In Vaera, we read that Pharoah digs in his heels, hardens his heart and refuses to liberate the Israelite slaves, thus launching plagues against the Egyptians. “Even from such hardened sinners as Pharaoh and the Egyptians, God did not withhold the opportunity of mending their ways. Before a plague visited them Moses was charged to warn them of its coming, to-morrow, if they remained obdurate.” (Exodus Rabba)
So, why does Pharoah continue to enslave the Israelites?
Commentary in Etz Hayyim notes that the Israelites “must be freed in such a way that they, the Egyptians, and all the nations of the world will understand that it was God’s doing, not Pharaoh’s goodwill” (p. 351). The Israelites understanding of God’s role in their liberation is important “to establish the principle that it is unacceptable for one human being to reduce another human being to slavery, that freedom is the will of God and not the choice of a despot” (p. 351). This story’s universal message is important today.
January is “Human Trafficking Month” (human trafficking is another way to describe modern day slavery). Vaera is an opportunity to remember the Israelites enslavement and act on behalf of those who are enslaved today. Recently, rabbis joined with Pope Francis and other religious leaders at the Vatican to adopt “The Joint Declaration Against Modern Slavery.” And, there are things that we can each do to help:
4. Support organizations such as the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking which up the first shelter in the nation for survivors and also offers health, legal and outreach services.
6. Recognize the signs of someone who is being trafficked and report it to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center.
7. Check out the great resources and fact sheets from T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights.
Vaera: Maror Salad
2 cups lettuce
2 cups kale
1 cup combined, turnip greens, fennel greens and Swiss chard (I used the greens from the root vegetables in this recent dish)
2 carrots, peeled into strips (I used purple carrots but any color is great)
1 tbsp Pepitas
1 tbsp roasted, hulled sunflower seeds
2 tbsp chopped walnuts
1/2 cup olive oil
Juice from 1 lemon