Sermon for January 28, 2017: Denial or the Nile?
In last week’s Torah portion, Miriam watched while Pharaoh’s daughter pulled Miriam’s baby brother Moshe from his little basket in the Nile, then made sure that he was safe and would be cared for by his own mother, at least for a while. The Nile, the giver of life for the entire area, was intended by Pharaoh to be the bringer of death to newborn Hebrew boys – “cast them into the Nile,” he decreed in last week’s portion. But Moshe was saved through Divine and human help, or better, humans acting through Divine inspiration.
In this week’s Torah portion, Moshe must bring G-d’s first plague against the Egyptians upon the Nile, turning its water to blood. G-d commands Moshe to have his brother Aharon, not Moshe himself, hold his rod over the water, perhaps because he had been nurtured on and saved from that very water. While the Torah says that “they did as the Lord had commanded,” the text says “he (presumably Aharon) lifted up the rod and then struck the water in the Nile,” and the miracle occurred. In the second plague, frogs arose from the Nile and fouled everything on land. So it is safe to say that the Nile was crucial, not only in Egyptian life, but in that of Moshe as well.
We are no longer in Egypt, so we needn’t worry much about the Nile – our concern today is with “denial.” When the Israelites’ suffering under Egyptian slavery could no longer be denied, they cried out to G-d, Who sent them Moshe and Aharon. And when Moshe encountered G-d at the burning bush, he tried to deny his suitability to the task of leading his people out of Egypt, but his denial was countered in every way.
We, too, cannot afford denial at this point. We need to counter unreasonable political developments in every way that we can, to not try to stick our heads into the sand and deny the reality of what we can clearly see is happening. We need to look no further back than the early 1930s to see the folly of denial. Because if we engage in that kind of denial now, we might as well be floating on the Nile, but this time, who will save us?