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Rabbi's Weekly Message

Rabbi wexler - thursday, january 23

In this week’s Torah portion, Vaera, God tells Moses and Aaron to go to Pharaoh to demand freedom for the Israelites. Time and again Pharaoh refuses, causing God to unleash plagues on the Egyptians.

The Torah tells us that after each plague Pharaoh’s heart was hardened (sometimes by God and sometimes by Pharaoh himself). In essence, he turned his back on the suffering of the Israelites and refused to free them. As the final verse of this week’s parasha notes, “But Pharaoh became stubborn this time also, and would not let the people go.”

There is much to discuss about the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart, including God’s role and the role of free will, conversations for another day. However, one thing that is clear is that with Pharaoh, we see the overwhelmingly negative consequences that hardening one’s heart can inflict on others. But the opposite is also true. Poet and philosopher Mark Nepo said “As a seed buried in the earth cannot imagine itself as an orchid or hyacinth, neither can a heart packed with hurt imagine itself loved or at peace. The courage of the seed is that once cracking, it cracks all the way.” Judaism implores our hearts to be like a seed and to crack all the way. We must become practitioners of softening our hearts. We cannot control the plagues of our time — war, hatred, disease, and death — but we can condition our hearts to do good, and in so doing, we can often make a difference by bringing more love, acceptance, and kindness to the world.

Vaera teaches us that we have the awesome privilege and responsibility to make the best possible choices each and every day. Our task is to open our hearts to those around us rather than harden our hearts and close ourselves off. Our task is to crack our hearts open to our family and friends, and ultimately to our beloved community.

One of the many important ways that we do this holy work is by ensuring that our South Jersey Jewish Federation has the funding it needs to support the community. This Sunday is Super Sunday. On Sunday (and really all week) hundreds of volunteers and staff will come together to raise nearly one million dollars for our Federation to do its annual work. This weekend may we all be inspired to open our hearts — whether it is volunteering at Super Sunday or answering the phone call and making a donation to the Super Sunday campaign. In doing so, we will do our part to help make our Jewish community stronger and we will do our part to flip the script of Pharaoh, as we lead with softened, opened hearts full of generosity and kindness.

Shabbat Shalom.



Fri, January 24 2020 27 Tevet 5780