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Shemot 5781 ~ Jan. 8, 2021

There is a midrash that the Pharaoh was not a new Pharaoh, rather he was the same tyrant. He  had enslaved not only the Hebrews, but his own people as they sold themselves under the financial strains created by Joseph’s policies during the famine. As his power grows, so does his desire to be worshipped as a god, to the level that he was consumed by his own narcissistic needs rather than those of the people that he governed.

The Torah states that the Pharaoh did not know Joseph. The Pharaoh had become so engrossed in himself that he distanced himself from anyone who might remind him of his dreams, their interpretation, and how they were fulfilled. The seven years of substance and the seven years of plenty had now run their course. He no longer had a need to remember Joseph or any advisor from the past, as he considered that a weakness of the all and powerful Pharaoh himself.

With such power comes opposition. Pharaoh needed to remain in total control. As the Torah states, the Pharaoh was fearful that his kingdom would be overthrown by the growing numbers of the Hebrews who might overtake the Egyptians, who they themselves were subservient to him. He was totally consumed by his own self-aggrandizement, rather than serving and providing for those whom he ruled.  

To achieve that end he rewrites the rules by which Egypt is governed, calling upon his subservient Egyptians to serve as taskmasters, enslaving the Hebrews. He was completely overwhelmed by the vision that a potential redeemer had been born who would redeem not only the Hebrew slaves, but the Egyptians as well. And so he commands his people to take all of the males of the Hebrews, some say that of the Egyptians as well, and throw them to their deaths into the Nile River.

In a few weeks’ time, we will read of the Exodus of the redeeming power by the finger of G-d, under the leadership of Moses.

Is it simply a coincidence that we are reading this Torah reading, the beginning of the Book of Exodus and the story of the Egyptian tyrant, on this Shabbat?

Back in 1987, “Black Monday,” the worst single day crash in the financial markets until that time, occurred on the week when the Torah reading was that of Noah. I distinctly remember sharing with my congregation that the numerical value of the Hebrew of Noah,  “נח”,  is 58. If one did the math, the crash might have been predicted by the Torah reading, with the previous crash taking place fifty-eight years earlier (1929). I will leave it for you to decide whether you believe in fact or fancy, predicted or coincidence.  

In the meantime, may we use this Shabbat to find a modicum of peace within our souls through reflection, both in prayer and in communal togetherness. May our leaders bring healing to our souls through their words and actions. May they guide us to a renewed confidence in what America stands for.

Sat, June 25 2022 26 Sivan 5782