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Heeding the Signs (Va’era 01/13/24)

Heeding the Signs

This past Shabbat, our Bar Mitzvah celebrant, Jason R., delivered a very poignant D’var Torah that I’d like to share with you.

“In my Reading, Parshat Va’era, Moses shows multiple signs to Pharoah that God wants the Jewish people to be freed from their slavery.

First, the Nile turns to blood. The river was undrinkable for seven days, and many wildlife died.

Then God sends a plague of frogs, which personally wouldn’t bother me, living with the blaring siren of my pet frog. However, the ancient Egyptians were not doing too well with frogs interrupting their sleep and daily activities.

In my last aliyah, God sent a plague of lice, which Pharoah’s magicians tried to reproduce but couldn’t. Though tons of lice irritated and infected the people, Pharoah still said no.

Pharoah would endure ten horrific plagues before he’d change his mind.

Unfortunately, leaders like Pharoah, leaders who ignore the signs, don’t just live in ancient history, but they guide and lead us regularly.

This past summer was the hottest one recorded in history. There’s been a twenty-year drought in the Western United States. Slowly, countries are making changes, but the signs have been around for years.

You could wonder why people don’t realize or take action against the signs, but it all boils down to money

  • Coal is cheaper, and the miners need their jobs.
  • The oil refiners were afraid that they wouldn’t sell as much gas.
  • Change is expensive, and alternatives like solar and geothermal require a lot of investment.

In the end, we have damaged our planet for the sake of profit.

Are we any different than Pharoah? Why couldn’t he let the Hebrew slaves go? Because they were cheap labor and the economy was dependent upon them. Pharoah thought the setback of the plagues would cost less than the expense of change.

However, in recent years, we have learned that when we ignore the signs, they don’t go away. Pharoah learned the hard way, and now so are we.

The United Nations just announced that we need to half our carbon footprint by 2030 if we want a viable planet, and as of now, it is looking hopeless unless we make a considerable change.

Will we be like Pharoah, waiting to see what happens? Or should we be proactive and start making changes in our consumption now?

We should act against things that can harm our planet, even though it might be costly and require more effort.

Some of you may be familiar with what I am saying as Tikkun Olam, a Jewish value of great importance that means repairing the world.


We should try to do more eco-friendly activities, recycle, plant native foliage, and help with causes to stop harming the planet and help care for things in need.

This can be shown in my mitzvah project at Tackapausha Museum and Preserve. I cleaned out and set up an enclosure for a rescued orphaned red-tailed boa. It is a very large snake in desperate need after tragic things had happened to it. It was meaningful for me to help in this way. Knowing the snake now has a safe home with proper care reminds me that we can all make a positive change to repair the world.”

Jason is correct. We can all make the world a better place. One step at a time, we’ll heal our planet and perhaps even see snow on Long Island once more.

Stay warm,

R’ Neil

Manetto Hill Jewish Center
244 Manetto Hill Road, Plainview, NY 11803
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