There are four traditional questions that are recited at the Passover Seder. But the real first question is this:Rabbi Jesus? That's Rebbetzin Jesus, you Patriarchal shill!
"Is Pharaoh our god, or is the Breath of Life?"
From Rabbi Jesus marching in Jerusalem against the Roman Empire just before Passover time ("Palm Sunday") down to Fannie Lou Hamer chanting Black American freedom songs like "Go Down, Moses," the Exodus story has been used for centuries as an inspiration for resistance to tyrants.
We should also pay attention to the other side of the story: its brilliant description of Pharaoh's addiction to top-down, unaccountable power. We should pay attention because we are living through this history in America today.If only he'd listened. Those icecaps would be firming back up already.
The story begins at the end of the Book of Genesis with a Pharaoh who feeds the whole nation during famine -- at the price of taking over all their land, turning yeoman farmers into serfs. Then comes a Pharaoh who turns his absolute power into a military addiction -- an aggressive army of chariots and an internal police that scapegoats the Israelite "foreign element," enforces slavery, and attempts genocide. Finally this addiction to coercion shapes a Pharaoh who cannot step back from his own need for control and violence, even though it brings about disaster for himself and his country.
Pharaoh begins by hardening his own heart to the plight of the poor and powerless, and after a series of disasters (the "plagues") brought on by his own arrogance, his addiction takes over.
God -- read "Reality" -- takes over, and from then on it is God Who hardens his heart.
What is this like? -- Use heroin once, twice, thrice - and you are making a free choice. But at some point the addiction takes over, Reality takes over, God takes over. Now it is the heroin that is doing you, not you doing heroin.
If you choose hard-heartedness so long you get addicted to it, at some point you are no longer choosing: God, Reality, is hardening your heart.
And arrogance is not only a moral and spiritual malady. It breeds stupidity. For those who are utterly convinced of their own absolute rightness cannot hear the warnings of others, cannot pay attention to the signals from the world around them.
Pharaoh depends more and more on violence to control the rebellious world --- rebellious workers, his own rebellious daughter, the rebellious earth itself. Even when Pharaoh's own advisers shriek at him, "You are destroying Egypt!" he can no longer turn back.
At each stage, at each plague, Pharaoh pauses for a moment, but then falls back into its addictive march to disaster.
We have seen this happen in Washington -- twice. In June 2002, the Environmental Protection Agency reported to the UN a bleak picture of the probable effects of global "warming" on the US itself. A few weeks later, a reporter asked the President what he thought of the report. "Ohhh, bureaucrats!" sneered the president. Even a warning from his own advisers that his policies were endangering America did not deter him.
Just a few months ago, the same scenario. The Iraq Study Group, made up of Establishment luminaries (structurally, our equivalent of "Pharaoh's own advisers"), warned that the Iraq war was weakening America. They called for a staged withdrawal of troops from Iraq and for direct discussions with Syria and Iran. But the Bush Administration's pharaoh-like addiction to power and violence took over once again, and it decided to send more Americans to die in Iraq and decided to threaten - and perhaps to consummate - a war against Iran.Did I mention that this was written by Rabbi Arthur Somebody?
Today, we face not merely a single person but a set of interlocking institutions that are our "Pharaoh" -- Big Oil, the swollen military, the Imperial White House. This Pharaoh has so addicted itself to its own uncontrollable power that it can no longer make a free choice.The plague of disappearing health insurance!
Unfortunately, when those who have great power insulate themselves in arrogance and violence, the disasters they create do not wound only themselves. They wound the whole society.
* They chose to ignore evidence that Al Qaeda was preparing a major strike inside the US,
* chose to ignore warnings of plans for a airliner hijacking,
* chose to ignore scientists' warnings about the onrushing climate crisis of global scorching,
* chose to ignore all the warnings that an invasion of Iraq would mire the US in a disastrous and unending occupation,
* chose to ignore all the evidence that Saddam had no mass-destruction weapons, and chose to invent evidence that he did,
* chose to smear, humiliate, and fire honest officials who questioned these falsities;
* chose to ignore warnings of hurricane disaster in New Orleans and chose to ignore the plight of hundreds of thousands of people who could not evacuate the city,
* chose as Attorney-General, Chief Justice, and Associate Justice of the Supreme Court supporters of Presidential power to order the use of torture despite US and international law,
* chose to ignore the health and educational needs of Americans in order to funnel obscene amounts of money to those already rich.
The results of this arrogance have been enormous disasters. Plagues:
The advance of global scorching and the melting of the Arctic ice.
The disappearance of health insurance for one-fourth of the American people.
The debacle of care for veterans at Walter Reed Army Hospital.[...]