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Perashat Shemot

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Perashat Shemot

Friday, January 09, 2015 Author: Rabbi Elie Abadie

Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr (24 November 1808 – 29 September 1890) was a French critic, journalist, and novelist who coined the phrase “plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose"—"the more it changes, the more it's the same thing", usually translated as "the more things change, the more they stay the same," it was published for the first time in Les Guêpes, January 1849. 

This week we witnessed a heinous terrorist attack in Paris at the Charlie Hebdo French Magazine. Even as I am writing this newsletter I am informed that a terrorist hostage crisis is unfolding in Paris. In a Kosher supermarket, 11 people mostly women and children are being held hostage, not that holding male hostages is any less grave. What started as an attack on the magazine’s offices, ended up stirring anti semitic sentiments and resulted in an attack on a Jewish target.  It is only because the environment is ripe with attacks on Israel, de-legitimization and the demonization of the Jews in Europe and in the media with impunity, that more attacks are perpetuated against Jewish targets. 

As is said above “the more things changes the more they stay the same”, if we read the news of 10 years, or 20 years or even 40 years ago we will see similar attacks on Jewish targets. Indeed if we read The Egyptian Times of 3400 years ago we would read similar events. Perashat Shemot, recounts how Pharaoh and his Egyptian population instituted the first edict in history against their Jewish population; the slaying of baby boys during birth. And when that was not effective, Pharaoh commanded his entire people that every son should be thrown into the river. There were many Egyptians that did exactly that, threw Jewish children into the river. In addition, the Midrash tells us that Jewish children were used as mortar filler to build the Egyptian cities. We do not have records from that era that shows the Egyptian population protesting vehemently against these cruel decrees. Only Shifra and Puah, otherwise known as Yokheved and Miriam, Moshe’s mother and sister did not obey Pharaoh’s decree.  Once forced to put Moshe in the river, his sister “stood herself to know what would be done with him”. 

Living far away from the scene in France or in Israel, when terrorist attacks take place, are we doing what Moshe’s sister did ‘standing to know what would be done’ and trying to do something about it? Or are we allowing these attacks on our People to continue with impunity? After all it was Miriam’s, Moshe’s sister, intervention that saved Moshe. 

As Jews, we ought to be concerned about these attacks, protest them and bring about the safety of our brothers in their countries of distress. As individuals and as a community we must let our voices be heard. Let us not have to say next year or the year after that “the more things change, the more they stay the same”.

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