Parashat Vaera

Unwilling Audiences

It takes a great deal of courage to leave what is comfortable and enter the wilderness.

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Provided by the Jewish Outreach Institute, an organization dedicated to creating a more open and welcoming Judaism.

The lights of Hanukkah are behind us. The secular New Year has just begun. And we ready ourselves for the long haul of winter, at least those of us who live in cold winter climes.

jewish outreach instituteAs Moses prepares himself to lead the Israelites into freedom, God directs him, tells him what to do and how to do it. "The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 'Go and tell Pharaoh king of Egypt to let the Israelites depart from his land.' But Moses appealed to the Lord, saying, 'The Israelites would not listen to me; how then should Pharaoh heed me, a man of impeded speech!' So the Lord spoke to both Moses and Aaron in regard to the Israelites and Pharaoh king of Egypt, instructing them to deliver the Israelites from the land of Egypt (Exodus 6:10-13)."

Delivering the Message

It isn't easy to deliver a message to the king of Egypt. Moses will soon discover it takes ten plagues to get Pharaoh to listen. At the same time, Moses will learn it isn't so easy to deliver a message to the people of Israel either.

That is one of the reasons that the Torah text tells us about all the clans just afterwards and lists their names. It indicates what Moses was up against. He had to persuade not only Pharaoh to let go of the people, but he also had to persuade the people to go. It is never easy to tell people to do something that is physically and emotionally challenging when they don't realize such actions are for their own good.

Perhaps that is also our challenge with regard to our message about shaping a more inclusive Jewish community. Opening our doors and embracing the mixed multitudes among us might be difficult for some, but it will make us stronger in the future. Moses discovered that even when the status quo isn't so good, it is indeed comfortable. It takes a great deal of courage to leave what is comfortable and enter into the wilderness.

Rabbi Kerry M. Olitzky

Rabbi Kerry M. Olitzky is executive director of the Jewish Outreach Institute and the author of numerous books about Jewish spirituality.