Looking for some new thoughts this week’s Torah reading? Here are some reflections on Parshat Bo.
Did you know that we read that Passover story in the Torah about two and a half months before we celebrate Passover? Starting two weeks ago, we began reading the epic story of Moses, Aaron, Pharaoh, the burning bush, Mount Sinai, the 10 plagues, and the 10 commandments and it will take us a few weeks to finish it. This week, we read about the last three plagues that god inflicts on the Egyptians: Locusts, Darkness, and the killing of the first born.
The last of the ten plagues is by far the harshest that god inflicts on Pharaoh and his people, and with it comes a major question. How can we rationalize serving and praying to a god who would commit such harsh punishments, even in the name of freedom? I'm sure that many scholars and rabbis have debated and tried to answer this question. The answer that makes the most sense to me is one that I came across when discussing this topic with friends in Israel.
Over the course of the entire Torah god grows alongside humanity. Until this point, we have seen a vengeful god who kicked Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden for making a mistake, destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah for their sins and turned Lot's wife into a pillar of salt when she failed to follow the order not to look back. This is the god who killed all of the first-born children of Egypt. But as the story continues, god will grow.
After destroying the world with a giant flood, god makes a covenant with humanity that he will never send another flood to destroy all life on earth and seals it with the symbol of the rainbow. After freeing the Israelites from slavery, god makes a covenant with them, gives them the ten commandments, and promises to lead them into Israel. Looking at these two instances together we are given a window into god's evolution. This view continues over the 40 years it takes to lead the Israelites into the land of Israel as we will see additional examples of god’s growth in how he treats humanity and responds to its flaws.
Last week I wrote about god's statement of "I am who I am," and how we should all be "unapologetically ourselves." Each of us is unique, special, and important, and we should always be our authentic selves. This week, let's build upon that idea and recognize that we can grow and change. Our pasts, our mistakes and our failures do not define us. None of us are at the end of our stories yet. Like god in the story of the Exodus we can all grow from our pasts to make a better, brighter future.