Rabbinic Reflection: Rabbi Jordan Helfman
Connection Amidst the Plagues
This week, as we stand in shock at the anti-Semitic vandalism attack in Montreal, as we brace ourselves for the increased loneliness of the lockdown, we turn in our Torah to the Plagues. In that story, we seek lessons to help us survive today’s plagues.
We are all familiar with the list of ten chastisements which God visited upon Egypt. And how after each, God hardened Pharaoh’s heart until things were unbearable for the Egyptians, and life was made harder for our people as well.
This week’s story contains the first seven plagues, saving the truly horrible for next week. This week includes blood, frogs, hail, lice and more – all of which made life less convenient for the Egyptians. And that was all – life was less convenient.
Next week’s plagues, according to Rabbi Mosheh Lichtenstein, mark a transition from the unbearable to the truly destructive. From plagues that harry and annoy to those which demoralize and destroy.
The locusts destroy the economy and make sure that there is a coming shortage of food. The darkness is not just a normal darkness, but a darkness so thick that people are in isolation and cannot see their neighbours. According to the retelling of the plagues in Psalm 78, darkness was the capstone – this isolation was punishment enough. But with the isolation, as we know, comes death.
This is bearing out in the world around us today as well and in our congregation. For many of us the isolation at the beginning merely inconvenient – and now it is taking a harsher turn to be dangerous.
What can we do?
The darkness of Egypt prevented all communication. Our darkness is not so thick – and we can connect online or by phone.
I urge you to think of people you haven’t seen in a while and to reach out. Our clergy recently began a calling campaign for all of our members in long-term care facilities, and each conversation is priceless.
If you yourself are looking for a connection, come and join us as our community meets daily for services and schmoozing. There are also ways of volunteering to be a caller, such as this program that allows you to make a weekly commitment and matches you with someone with similar interests.
And if you feel like you need more help than our community can provide, please ask for that help.
In the midst of this plague, even with a vaccine in sight, we remember that in the Exodus from Egpyt, after each bit of progress, life was made increasingly hard, until eventually – we were free. May the time of freedom come soon.
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