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Plagues surrounding us today

01/25/2017 06:39:16 PM


This week we begin to read about the plagues that struck Egypt when Pharoah refused to allow the Israelites to go free. I must admit that as a child I was a bit partial to the plague of frogs. I loved the way that Cecil B. DeMille envisioned it but I thought that the frogs could be a little more colorful – afterall God made some pretty amazing looking frogs. The rest of the plagues, however, left me with a deep feeling of unease. It seemed like the ancient society was filled with a bunch of dullards – could they not see the writing on the wall? 

We had a tradition at our family sederim when I was growing up. My Uncle asked each of us to ask a question about the seder and he judged which was the best question. The child with the best question got a big box of candy. I was one of the youngest cousins and therefore figured I would never win. One year when I was around 8 or 9, I challenged my Uncle and said “what was wrong with the rest of the Egyptians? Why didn’t they demand that Pharoah do what he could to stop the plagues? Why did they have to wait until people died?” My Uncle smiled and handed me the box of candy. However, he did not even try to answer the question.

That was just a few years short of five decades ago and I have the same question. Why wait until people (particularly children) die before action is taken. I no longer worry about the Exodus – this is my question for today. There is true evil and sadness across the globe. We know about it. We are not ignorant. Yet we do nothing. How is that possible? How is it Jewish to allow prejudice to flourish? Why are we cognizant of starving children yet content to overfeed ourselves? Can we not see the writing on the wall?

We are commanded to pursue justice – not just to administer it when the need arrives at our front door. We are to go out and find the places that need fixing. We are to engage in the sacred work of Tikkun Olam. Each morning that we awake is a new opportunity to heal our corner of the world. Each day presents new possibilities to shout out against injustice. Will we sit idly by or will we be true to our Jewish heritage?

What plagues need to strike us before we understand that our responsibility is to the betterment of all of humanity? How many will die before we recognize that the time to act is now? 

We are taught: “If I am not for myself, who am I?
                   If I am only for myself, what am I?
                            And if not now, when?”


Fri, September 18 2020 29 Elul 5780