As I was setting the candlesticks on the table this past Friday my phone chimed. I had a text message from my mother which read:
"Uncle Reno died in his sleep this morning."I thought the kaddish would be hard, but it was the gevurot in the amidah that got me.
I had poured wine for Havdalah when my phone chimed again and it was my mother again:
"Uncle Bob just died."
Neither of these men were young, one was in hospice in fact, but the other was active, athletic and vibrant. One death was anticipated, one was a total surprise.
I'm not mad at god, this is how the universe and life was established. We are born and we live and we die. But I am mad all the same.
I'm mostly mad that I'm living in a country where we can't seem to focus where it is needed. Where fear and petty tribalism have continued to keep us divided against all reason and good sense. A place in time that has never been so connected but given the tools has turned it into a new means to forget how to love each other rather than connect. A world that would surrender to dictators before taking on responsibility for a moment.
In Bo, this weeks portion I read:
And Pharaoh's servants said unto him: 'How long shall this man be a snare unto us? let the men go, that they may serve the LORD their God, knowest thou not yet that Egypt is destroyed? Exodus 10.7I had been talking of the people of Egypt who don't have much say it would seem about the plagues befalling them. It wasn't a democracy as we've discussed but here we have a new voice in the proxy fight between god and Pharaoh? Moses and Pharaoh? The Egyptians and the Hebrews? Who's really mad at who here?
When I read these words I thought of the assassinations and the disappeared of political strife. Why didn't Pharaoh just have Arron and Moses and the upstarts disappeared? Why was he secure in his position, inflicting the fallout of the plagues on the people but not the wrath of the Hebrews for killing their profit?
Is it possible that the Egyptians were afraid of the Hebrews? How real was the bondage and how much of it was a bondage of the head or the heart that kept the Hebrews enslaved in Egypt? Did Pharaoh hold on in his deadly game of chicken with god because he knew this was a no win situation for Egypt? Let the people go, or watch them riot and walk out it all ends the same? Were the plagues as bad as a civil war sparked by political assassination would have been on Egypt?
The Peh's stand out on the page for all the times Pharaoh is named in this part of Torah. In the scroll I stood over this weekend they were of a large script and I thought about how the little people of history are not remembered the same way kings and emperors and dictators. They seem invisible, like the people of Egypt before Pharaoh. All the suffering masses who are caught in this clash of titans. The finger comes back to god often. Why would he harden Pharaoh's heart and do this? What human would have the the strength of ego naturally to ride this ride to the end? The sort that can buy and influence his way out of suffering maybe? It's like god kept making that Peh think it was all alone, forgetting about the rest of the letters as it crumbled. The Alephs and the Eyins and the Vav's and the Yud's are what make the roots do something in Hebrew though...
I have little authority vested in me. I come from a large family of small letters. And though I am small, I'm not a silent letter and I would take this occasion to remind you that you too have a voice. The powerful only have the power we give them and enslavement is a thing of both mind and matter. Use your voice to remember to the powerful what matters and your time wisely. Band together with other small letters into words like life and hope and love and peace. Don't leave letters out that might come together into other words like dictator or plutocrat or Pharaoh. Be inclusive like a family, that we might come together and celebrate, making more larger words like outstanding or auspicious, and spin off little words again like go, and good and rest.