Yom Rivii, 19 AdarI 5781
Wednesday, 3 March 2021
Parashat Bo 2015

Parashat Bo
23rd January 2015 - Rabbi Sandra Kviat

‘…and a thick darkness descended upon all the lands of Europe for three days. People could not see one another, and for three days no one could get up from where they were; but all the Israelites enjoyed light in their dwellings’.·
(From Exodus 10.22-23)

It is a common theme at seders to also try and name modern plagues that destroy our life,· and so we dip our fingers in the wine and call out; cancer, AIDS, terrorism, cynicism, arrogance, indifference.

But a plague has re-entered our lives; a plague that infests like locusts, and paralyses us. That plague is fear. Stark, pervading and almost physical. Ever since the massacres in Paris we have been more than wary, and so has everyone around us. Fear is contagious, it consumes everything like locusts.

Howard Jacobson was quoted in an article in the Guardian by Robert Booth (20.01.2015) saying;·‘…people simply don’t know how concerned they should be’, and that uncertainty is part of the feeling of fear. And though we cannot and should not underestimate how we are feeling, we should also be careful with the reports and statistics that are being used. As Rabbi Danny Rich wrote in a response to the Guardian article; ‘The challenge of reports like that of Robert Booth’s is that they do not constitute evidence of an actual increased risk of attack but rather increase the risk of the Jewish community cutting itself off from the wider community and retreating to fortress synagogues, schools and community centres’.

The image of Egyptians, stumbling around in their houses, blind to the person next to them, and confined to their houses, could become a metaphor for us if we are not careful. In the opening quote above all I did was to substitute the name ‘Egypt’ with ‘Europe’ and it felt like a relevant description of the mood in the past few weeks.

We are living in a time of tension; one the one hand we have a heightened awareness of threat and on the other hand we also need to recognise that that we live in a country of tolerance, freedom, and protection. The best antidote to fear is to go on living our daily lives, embracing normalcy and neighbours. We need to reach out, to people of all faiths and none, to work, talk and eat together, and through our openness dispel the darkness.

Let us not be like the Egyptians stumbling in blind panic in the darkness.