The Force of Real Activism in the Torah (from Parshat Bo)


Jewish Youth Protest

Jewish Youth Protest for USSR Refusniks – during the 1980s people of all backgrounds. Not just the youth, but in a rare display of solidarity whole families and all corners of society were part of the protest to help allow the Jews of Russia the right to immigrate to freedom in Israel

This week is Parshat Bo we are learn about Moses and his protest for the freedom of the children Israel. He fought for their right for freedom, human dignity, for their ability to keep their own possession, and for the integrity of family life.

What we learn is that Moses protested in the most aggressive and supernatural fashion. He raised havoc. But seemingly nothing was more irritating at times than his verbal demands for liberation. So much so that Pharaoh at one points decides not to even face Moses anymore.

Of Pharaoh we learn that he was a man of a hard heart. He found it easy to be cruel, nothing could phase him. When he appears to concede to Moses, even then he make an amazingly cruel shift saying that the men should go free, but not the children because they don’t really need them. They will mess things up if left to their own devices and evil things will befall them if Pharaoh lets them go, he contends. (Exodus 10:10) He reminds me of a lot of politicians, just plain cold in the face of people’s hopes for a better life for themselves and their children.

In Rashi’s commentary he points out that right after this statement and “compromise” there was such a ruckus of protest. Our text says, “Vayevaresh otam mayeit penei Paroh / he chased them out from before Pharaoh.” (Exodus 10:11)

But who are we speaking of? Rashi rightfully points out that it doesn’t identify who chased away the crowd at the court of Pharaoh. Whether it was Pharaoh running them off, or if it was Moses and his protest along with that of the Egyptian advisers who wanted Pharaoh to relent that cleared the room.

sharanskyprotestThis year we need to get serious about activism. But activism with a purpose, with a focus on the needs of the people we love. Not just protesting some nameless conceptualization of humanity and it’s maladies. We need to get serious and decide to be persistent people. Pressing the issue until we get cleared from the room, or we clear the room ourselves.

Recently I have been talking with friends that were active in the Occupy Movement. One of the things that we have been talking about is the truth that people need to break their complacency and be active in bringing to light the issues of real concern. They voiced that their disappointment in the Occupy tone of protest was because it lacked any real substance or focus, it was just a rave of ideas and no real aim or goal. Which is a shame, we have so many things that need a dedicated focus upon to help make a difference in the lives of people right away.

What do you think needs to be realized by the modern activist? What are the topics of concern that you know well? What are issues that really matter to the people in your life, issue that you know well and can help advocate for?

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