Joseph started life in Egypt as a slave and died there a free man. His grandchildren and those of his brothers and sister started life as free citizens and were later enslaved. What sort of man was the Pharaoh who enslaved them? Did he have no knowledge of his history, or did he choose to ignore it? Did he not know that a Hebrew has saved Egypt from starvation and been honoured above all men by his ancestor, or did he not care?
What sort of man was a yet later Pharaoh who attempted mass infanticide? And finally what sort of man took apparent sadistic pleasure in increasing the severity of the Israelites’ bondage and who allowed his own people to suffer ever more abominable plagues rather than allow the Israelites the freedom to worship God? Imagine those plagues: the river turned into blood, swarming frogs, even in your bed, lice driving you mad with their bites, flies buzzing like thunder over fields, houses and palaces, to be followed by disease attacking all the animals, and then by hail destroying crops and livestock. It is hard to imagine how any ruler could allow one disaster after another to bring his own people and his country to ruin. Yet this is what Pharaoh did, and there is worse to come. For Va-eira has only recounted seven plagues, but there are still three more not yet unleashed, the last so terrible that, while it mirrors dimly the attempted killing of all Israel’s male children, it still sends a shudder through our hearts. This plague and the two before it will appear in Bo, as will the Exodus itself and the first laws given to a nation beginning its long, long journey to freedom.
Remember and discover new insights this Saturday at 10.30. Adam Feldman of the euphonious voice will be leading us out of Egypt.