Photo of Rabbi Ettedgui

Parashat Vaera - 5776

My friends,

The process of liberation from slavery begins in this Parasha, when Moses together with Aaron appear before Pharaoh and demand, in the name of G-d, the liberation of the slaves, with the famous words "let my people go!"

Imagine two old guys, 83 year-old Aaron and his 80 year-old brother Moses finding the courage to demand an audience with the mighty and powerful ruler of Egypt, Pharaoh. The question is: Where was everyone else? Where were all those elders, the leaders of the tribes who were so happy to hear from Moses that G-d is about to liberate the people? How come only Moses and Aaron appear before Pharaoh?

In last week's Parasha, we read that the elders (the Zekenim) and Moses and Aaron decided to head to the palace to speak to Pharaoh. So what happened to the Zekenim, that only Moses and Aaron reached the palace?

The Midrash explains that the elders (Zekenim) were too afraid to face Pharaoh and therefore, one by one, they dropped out before reaching the palace, so that only Moses and Aaron were left to stand up to Pharaoh.

After the Exodus, when the Children of Israel stood by Mount Sinai for the Giving of the Torah, Moses warned the people that they could not ascend the mountain, but that they must wait at the bottom or risk death. The elders (Zekenim) thought that they should go up with Moses, but they were told that since they were not courageous enough when they had the opportunity to appear before Pharaoh, a human ruler, they definitely do not deserve to go up with Moses and face G-d for the Giving of the Torah.

This Parasha is very relevant to our times. In the name of religion, we see much suffering in the world. People are exiled, starved and murdered. Israel has become the target of attacks in so many circles. Moses stood up not just for the Israelites but also for total strangers, like when he saved Jethro's daughters.

Each and everyone of us can be a Zaken, an elder, a leader, and raise our voices wherever there is injustice. We cannot act like the meek and frightened elders who were afraid to face Pharaoh. This Parasha teaches us to be brave like Moses and Aaron, to speak up and do all we can to better this world.

Shabbat Shalom,