We – that is Mankind – tend to be pretty arrogant and independent. We were created to be independent in thought and action, with the ability to decide between good and evil (reference the Garden of Eden story for our innate independence).
We tend to think we can do it, and don’t need help, thank you!
And we are so wrong! We do need help. We need lots of help. We need each other. Nothing we do, have, or say is of our own capability. Brought into the world by parents, nurtured, fed, taught by others. Everything we touch is in some way touched by others to be available to us. Food, clothing, shelter, all come to us from the work of other people, and the provision of the plants and animals, nurtured by earth, powered by sun, watered by sky.
Yet we act so independently. Where is our thanks – to everyone? Everything? To the maker of all Creation?
This is one of the underlying themes of the Torah. G~d made it! Be thankful. Have a little compassion for others who need some help. Who are less fortunate.
In this parsha, we see G~d beginning to get people’s attention. Pharaoh and the Egyptians are not just using the Israelites for general work as slaves, they are making the work exceedingly hard. They are thankless for their service. Even worse, they have attempted to kill their infant boys as “population control.” To get the Egyptian’s attention would take a mighty hand, one stronger than the Egyptian “gods.”
The story was retold in modern history through the last few centuries with the struggle for freedom and equality of the African slaves. Then the strong hand of oppression against Israel was raised by the Nazi attempt to eradicate all the Jews. Two big struggles, two wins for freedom. Equality for all people, at least in part of the world, and a homeland for Israel.
Now for our part today. How can we help in the worldwide struggle for freedom and equality for all peoples? You can take a part. With the products you purchase, and letters you write, and much more for those of us who are called to really engage on behalf of the unfortunate, in so many ways. Everything from teaching people to read to volunteering in a nursing home. The list is endless. We will always have those less fortunate, and we can act to make a difference. In the process you will find you start to become thankful – to men and likely to G~d as well.
The Photo is an example of people working together for freedom, regardless of faith and ethnicity.
- Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, second from right, participating in the civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, on March 21, 1965.
- First row, from far left: John Lewis, an unidentified nun, Ralph Abernathy, Martin Luther King, Jr., Ralph Bunche, Abraham Joshua Heschel, Fred Shuttlesworth.
- Second row: Visible behind (and between) Martin Luther King, Jr. and Ralph Bunche is Rabbi Maurice Davis.
All credits referenced back via wikipedia here.
Here are some study notes:
Parsha va’Era 5771.doc
Parsha va’Era 5771.pdf