In our Torah portion, Parashat Bo from the Book of Exodus, a defeated Pharaoh has no choice but to follow God’s command and permit Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. At this juncture, the plagues have ravished the land, and death, destruction and sorrow have come to its inhabitants. Pharaoh’s narcissism and cruelty led to the downfall of the once thriving nation. Indeed Pharaoh’s love of self proves to be far greater than his concern for his nation and people.
Over the past weeks, many from our GRS family have vented their concerns both within a group context and in private. In a particularly poignant note to me, a congregant quoted the words of Emile Zola, “My duty is to speak out; I do not wish to be an accomplice to this travesty.” Zola, a passionate supporter of the Jewish people, risked his career and perhaps, his life, when his J’Acuse was published on the front page of a Parisian newspaper in 1898. Within this open letter to the president of France, Zola aired his belief that the case against Captain Alfred Dreyfus was nothing more than anti-Semitism
and a true perversion of justice.
With the scourge of anti-Semitic incidents in our nation and the vilification of Israel, we must be especially conscious of the need to stand up against the hatred directed at our people and homeland; yet, it is also our moral imperative to do the same for others. As Hillel so beautifully expressed in the Mishna, “If I am not for myself who will be for me; if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?” Indeed there is so much more work to be done.
Rabbi Andrew R. Sklarz, DD, MSW, MA