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		                                    Word Of Torah		                                </span>

Word of Torah

Written by: Rabbi Emily Segal

Dear Friends,

A story as familiar as the one found in this week’s Torah portion, Va-eira, can sometimes be easy to gloss over, not thinking past the plain narrative of the story.  Moses and Aaron go to Pharaoh and demand the freedom of the Israelites, supposedly just to sacrifice to their God, after which they will return.  (Spoiler alert:  Pharaoh says no.).  After being unconvinced by the simple signs and magic tricks that Aaron is able to display at that moment, God enlists Moses to dramatically bring down God’s plagues upon not only Pharaoh but all of Egypt.  Plague after plague struck Egypt (blood, frogs, lice, swarms of insects, pestilence, boils, and hail), and time and time again, even if he momentarily relented and agreed to let the Israelites, go, he was stubborn and his heart stiffened and he refused.  Pharaoh seems to be made into quite a laughable character in this story; foolishly and stubbornly he allows his people to be struck with one terrible occurrence after another, possessing the ability to stop the suffering and yet callously and needlessly refusing to do so.  

Yet in our own lives, how different can we claim to be?  We each have negative habits; we have patterns of behavior that can cause harm and hurt; we try and try to change and yet all too often, we fail and revert back to our comfortable patterns.  We vow to tend to our family relationships but find ourselves snapping at our partner or our children at the end of a stressful day or as our anxiety about running late increases as we try to get out the door.  We say that we will eat healthier and move our bodies more but it is hard to change our habits and carve out the time needed to make plans to so do, so we order in again and binge-watch Netflix on our couch.  We want to continually grow and develop but our attention is drawn elsewhere and we are constantly pulled in so many directions.  Pharaoh had the ability to change but the pull of his habits of callousness and jealous guarding of his own power prevailed.

Yet unlike Pharaoh, we are not doomed to repeat our mistakes.  When we thoughtfully carve out a new path for ourselves, God doesn’t stiffen our hearts but rather God is the voice of conscience and identity within us, reminding us of our infinite potential and our constant ability to grow and develop at every age and stage.  How might we choose to stiffen our resolve to create a better world?  How might we gently open our hearts to let others in and enable ourselves to grow?  How might we choose to add purpose and meaning to our days?

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Emily E. Segal

Mon, January 27 2020 1 Shevat 5780