President Joe Biden had two failed runs, before winning the White House in his third attempt. At the beginning of this week’s Torah portion, and also at the beginning of last week’s, Moses needs to be reassured by God because he believes that he is failing.
Biden is now in the White House, and God frees the Israelites by the end of our Torah portion.
I come back time after time to Soforno’s commentary:
“For I have hardened Even though Moses had said; “I know that you (Pharaoh) do not yet relate with awe and reverence to God,” (Exodus 9:30) he thought that even if Pharaoh did not humble himself to God because of God’s Greatness, at least he would do what God said seeing that he had no choice, and could no longer withstand the cumulative effect of the plagues. He had arrived at this conclusion when he noted the words ה’ הצדיק, “the Lord is the Just One.” However, when Moses found out that all these pious words notwithstanding Pharaoh continued to oppose God’s will in spite of the fact that he found it impossible to cope with the plagues, Moses came to the conclusion that warning Pharaoh of an impending plague was an exercise in futility. Even when he couldn’t bear it any longer, he refused to hear. That is why God tells Moses that even though God is hardening Pharaoh’s heart…what Moses is doing is worthwhile, even though Pharaoh will not listen.”
Our sages already struggled with the theological implications of Pharaoh not having free will, and I wrote two weeks ago that I certainly feel uncomfortable with the idea that this is all about educating the Israelites or the Egyptians, as we are seemingly told.
I also know that success is relative, and often temporal. The Hasmoneans were great warriors, but not so great rulers. To this day, I don’t believe that the Jewish people have been sufficiently true to the mission for which God freed us from Egypt. We will now see what comes of President Biden’s lofty words about racial justice, concern for those left behind and for the environment. Justice for Palestinians is not high on his priority list.
But, I do expect a renewed message of decency and unity to come from the White House. The American people chose humanity over hate, and quiet decency over demagoguery, albeit by a small margin. Hope for a better future remains alive. While the failures of the Jewish people have been many, we have also been a force for good in the world, many times upholding the ultimate value of honoring God’s Image in every human being, and recognizing God’s Presence in the air that we breath, the earth and the water that sustain us, and in every blade of grass.
In other words, we too must persevere. In the letter that George Bush Sr. left for Bill Clinton in the Oval Office, he wrote about staying true to one’s vision, “don’t let critics discourage you or push you off course.” The latest Israeli National Insurance Institute poverty statistics have just come out, and they paint a devastating picture. A year of even higher than normal State backing of settler aggression has created a golem (sort of Frankenstein’s monster) that is now spiraling out of control. Yet, we know that our only real choice is to continue with our mission, to the best of our ability.
May we too eventually look back and say that through faith, perseverance and God’s Providence, we succeeded in bringing about the Israel and the world that God intended us to be God’s partners in building.