Torah Weekly

For the week ending 5 January 2019 / 28 Tevet 5779

Parshat Vaera

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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G-d tells Moshe to inform the Jewish People that He is going to take them out of Egypt. However, the Jewish People do not listen. G-d commands Moshe to go to Pharaoh and ask him to free the Jewish People. Although Aharon shows Pharaoh a sign by turning a staff into a snake, Pharaoh's magicians copy the sign, emboldening Pharaoh to refuse the request.

G-d punishes the Egyptians and sends plagues of blood and frogs, but the magicians copy these miracles on a smaller scale, again encouraging Pharaoh to be obstinate. After the plague of lice, Pharaoh's magicians concede that only G-d could be performing these miracles. Only the Egyptians, and not the Jews in Goshen, suffer during the plagues.

The onslaught continues with wild animals, pestilence, boils and fiery hail. However, despite Moshe's offers to end the plagues if Pharaoh will let the Jewish People leave, Pharaoh continues to harden his heart and refuses.


Stereotype or Archetype?

“…See, I have made you a master over Pharaoh…” (7:1).

Sometimes I forget I’m a rabbi. Especially when I get behind the wheel of a car. Then the beard comes off and the shades go on and suddenly there’s a twenty-two year old riding a wild set of wheels at an easy pace. Wheeeew!

You have to be careful. I have a sign facing me on the dashboard (actually it fell off and I really should put it back) that says, “You look like a rabbi; are you driving like one?”

Sometimes, however, it’s good not to be so rabbi-ish. Anyone who lives in Israel and is identifiably Chassidic-looking knows that the reaction by our secular brethren may be a stereotypical resentment. Coming back from visiting my mother in London last week, I stepped up to the security officer at the airport and was met with a vaguely distasteful expression, as though she had smelled something that was well past its sell-by date. It seemed that she was addressing a stereotype of a community that was well past its sell-by date, but has refused to lie down on the scrap heap of the fossils of history.

She asked me for my passport, and as I placed the passport on the lectern in front of her, three or four brightly colored guitar picks slid out of the passport. Her expression changed completely. A smile lit up her face. I wasn’t a dreary killjoy religious fanatic anymore. I had just become a musical rabbi!

Stereotyping can be anywhere. It’s so much easier to see someone as an example rather than being unique.

“…See, I have made you a master over Pharaoh…” (7:1)

When Moshe stood for the first time before Pharaoh, Pharaoh didn’t realize to whom he was speaking. He thought he was dealing with a stereotype Hebrew with a bad speech impediment. Little did he realize that he was meeting the man through whose agency the most powerful empire in the world would be brought to its knees!

He mistook the archetype for a stereotype.

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