Ariella Cohen

The Cowards of Today

It’s been a while since I’ve noticed the parallels between current events and the weekly parsha. I’m sure they’ve been there, but they haven’t been jumping out at me. This week though, something in particular caught my eye. After Makat Arbeh began, Pharoah quickly ran to get Moshe and Aharon to stop the locusts (Shemot 10:16-17.) This same action happened after all of the previous makot as well. It’s begun to sound quite repetitive at this point. Pharoah is warned (some of the time) that a plague is impending. He hardens his heart, and the makah occurs. Then he goes and asks for it to stop. We all know the story. After all, we tell it every year at the seder once or twice depending on where in the world we live.

But something about Pharoah’s reaction specifically to Arbeh made me mad as I read it this year. I don’t remember ever getting mad about this before. I guess current events have been affecting the way I think. The wording here is that Pharaoh hurried to Moshe and Aharon to get them to stop the makah. At this point Pharaoh knew exactly What/Who the source of these plagues was. That same source is the reason his heart continued to be hardened because that was a part of the grander plan. Pharaoh hastened, implying that he was probably anxious and uncomfortable. I would be too if there were swarms of locusts attacking me. I get annoyed when a single bug attacks my face. Pharoah referred to Arbeh as “this death.” Maybe because it killed whatever was left of the plant life after Barad, or maybe because Arbeh was really suffocating him to death. In either case, he seemed to me to be a little more desperate than with the previous Makot.

My question here (which is why I got mad about this) is how did Pharaoh have the gall to ask God to save him from death? Sure, I can understand that he didn’t want to die. But it was kind of his fault that these plagues were happening to him. And he knew it. The Jews had been enslaved in his land for quite some time, he had been asked nicely several times to let them go even just for a few days, and he refused. Then somehow he felt that it was ok to ask the very God that he had denied to do him a very major favor. Maybe that’s why he asked Moshe and Aharon to pray to God on his behalf. Which is quite cowardly. Perhaps he had even a small level of embarrassment about his hypocrisy and didn’t want to talk to God himself. As we all know, God did listen to Pharaoh’s (indirect) prayers. I guess it’s all part of the story.

I wonder if Pharaoh would have let the Jews go if any of the plagues would have gone on for an extended period with no reprieve. Would he have let them go if he had to live for a year or more with frogs everywhere or boils all over this body? I guess we’ll never know.

Hamas seems to possess an even higher level of gall and cowardliness than Pharaoh had. They attack us, but then they beg us and get the rest of world to beg us to not attack them back, as if now they are the poor innocent victims. Their leaders hide in tunnels and let their “civilians” die which only highlights their cowardliness further. It is worse than Pharaoh, since at least Pharaoh was “in it” with the rest of the Egyptians (although probably not by choice.) They ask for ceasefire and aid as they continue to hold our people hostage Gaza. Pharaoh asked for reprieve from the makot as he continued to hold the Jewish nation as slaves in Egypt. We’ve faced plenty of cowards in our history, but today we are dealing with the ugliest ones yet.

There is an ancient principle known as the Golden Rule which states the basic moral that you should treat others as you want to be treated. Many historical figures have stated this same idea in different words. It’s also one of the ways to interpret the well known phrase “ואהבת לרעך כמוך” (Vayikra 19:18.) Pharaoh did not exactly live his life based on morals, and Hamas certainly has none. Which means that we’ve got to do our best to counter their lack. 

Although this week they were not very positive, it would be really nice if the direct parsha parallels continue on through another week so that we could finally see what a modern day Kriyat Yam Suf will look like. I’m pretty curious. What will it be like for the hostages to proudly march out of Gaza while all of Hamas is drowned out at once? What medium will be used instead of water? Will we all get to watch it happen? Fingers crossed that we find out this week.

About the Author
Ariella Cohen grew up in Far Rockaway, NY and made Aliyah from Bala Cynwyd, PA in August 2023. She is an engineer and amateur musician with lots of other hobbies on the side.
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