Va'Era: Uncovering the Good
This week we read the portion Va’Era, which translates to a vision, the ability to see beyond. Unfortunately, in this case, the vision in question is actually a prophecy of doom. What is foretold is a great religious war, which is destined to unite the world in violent destruction. Maybe this isn’t the reassuring image you were hoping for in troubled times.
Thankfully, this vision doesn’t need to manifest; it can still be subverted. However, the only way to do so is to unite humanity and fulfil our true, positive purpose. Doesn’t this portion deliver a timely message, then, given the ongoing conflict that we’re enduring in the USA? Divided as we seem to be, unity feels way out of reach. It’s up to us to change that, as Va’Era reminds us.
It’s possible that you feel detached from some of your neighbors right now. It’s easy to dismiss people as “bad” when they think differently to you, and who wants to interact or associate with a bad person? Aren’t we trying to be good? In reality, no person is truly bad. A bad person in this world is just someone who lacks a spiritual education.
That doesn’t mean you’re not better in this regard. It’s highly possible that you are more spiritually advanced than many of the people around you, especially if you’re reading this and connecting deeply right now. That alone doesn’t make you good, however. In fact, the only bad people in this world are those like you, who have a spiritual education, but choose not to share their wisdom with others.
Did you think spirituality was simply your path to self-improvement? You must be totally trapped in ego. You should know that your responsibility extends way beyond yourself. In order for humanity to receive all of G-d’s gifts and in order to prevent the bloodshed that is coming, you better start thinking beyond YOU — and fast.
In this portion, G-d revealed himself to Moses and told him of the seven plagues he would send down on the Pharoah. The Pharaoh deserved this because he was evil. Evil is an interesting word, though. Why? Because it only exists in relation to goodness. We can define evil as simply that which covers our good. In this way, the Pharaoh represents the evil that exists within all of us.
Yes, all of us. There are no exceptions! And if you resist this fundamental truth — that we each contain both good and evil — then you’ve failed to really grasp any spiritual teachings. A truly spiritual person recognizes what is wrong with them, and that’s what motivates them to learn, work, and improve.
G-d sent these plagues because the Pharaoh refused Moses’ demand — to let the Israelites go, a demand that embodied positive values: equality, democracy, and freedom. Despite the inherent goodness of the demand, and even with the imminent threat of these terrible plagues, the Pharaoh chose to cling to his power instead. One thing is for sure, evil is stubborn! Just as it was with the Pharaoh, it continues to be in ourselves. How many plagues will it take for you to change?
We all have a task like Moses. It’s not to liberate the Israelites; it is to liberate our own souls. And we must penetrate seven layers of evil to uncover the good that lies within us, layers that contain a great deal of fear, ego, and apathy. Thankfully, G-d has a solution for us that will help us overcome. After all, every problem we confront was created alongside a solution. But to call down a Divine answer, we must first show our true desire.
It’s clear that we only show our true desire when we experience true desperation. We don’t beg for food until we are starving. We don’t plead for freedom until we’re entrapped. We don’t wish for health until we are sick. Difficult experiences seem to have the side-effect of exposing our truest, deepest desires. When the Israelites screamed for help, G-d heard their true desire. This shows us that nothing we are enslaved to — not even our worst impulses — is as strong as our Divine purpose.
So what can we do to receive the solution, just as they did? First of all, to receive the energies of wisdom and mercy, we need a vessel to carry them. We need a vessel to contain all that abundance. Without one, its power could actually hurt us. To harness positivity, we must make space for it, and we can do this by praying, studying, meditating, expressing gratitude, helping others…In other words, doing good.
By uniting with others, sharing our wisdom, and deepening our spiritual practice, it is possible for us to build this vessel together. Motivated by hope and love, we can bring down G-d’s solution: the light of mercy and the light of wisdom. It has to be emphasized that hope on its own is not enough. It’s not enough if we want to prevent future tragedies and terrible events from occurring. Hope needs action to make an impact.
The warning has been issued, the vision has been foretold, the plagues are already unfolding. But is our goodness stronger than our evil is stubborn? There’s only one way to find out, by putting it to the test.