Eco-Rabbi: Parshat Vaera – Plagues, Pharoah and Dissonance

Each week Orthodox Jews read one segment of the Five Books of Moses so that they can complete the entire Five Books within the course of a year. In last week’s Eco-Rabbi post we discussed the Jews slavery in Egypt along with Moses’ first prophecy via a burning bush. This week continues Moses’ fight for his people’s freedom.

oil-river-pollutionAfter Pharaoh rejects Moses’ first request for his people’s freedom God steps up the attack and gives Moses the tools to send plagues onto the Egyptians in order to leverage the Jew’s freedom from slavery.

This week’s segment describes the plagues of blood, frogs, lice, wild animals, pestilence, boils, hail and locusts. Each of these plagues, in their own right, would cripple a society in those days.

The interesting thing is that God told Moses from the start that Pharaoh would reject Moses’ request until the end. Why would anyone in their right mind do such a thing? Moses is telling Pharaoh that all his troubles will go away if he only lets the Jewish people leave Egypt.

But Moses’ pleas falls on deaf ears.

But there is an explanation, God tells Moses: “I will harden his heart.” And sure enough he does. Moses pleas with Pharaoh to let his people go, and each time Pharaoh denies Moses’ request.

But it is a good question. Why would anyone bring such plagues on themselves? It takes a special type of dissonance to watch the destruction of one’s water supply and think that the problem will go away on it’s own. Or to watch plague and pestilence kill off countless livestock and ignore it. But in truth, that is what mankind has been doing for years.

River dumping has been reduced by quite a bit but we have a long way to go before we can say that our water supplies are not being wasted away. Livestock breeders pump unnecessary antibiotics into their livestock. We still do not understand how that effects our own health; but it is becoming more and more clear that it is not good for us.

Looking at what our response to environmentalists has been until today, had the bible not included God telling Moses that he will harden Pharaoh’s heart I would still have understood Pharaoh ignoring Moses’ requests.

In truth it is not easy to change. It can happen quickly, but it takes a lot to make a paradigm shift. When all of reality is telling you one thing cognitive dissonance is what keeps us in our comfort groove and keeps us chasing the plagues instead of looking for ways out.

More Eco-Rabbi:
What’s In a Blessing?
Jacob’s Cedars

Making All Years, Years Of Plenty

Image Credit: coxy

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