The Israelites are on their way to the Promised Land after their God unleashed His 10 plagues on the Egyptians, continually hardening Pharaoh’s heart to prolong the ordeal/make the narrative that much more memorable. God follows along “in a pillar of cloud by day” to help guide them along.
Sounds nice, until He decides to bring back some of His old tricks.
It’s déjà-vu all over again in Parsha Bo. Like in last week’s Parsha Vaera, God lets loose a series of plagues on Egypt only to continue hardening Pharaoh’s heart so that “I may display these My signs among them, and that you may recount in the hearing of your sons and your sons’ sons how I made a mockery of the Egyptians and how I displayed My signs among them––in order that you may know that I am the Lord.”
God sounds a bit like a WWE wrestler here:
“I’m gonna bring Pharaoh a world of pain, but I’m gonna keep him in the ring long enough to fill the pay-per-view, primetime requirement so that you’re still talking about this heavyweight bout for generations to come!”
It reads gratuitous, just as it did last week, but the hosts at Parsha In Progress shared an interesting idea in their commentary of last week’s Parsha. It’s relevant here because it has to do with the whole hardening of the heart thing.
God kicks Parsha Vaera off with a reminder to Moses about His covenant with the Israelites––Moses’ ancestors. A sentiment from the previous Parsha is repeated, that God hears the moaning of the Israelites because of the whole trapped in bondage thing and this makes Him remember His covenant with the Israelites.
Again, no answer to the question I was left with after the previous Parsha: HOW MANY COVENANTS HAVE YOU MADE, GOD!? How could You forget?
This isn’t the only bit of Parsha Vaera that brings about obvious questions.
Parsha Shemot––the first in the famous tale/legend/myth/story of Moses and the exodus from Egypt––blows through a number of the highlights at blistering speed.
You’ve got a Pharaoh turning on the Israelites, the baby in the basket, Moses growing up as an Egyptian, Moses killing an Egyptian who was beating an Israelite slave, Moses fleeing, marrying Zipporah, the burning bush, and the hatching of a plan to get the Israelites out of bondage in Egypt and off to the Promised Land.
Sit tight, folks. You’re in for a long one. This is a sample chapter I’ve put together on my self-made Jewish heritage trip to Slovakia for a book I’ll hopefully get to write.
People around the world have different ideas about how to express their thoughts and things get complicated when you’re working with a second or even third language. I’ve generally tried to give people the benefit of the doubt when they’re running their thoughts through the additional filter of translation.
But sometimes, the meaning is pretty damn clear and you wish people just kept their half-baked thoughts to themselves.
Genesis comes to an end with an epilogue of sorts that focuses on Jacob/Israel preparing for his death and Joseph forgiving his brothers. First, Israel makes Joseph swear that he’ll have him buried with his ancestors––not in Egypt.
Later, Israel notices his grandsons by Joseph for the first time and blesses them. From the text, we can tell that Israel is positively kvelling.
Judah, the one who suggested selling Joseph into slavery, begs Joseph to let him return to his father with the youngest, Benjamin. He essentially says, “My dad’s wellbeing is so entangled with this kid, he’ll straight up die if I return without him.” Judah asks that he stay behind instead of Benjamin because he doesn’t want to “be witness to the woe that would overtake my father!”
The ruse has gone on long enough. Joseph can no longer keep his true self from his brothers.
“Have everyone withdraw from me!” he shouts to his attendants. Then, he blubbers. It’s written that “His sobs were so loud that the Egyptians could hear, and so the news reached Pharaoh’s palace.”
When we left Joseph, he was in prison after having just correctly predicted the fates of the cupbearer (remember, that’s an actual thing) and baker. This Parsha kicks off with the Pharaoh having a couple of very similar dreams. Pharaoh starts looking for someone to interpret them and that’s when the cupbearer finally remembers Joseph, per their deal in the last Parsha.
The cupbearer vouches for Joseph’s dream-reading abilities, so Pharaoh whips him out of prison to interpret his dreams. Joseph determines that the dreams were one and the same for a single warning––seven years of famine following seven years of abundance. The repetition was just God saying, “Yo, I’m serious! This is coming!”