January 14, 2021
By Jason Miller-Goodman, Federation Board Member
I used to teach Torah portions to middle schoolers who were preparing for their b’nei mitzvah; the overall consensus is that Exodus is the most exciting book! In last week’s portion we were introduced to Moses. In this week’s portion, Va-eira, there are plagues. Spoiler alert, next week there are more plagues. So much is happening in these opening portions of Exodus; however, Va-eira shows us the struggles Moses had in just gaining the trust of the Israelites. The Lord had imbued Moses to go to the Israelites to try and convince them to leave. They were so crushed by their enslavement, they didn’t budge. Moses then implored Pharaoh to let the Israelites go; Pharaoh didn’t budge. The Lord’s response to this was turning the Nile to blood. Pharaoh remained stubborn, so the Lord, Moses, and Aaron worked in tandem to release frogs throughout Egypt, then lice, then swarms of insects, then pestilence of livestock, then boils, and to end this portion, fire and hail storms. The plagues will continue next week, which is a relief for anyone reading this week because that’s a lot of destruction over a short amount of time.
However, in Chapter 8, we are told after the relief of the plague of frogs that “Pharaoh saw that there was relief, [but] he became stubborn and would not heed.” In this verse, we learned that Pharaoh could have avoided destruction after the second plague. After all, Pharaoh did say if the plagues stopped, he would let the Israelites go. Nonetheless, once the pain and turmoil ended, Pharaoh immediately became stubborn. He quickly forgot his troubles.
I, like every living thing on this planet, have run into problems. Thinking on a small scale, though, I know that I have the tendency to swear that I will go to bed early when I’m tired so that it won’t happen again the next day. I promise to avoid eating that last slice of pizza to avoid feeling overindulged. I pledge to be more active when I feel sluggish. I usually stick to these oaths and go full steam ahead, but then fizzle out in a short amount of time. I quickly forget the consequences of staying up late, overindulging, and choosing the television over a walk.
The world around us seems to be in turmoil. COVID-19, the election, the events at the Capitol last week, the uncertainty around the upcoming legislative sessions at the state and federal level are just some things. But, humankind has always persevered and sifted through the problems that surround us, even if it is little by little. The challenge, though, does not solely lie in solving the problems. Instead, there has to be a game plan to sustain and prevent further problems. If not, we will continue to fall into a cycle of plagues when things get easier.
Luckily, Federation has committed to strengthening Jewish communities here, everywhere, always. In six words, the staff and Board work faithfully to ensure that Jewish communities do not succumb to metaphoric plagues…ever. More importantly, the Federation works hard to empower these Jewish communities. Will we always be successful in our mission? I absolutely hope so, but it takes consistency and persistence to achieve this mission, and it is not always idyllic. The Federation staff is a team of all-stars that coordinates the execution of this mission every day. The rest of us support them in that mission by doing our part, whether it be by giving, planning, volunteering, or anything else that is needed. In just the past few years, I have seen this Federation step up and help not just the San Antonio Jewish community but also other communities around the world. We have overcome the task of gaining the trust of our community, which is a precious thing that I hope never gets compromised.
Federation has consistently proven that it will not take for granted their relationship with the community. I really did not appreciate the awesomeness of this organization until 2017 when Hurricane Harvey smashed into the Gulf Coast. Within days, this Federation was able to mobilize and deliver a huge truck full of supplies to Houston communities who had been hit hard. Since then, I’ve watched a multitude of fundraisers and events to harness resources and bring important awareness to issues surrounding us. The Federation has never underappreciated the needs of our Jewish community, and I don’t envision it ever will. However, I implore us always to remember to be persistent in our enduring mission of strengthening Jewish communities here, everywhere, always. If we are steadfast in upholding our values, I am confident our Jewish community, among others, will continue to flourish and grow stronger. Thanks so much and be well!