never guarantees the desired result.  Judaism says, only God can guarantee the success, and HE is the only one man should raise his eyes to, hoping for success.

The concept of trying to impose utopia on reality is the result of a lack of humility.  A person who knows his place in this world knows what is assigned to him and also knows his limitations.

This is the lesson which God wanted to teach Pharaoh who claimed being a creator, and also teaching us, that not everything is under our control.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Refael Cohen


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