Yom Sheini, 15 Iyyar 5779
Monday, 20 May 2019
Parashat Va'era 2012

Parashat Va’era by Rabbi Anna Gerrard
20 January 2012

 

This week we watched in horror as the news coverage of the Costa Concordia disaster unfolded.· I am sure I was not the only one who looked at the images and immediately thought of the film, Titanic.

Even those involved in the disaster made the comparison.· One survivor, Ian Donoff, described the ordeal as “something you see in these disaster movies happening to you.”

At first, I felt uneasy about comparing the very real suffering of the passengers of the cruise ship to the sensationalised drama of a Hollywood film.· I worried that the comparison served to undermine the reality of the disaster.

Then I realised that, as is the case with so many awful events that occur in this world, I could not possibly comprehend the reality of the experiences of the passengers of the Costa Concordia.· If anything, the Hollywood films helped me by providing me with a framework in which to ‘feel’ the news.

This kind of framework is often referred to as a Metanarrative, an iconic myth that reflects multiple true experiences and histories.· In Jewish tradition, the Torah is our ultimate Metanarrative.· The Biblical stories are our iconic myths that reflect our own human experiences.

This week, we read about the first of the ten plagues in Parashat Va’era.· When Pharoah refuses to let the Israelites go, God sends Moses to turn the rivers to blood and then sends plagues of frogs and lice.

We could concern ourselves with the historicity of these events, asking whether the waters of the Egyptian rivers really did turn to blood or whether thousands of frogs really did invade Egypt.

Or we could view them as Metanarrative, a framework for understanding the world around us and the all-too-frequent human experience of being subjected to oppression, epidemics and natural disasters.

For Liberal Jews, however, there is a problem.· The plain meaning of the text helps us to understand such events as divine punishment.· We have to go a lot deeper is we want to find real meaning in the text and redeem the Exodus narrative from being little more than sensationalised drama!