Rabbi Moshe Pitchon

Rabbi Moshe Pitchon

Reading the TaNaKh in the 21st century

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Pesah this Year

“Epidemic,” and “Pandemic” are scientific terms designed to describe a threat that requires immediate extreme responses to forestall a life form from infiltrating and annihilating other life-forms such as ours.

When not reduced solely to a scientific perspective the appropriate term for this sort of intrusion is “plague”- as in the “Ten Plagues of Egypt.”

True, today it is not, blood, frogs, lice, flies, pestilence, boils, hail, locusts, darkness, but a single virus the one that is menacing the most powerful civilization in the world.  It is not the first born that are being killed but their parents and grandparents. Scientific terminology aside, what we are facing is a plague.

The Hebrew Scriptures refer to plagues as “signs,” events that convey a message; all plagues carry a demand.

The misery that fell upon the greatest empire of its time was that Pharaoh and his “magicians” weren’t paying attention to the message, their eyes were of the phenomena itself. How could have they done otherwise? They were unprepared, having been too busy building armies and forts to protect their borders; bigger and more luxurious pyramids: tombs to satisfy their egos.

When the plagues came it seemed so sudden, so “out-of-the-blue.” Forced to contend with the eminent threat, there was no time to deal with its deep root.

After the severity of each new level of the plague finally brought them to their knees, they had no choice but to heed to the message. Their heeding lasted just a short time and eventually they condemned their civilization to end in museums around the world.

The message then as today was pretty much the same:

Human beings are to be stewards of the world respecting, if not protecting every natural environment and every animal habitat, certainly not encroaching their territory.

If we want to live long lives we should do it not to become full-time tourists embarking every time in bigger and more luxurious cruise ships. We should meditate on what we’ve learned during our lifetime and help the new generations, if nothing else, through cautionary wisdom.

Instead of continue building crowded cities, eroding coastal lines and ignoring life other than ours we should be focused on the fact that we share the world with all forms of life.

Haven’t we learned anything from Egypt? Is that the reason why we don’t read the Torah and if we do we interpret it as something that happened to the “other” but cannot happen to us?

In a few more days Jews are going to seat around a table to ponder about this message. The strategy to do this is to see ourselves as if– each one of us had personally left the land of Egypt.”


This year this leap of our imagination should not be too difficult to accomplish.


Most probably, unable to be with our whole families we will be able to commemorate Pessah, not as a social gathering, but for the right learning reason: to remember the message that the world doesn’t exist for us to own it but to share it and protect it.


Call it “God,” call it “the world” the fact is that we are being warned



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