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פרשת וארא

01/24/2020 12:29:07 PM


On the heels of one unsuccessful negotiation, God commands Moses and Aaron to return to Pharaoh’s palace and demand, “Let my people go!” However, before Moses carries out this command, the Torah interrupts with a puzzling list of ancestries, beginning with Jacob and concluding with the birth of Moses and Aaron. The Exodus story in this week’s reading was just heating up before tangentially relating the genealogical qualifications of the protagonists. 

Rashi explains the reason for the mention of their ancestry is to establish that the brothers descend from the tribe of Levi. Nevertheless, why is it so important that we recall the lineage of Moses and Aaron now, of all times, when the narrative is just getting good?

When the story resumes, Moses and Aaron accost Pharaoh, literally - while he’s using the toilet. That is significant because the Egyptian people looked to Pharaoh as a god. He was more than their leader - he was their divine ruler. To them, Pharaoh was superhuman and untouchable. By approaching Pharaoh early in the morning, as he was attending to his basic hygienic needs, they sent a not so subtle message.

We’re on to you. You think you’re a god but you’re a fraud. We recognize only one true God of the Hebrews and we will show you His awesome power.

It is then that Moses dips his staff into the river, where Pharaoh bathes, as God delivers the first plague and the river turns to blood.

By contrast, Moses and Aaron were indeed the greatest prophets who ever lived but they were merely mortal. The Torah reiterates that fact by interjecting a brief summary of their lineage. By reminding us that they were only flesh and blood, we glean two very important lessons.

1) While people sometimes wield power and authority, there is only one God. No king or president or boss or loan officer or mother-in-law has ultimate control. As holy or powerful or wealthy or accomplished as a person may be, there is only one true God. 

2) While no person can be a god, we can become godly. Hashem promises Moses, “Behold you will be like a god to Pharaoh.” Although merely flesh and blood, Moses was divinely bolstered, as were all of the Israelites, as they forged a relationship with Hashem who led them out of slavery in Egypt. Surely b’ezrat Hashem, with God’s help, we also can accomplish great and important things. We can’t be perfect, but we can do our best - and have faith.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Suson
Wed, April 14 2021 2 Iyyar 5781