923 McCallie Avenue, Chattanooga, TN 37403

Parshat Va’era: Stubborn Minds – January 12, 2024

Exodus 7:22

וַיַּֽעֲשׂוּ־כֵ֛ן חַרְטֻמֵּ֥י מִצְרַ֖יִם בְּלָטֵיהֶ֑ם וַיֶּחֱזַ֤ק לֵב־פַּרְעֹה֙ וְלֹא־שָׁמַ֣ע אֲלֵהֶ֔ם כַּאֲשֶׁ֖ר דִּבֶּ֥ר יְהֹוָֽה׃

But when the Egyptian magician-priests did the same with their spells, Pharaoh’s heart stiffened and he did not heed them—as the Lord had spoken.

Many of us are struggling with the way Israel is perceived amongst the international community. While misinformation abounds, and a story about this war is painted in the International Court of Justice, it can feel like evidence, verified testimony, anything to justify Israel is willfully discounted in order to paint Israel as unequivocally and uniquely villainous. What can be done to change the narrative, to enable those who have firmly made up their minds to change them? 

The Exodus begins with a similar attempt to change stubborn minds. God sends ten plagues, miraculous in nature, in order to prove to Pharaoh that he is not the ultimate divine entity. Ten plagues are sent to justify the claim of Moses and Aaron that the God of Israel is powerful and real, and the Israelites ought to be free. One supernatural plague should be enough proof that a powerful divine entity is at play here, but plague after plague Pharaoh and the Egyptians willfully disbelieve what they see with their own eyes.

It’s only after the tenth and most tragic plague that Pharaoh has a moment of clarity, and gives his permission for the Israelites to leave. But moments later we see him angry, disbelieving yet again that he could be wrong, and pursuing the Israelites into the sea of reeds. It’s there that Pharaoh and the Egyptians meet their end, their heartened hearts leading them astray until horse and rider drown under the waves.  We may not have the power to change stubborn minds. The Torah teaches us that even a supernatural sign from God may be of limited use. But we can pray that truth prevails, and that we ourselves not be led astray by stubborn minds and heartened hearts, because we know where it leads.

Office Hours

B’nai Zion Congregation
923 McCallie Avenue
Chattanooga, TN 37403
(enter parking lot from Oak Street)

Monday: Closed
Tuesday-Thursday: 10:00am – 4:00pm
Friday: 10:00am – 3:00pm

Please call ahead to confirm someone will be in the office when you arrive!


Rabbi Samuel Rotenberg: rabbirotenberg@bzcongregation.com

Autumn Clark, Office Manager: office@bzcongregation.com

Phone: 423.894.8900

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