Shemot – Of Gamblers, Pharaoh and You

Consider a compulsive gambler in a casino. He is a high roller with plenty of money. He spends all night at the tables and loses the $100,000 he came with. But the casino says to him: ‘we know you’re good for your money – let us give you some chips on the house so you can stay and play tomorrow. We will give you an upgrade on your suite as well so you can have a great sleep during the day.” He is a gambler, so he takes the chips. And drops another $150,000 this time. And the ploy goes on for ten times in a row.

How foolish is that? Yet that’s the mind of a compulsive gambler: my luck will change. It must and I will make it all up, and more.

But you don’t have to be a gambler to think this way. You can even be a Pharaoh, as we learn in this week’s Parsha of Shemot. He is warned by Moses that his kingdom will be plagued. But he can’t dispense with his Jewish servants. They are just too good for the economy. So he goes another round and another plague hits, despite being warned. And so it goes on for ten plagues straight – each with prior warning. Each time an intelligent, skilful, powerful king loses it. He is a compulsive despot – and he can’t bear the thought of losing a slave nation that serves him, builds his royal treasuries, and takes out the garbage in the evening to boot.

And yet, isn’t that us in so many ways? How many foibles do you have that you simply can’t do away with? You know that sweets can likely cause horrible diabetes. You know smoking will destroy your lungs. You know that marijuana plays with your brain. You know that couching potatoes will block your heart. But you gamble that tomorrow will be different and you will survive another 24 hours. Like the gambler. Like Pharaoh.

So don’t read the Parsha as history. It is happening right now – even to you. Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.