Va’eira – A Prophet’s Life Is Not An Easy One

I would never want to be a prophet. It’s a thankless task. You receive instructions from G-d that foretell future scenarios. Invariably you are asked to change the mind of one of the most stubborn stiff-necked peoples in the world. And nearly always your efforts are an abject failure – no-one listens to you. In fact, you might be tempted to just ignore the instructions and go on a cruise – as Jonah did, and had a whale of a time! Moses’ circumstances are no different. An elderly man rides in from the desert on a donkey, with an older man by his side, both carrying staffs and wearing serious faces. Moses comes to the city square. The unusual sight soon gathers a sizeable audience which quickly grows. And Moses announces that he is going to take the Jewish people out of Egypt. The crowd quickly thins out. A crazy man. He’ll get us into trouble. Who is he anyway? The text says the people refuse to listen. But the text also provides a clue to the people’s state of mind. They refuse to go, says the text, “because of shortness of breath and the harsh work conditions”. Breath is the singularly most revealing tool of our body. The rhythm of breathing changes with mental and emotional states. Under duress, the body needs more oxygen and breaths therefore becomes shorter and quicker. It also means that the mind is not thinking clearly. This was the condition of the Hebrew slaves. They could not focus, or even fathom, the notion of potential freedom. •At the end Moses won out, but not without cajoling, dissent, miracles, and a final plague of death of the first-born Egyptians. The life of a prophet is not an easy one. Knowing what happens next is not always the quick path to the future. Maybe better the short long way. Work that one out.