Monday, January 07, 2008

Don't Let Your Choices Plague You

Parashat Va’era (and I appeared)
January 5, 2008/27 Tevet 5768

Exodus 6:2-9:35
Ezekiel 28:25-29:21
Revelation 16:1-21

We celebrate the Israelites gaining freedom from the Egyptians every year at Passover. This week’s Torah portion contains a major chunk of that story, with the first seven of the plagues that befell Pharaoh and the Egyptians after Moses and Aaron approach him, asking for freedom for their people. Moses was directly asked by G-d to approach Pharaoh to ask for their freedom.

Ex. 6:28 Now when the L-RD spoke to Moses in Egypt,Ex. 6:29 he said to him, “I am the L-RD. Tell Pharaoh king of Egypt everything I tell you.” (NIV)

Pharaoh kept refusing, and the plagues kept coming to try to show him how G-d is real. With each refusal came another plague: the water of the Nile river turned to blood. Frogs overran the land. Swarms of insects caused much damage. Livestock was plagued and died. Hail fell from the sky and ruined the crops. Here is a list of the plagues found in this portion, which are the first seven of the total ten – the list is continued in the next portion.

1. (Exodus 7:14-25) rivers and other water sources turned to blood (Dam)
2. (Exodus 7:26-8:11) amphibians (commonly believed to be frogs) (Tsfardeia)
3. (Exodus 8:12-15) lice or gnats (Kinim)
4. (Exodus 8:16-28) flies or beasts (Arov)
5. (Exodus 9:1-7) disease on livestock (Dever)
6. (Exodus 9:8-12) unhealable boils (Shkhin)
7. (Exodus 9:13-35) hail mixed with fire (Barad)
All through these events, Pharaoh’s heart remained hardened.

Ex. 9:34 When Pharaoh saw that the rain and hail and thunder had stopped, he sinned again: He and his officials hardened their hearts.Ex. 9:35 So Pharaoh's heart was hard and he would not let the Israelites go, just as the L-RD had said through Moses. (NIV)

This reminds me of situations in our lives where we know we have to do something – maybe it is something that is unpleasant, or something that would require a lot of work to achieve – and so we are reluctant, and we maintain our reluctance even in the face of consequences to our inaction. Pharoah’s refusal to obey Moses, and, in effect, a refusal to obey G-d Almighty, not only brought consequences for himself, but for all of his people. Speaking as someone in a leadership role, I think that carries a very important message.

The Prophetic portion is the foretelling of Egypt’s conquest by Nebuchadnezzar. Egypt would become desolate and the people scattered, but eventually brought back together, but not the way it was before.

Ezek. 29:15 It will be the lowliest of kingdoms and will never again exalt itself above the other nations. I will make it so weak that it will never again rule over the nations.Ezek. 29:16 Egypt will no longer be a source of confidence for the people of Israel but will be a reminder of their sin in turning to her for help. Then they will know that I am the Sovereign L-RD.’ ” (NIV)

The New Testament portion is set in the End Times and is about the seven angels, each with a vial or a bowl, and one by one they pour out the contents of their vessels onto the earth, followed by the results. Seven angels, seven bowls, seven grievous consequences, some of which are similar to the plagues that occurred in Egypt, while others aren’t: sores, sea turning into blood, people being scorched with fire, and so on. Finally, the seventh bowl is poured out, causing a large earthquake.

Rev. 16:18 Then there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder and a severe earthquake. No earthquake like it has ever occurred since man has been on earth, so tremendous was the quake. (NIV)

The main connection to the Torah portion is the number seven – here there are seven angels, and in the Torah section there are seven plagues. The number seven is of particular significance in Judaism, as it is considered to be a number associated with G-d and all things relating to Him – for example it was on the seventh day that G-d rested after seeing that His creation was good. However, as we will see in next week’s portion, there are ten plagues total, so the fact that the Brit Chadesha portion also uses the number seven is a loose connection at best in this particular instance.

However, what Parashat Va’era communicates over all is that when a person, people, or nation willfully chooses to disobey G-d, there will be consequences. They may not be as immediately obvious as a plague or sudden destruction, but can fester over time and lead to downfall. The choice is always ours to make.

1 comment:

babyalanakadiaperdada said...

Well paula or should I say Chaia which ever it doesn't matter.

I believe you have a soft heart and that is so awsome, after reading this big of your blog I was touched by your sadness but am encouraged that you know Yeshua the one that brings joy out of that sadness.

Yours Truly In Yeshua

Alan