Politics & the Parsha: “Shul Politics Like Never Before”
Each week IPA Deputy Director of Public Policy Howie Beigelman takes a look at the weekly parsha and discusses it in a way you may never have seen. Any hashkafic, halachic or political opinions are personal and do not reflect the official psak or policy of the OU.
Bo 5771: Angels are People Too
This week, for the first time, G-d Himself enters the fray. For weeks, months even, as the graduated diplomatic sanctions against one of history’s first rogue states fail spectacularly, G-d has been content to let others take the lead.
Here though, the battle is set to be joined. Partly this is due to the precision required. The final plague is an audacious, multi pronged, simultaneous surgical strike so precise that nothing approaching its scale or impact has ever again been attempted, let alone duplicated in the annals of warfare: every household’s human & animal first born are killed, beginning precisely at the stroke of midnight. Yet homes where doorposts are conspicuously bloodied with the Passover sacrifice were spared.
In each of the nine preceding plagues and again shortly at the Red Sea, perhaps the most decisive battle of the Exodus story as well as in the battle with Amalek, G-d instructs Moses & Aaron to execute His command. Here, at the plague of the first born, Moses and Aaron play no role, other than as heralds. G-d Himself descends into Egypt, and wages battle.
Why now – and only now – does G-d feel it necessary to personally fight?
Rabbi Yitzchak Mirsky, in his commentary to the Passover Hagaddah, offers this insight: only G-d could perform such a mission and emerge from executing of such a plague intact and unchanged. Even angels would be scarred.
The lesson for us is that no experience fails to leave its mark, for better or worse. Either we emerge stronger or weaker, polished or scarred, confident or panic stricken.
G-d knew to let Moses, Aaron – even the angels on high – murder first born after first born would be too powerful a negative experience. It might turn them cold and cruel.
All too often, we lean on people to do things for us. Sometimes those are the very jobs we pay them for, that they are trained for. Soldiers are paid to kill. Doctors to save lives. Both become immune to death, using gallows humor to make it through an emotional tsunami. We all need to acknowledge these effects on ourselves & others.
Conversely, sometimes we try too hard to shield others from trying experiences, from seeing loved ones struggle with illness or death, from witnessing people with physical or emotional challenges; even sometimes from a rude coworker or a crazy boss. Yet those experiences can lead to healthy, even much needed or appropriate growth.
Of course it helps if you are Creator to know which are which. But we should still be giving it our best shot to make sure all of our experiences and all those we make for others are net positives for them today & in the future.
Words to consider, ideas to ponder – politics & the parsha.