Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Shemot- Our Drama Continues

Vayomer Adonai  el-Moshe, ‘Atah tireh asher e’eseh l’Faroh ki b’yad chazakah y’shalcheim uv’yad chazakah y’garsheim mei’artzo.’
And Adonai said to Moshe, ‘Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh, for by a strong hand he shall let them go, and by a strong hand he will drive them out of his hand.’ (Shemot 6:1)
Recently, the newest instalment in biblical epic films opened. Exodus: Gods and Kings opened to bad reviews and controversy. Forbes magazine reviewer, Scott Mendelson wrote, “Ridley Scott’s Exodus: Gods and Kings is a terrible film. It is a badly acted and badly written melodrama that takes what should be a passionate and emotionally wrenching story and drains it of all life and all dramatic interest.” It’s a shame. The trailer looks spectacular. The special effects seem to contain all the drama of the text itself.
The book of Shemot is an amazing drama. The number of films made of this story attest to its drama. Beginning with a reminder of all those who went down to Egypt, we know the Israelites are about to be enslaved. Revelation at Sinai is our defining moment. But, even more so than Sinai, 400 years of slavery is an essential feature of the Jewish narrative. Throughout the Torah we are reminded to act and react because of our experience as slaves in Egypt.
Following on the drama of Breishit, from creation to Noah, from Avraham to Joseph, the drama has moved from family politics to the story of a nation. It is a story of our nation. Our nation’s story does not exist in a vacuum. We act upon, and are acted upon by others.
Our story in Egypt is an emotional one. We all know the story from the Hagaddah. God brought us out of Egypt with a strong hand and an outstretched are. We speak of that arm, that hand, being the arm and hand of God. God tells us He brought us out with a strong hand and an outstretched arm. Our parasha shows that it is actually Pharaoh’s strong hand that first enslaved us and then drove us out. So, whence comes the outstretched arm? Rav Avraham Kook suggested the outstretched arm implies hope, “and unrealized potential” or “a work in progress.” The strong arm gave us the start, but after we advanced. We advanced to Sinai, to the mitzvot, and to our destiny. And for this reason, said Rav Kook, our mitzvot are all connected to our time in and redemption from Egypt.

Our drama has not yet ended. There is still so much more work to do.