Dear WJC Family,
In this week’s Parsha, Bo, we read about the last few plagues and the institution of Passover as an annual commemoration. After the ninth plague of darkness Moshe and Pharaoh argue and Pharaoh says, “Be gone from me! Take care not to see me again, for the moment you look upon my face you shall die.” Moses then describes the coming tenth plague, the death of all the firstborn males of Egypt, and departs “angrily.”
This is the first time Moshe is described as “angry.” Why would he be angry at this moment? A chess player who knows she is a single move away from checkmate doesn’t feel angry; she feels elated. Some commentaries say he is angry about the Pharaoh’s threat, but Moshe has lived years and years with Pharaoh wanting him dead, ever since he killed the Egyptian as we read about in Parshat Shemot. So why would he suddenly be made angry now?
Other commentaries give a more logical answer. Moshe is not angry because Pharaoh threatened him, but because of the great tragedy that is about to befall the Egyptians and the Pharaoh with whom he grew up. The anger Moshe feels is not from hatred of his adversary. It is the opposite; his emotions are spurred by empathy and sympathy, two emotional phenomena that I wish were more regularly on display in our culture today.
This week, in fact, reminded me of that in several ways. Monday was International Holocaust Remembrance Day, and even as I saw the horrors of the Shoah recounted and condemned, I couldn’t help but think about the rise of Antisemitism and other forms of hate that we are seeing in this country and around the world. Then the Trump Administration released its roadmap for peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. Regardless of what you think about the president or the plan, it was sad to see the whole issue being vacuumed into politics in Israel and the US when people on both sides of the conflict are suffering. Is there any case that better demonstrates that more empathy and sympathy on both sides could prevent so much despair and suffering? We can all use a healthy dose of the anger that Moshe feels in this week’s parsha—not the anger of hatred or revenge, but the anger at senseless tactics and stubborn self-absorption.
That being said, we can do much better than get angry. We can get involved. Two ways that I suggest: First, vote in the World Zionist Congress Election and vote for slate #6, Mercaz. You can see last week’s email for why this is so important, and voting is open for only 6 more weeks. Your vote is crucial for having your say on Israel policy and politics. To vote, click here and follow the instructions.
Second, join me, Tami and Rabbi Segelman and dozens of your fellow WJC members at the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington DC from March 1-3. I know that there are a lot of organizations that advocate for Israel, and I encourage you to get involved and stay involved in whichever one most appeals to you. Tami and I express our support and exert our influence through AIPAC. The Policy Conference is an important experience for two reasons: 1) There is no place that feels more like being in Israel than Policy Conference. It is full of a hugely diverse crowd – diverse by political affiliation, religion, race, background and more. They are all there to discuss Israel’s situation, policies and relationship with the United States. It is sometimes overwhelming, sometimes fun, sometimes disturbing and always full of love and connection – just like Israel. 2) By showing up to Policy Conference you have an opportunity to learn about the Israel-US relationship and situation from all kinds of experts: diplomats, professors, politicians, foreign leaders, journalists and more. Then we turn around and discuss those very issues with our Congressman and Senators in small meetings. I never feel as empowered as a citizen of the United States and as a Zionist as when I lobby during AIPAC PC.
I hope you will consider joining us this year. To learn more about AIPAC and Policy Conference or to register, click here. And if you have questions for me about why I support AIPAC or if you have a difference of opinion, I am always up for a conversation!
One more Israel experience that you can have a little closer to home–on Thursday night the Koslowe Gallery is opening its new exhibit of pictures taken in Israel. I hope you’ll join us for the opening. The pictures are diverse and magnificent. You can also check them out while attending the Scholar in Residence events next weekend with Rabbi Sharon Brous.
For a totally different Dvar Torah about Parshat Bo, click on the video link below where I address the question of the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart and freewill. The question isn’t so much about whether we have freewill but whether or not we choose to use it. On Shabbat morning I will lead a discussion entitled, “Shawshank Exodus – Why were we in such a hurry anyway?” to address the victimization complex of Jews then and now. Rabbi Segelman will speak Friday evening and teach the shiur on Saturday afternoon.
See you in shul,