Friday, January 27, 2012

Pharaoh, Grab A Piece of Humble Pie

In order to persuade Pharaoh, God sends ten plagues to promote the Israelites' liberation. At first, Pharaoh's courtiers imitate the plagues. Like God with the Nile, they use powder to turn water into blood. As the plagues continue, the magicians find it harder to duplicate God's wonders. By the final three plagues' arrivals, all of Egypt is stunned by God, yet Pharaoh continually grants the Jews freedom and restricts it just as quickly. In Egypt, Pharaoh arrogantly rise above all his subjects. God continually hardens his heart to humiliate Pharaoh, for Pharaoh believes he is higher than God. Pharaoh thinks the Egyptian gods and their kingdoms exceeds the greatness of anything else in the universe. God sends locusts to destroy the fields that feed the vast population of Egypt. Then, God casts darkness over Egypt, showing the darkness of Pharaoh's heart. Finally, God sends the worst of wonders. In an ultimate attempt to free Israel, God releases the Angel of Death. The angel passes over any Israelite house, for they are distinguished by the lamb's blood on their doorposts. The Torah proclaims a horrid cry shrieked throughout Egypt. Every family from the Pharaoh's to the slaves' suffers during the tenth plague. This horror angers Pharaoh, but he releases the Israelites. In a hurry, the Israelites run to the sea of reeds, waiting to escape Egypt.

After a few plagues, Pharaoh begins to succumb to Moses' demands, yet God continually changes Pharaoh's mind. When one's arrogance rises to the level of Pharaoh's, utter humiliation is the only solution. Humility is the recognition of one's own faults, realizing that one lacks the abilities of another person or God. As God destroys the foundation of Pharaoh's empire, the stubborn man learns humility. Due to his sins in Egypt and the wilderness, Moses learn humility by not going to the Promised Land. Many think modesty lessens the quality of a human's character, but this virtue contrarily enhances the human state. Without it, humans puts themselves on a pedestal. This arrogant thinking leads to the feeling of being superior to others. Following suit, the arrogance forces one to place him or herself above God, an impossible feat. The ability to seek help when needed is a key aspect of every great leader. President Obama fails to complete every governmental task alone, for every person excels in some realms and fails in others. Unfortunately, one must always keep their humility in check. While sheepishness improves a human's character, an abundance of humility is disastrous for one's self esteem. Life is an ongoing struggle between confidence and humility.

It is hypocritical of me to discuss humility, for I lack much of it in my own life. This conflict between arrogance and modesty is one I encounter daily. Last year, I lacked confidence. I was too humble, scolding myself on every exacting detail. Now, I exude confidence wherever I go, but sometimes it comes without restraint. Confidence is a blessing of success, but it also intimidates others. Self-pride leads to arrogance, and arrogance forces divine intervention, as seen in the parashat. God frowns upon the arrogant. To escape this inevitable fate, I must discover this balance. Music helps me uncover these internal faults. I find playing the drums difficult, for the number of things to keep in mind is unruly. While the basic percussionist only worries about playing rhythms correctly, one must remember dynamics, tempo, stick height, accents, and a number of other musical foes to truly produce music. Even when I play the drums well, I know some aspect of music lacked in my performance. The only way to improvement is through practicing and seeking help from experts. Keep humility in mind this week. Why do we criticize prior to complimenting when we observe others? As we go through this week, we should be especially aware of each other's strengths and weaknesses. The balance between humility and arrogance is a tough median to find, but only together can we avoid a horrible cry throughout the land of Egypt.
-Being aware of others strengths and weakness

Friday, January 20, 2012

Were the Occupy Wall Street Protests Successful?

Last week, I discussed the relationship between the Book of Exodus and Occupy Wall Street. In both instances, oppressed people's frustration resulted in civil protest. Moses and Aaron requested Pharaoh's liberation of the Jewish people in the name of God. On Wall Street, the 99% demanded the reformation of the plutocracy that was once their democracy. People across the United States called on the government to isolate themselves from corporations, for these activists felt politicians voted with companies in mind rather than people. While God sent ten plagues to change Pharaoh's mind, no deity helped these occupiers. Instead of hail and frogs, these protesters endured cold nights and pepper spray. Some say the message of the occupiers came across as unclear, but it seems that was just their intention. By camping out in the epicenter of capitalism, these men and women tried to express their feelings to the world. It is difficult to equate the Arab Spring to Occupy Wall Street, for the politicians in Washington were not the root of their problem. This fall's protesters criticized the Americans values as represented across our society. They questioned the power of a bank to force somebody into the cold, the say an oil company deserves in environmentalism, and the reasoning that grants the Kardashians more tax cuts than a struggling state employee. Police forces banned the encampment at most of these sites, but these troubled Americans, like Aaron, God, and Moses, refused to quit. As the intensity of these protests stagnates, it is important to ask what affect, if any at all, these protests truly forced upon the rest of society.

Were the Occupy Wall Street protests successful? By the end of November, the protest sites degenerated into homeless shelters. The message that came across to the American public was disorganized. While we comprehended these people were the 99%, what did they want? Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream, as celebrated this week, was clear. Moses presented a lucid argument to Pharaoh. The Occupy Movement is historically analogous to the revolutions that occurred in 1848 France. The protests at both times were sudden but overwhelmingly failed to change society. When the United Kingdom and Germany shifted the European balance of power, the French grew angry. They demanded revolution similar to 1789, but the Radicals closed their ears to liberals. The change flopped, but the anger remained. In terms of pushing legislation, Occupy Wall Street failed.

Were all those nights in Zuccotti Park a waste? Politicians poorly answered the demands of the protesters, but they heard the people's voice. Few protesters end unrecognized because they embody the people's frustration. While a clear message might help the occupiers progress, their opaqueness showed how many problems the American people battle. The protests inspired celebrities like Warren Buffet to call for action in Washington. Unlike 1848, Occupy Wall Street laid stepping stones that can lead to change. The French fight caused more anarchy than reformation. Throughout history, republics failed to represent their citizens. Now, the American people are taking initiative. Instead of waiting for Congress to wave their magic wand, the people want solutions as fast as they want their internet speed. The protests earned my support. The United States is a plutocracy, a country run by the rich for the rich. By camping in Manhattan, the people shoved this fact in front of the public. As with the Israelites in Egypt, sometimes protests need to bring physical change. Others fight to raise awareness. In the 1960's, the anti-war movement pushed congressional leaders to strategize the evacuation of Vietnam. It showed the frustration of the nation's citizens. Like those fighters who did not see results until 1971, I recommend the Occupy Wall Street Movement to continue their call for change. By prolonging their campaign, whether it be with tents, signs, Facebook, or any combination of the three, I will deem the Occupy Wall Street Movement a success.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Occupy the Goshen?

After the passing of Joseph, the Jews remain in Egypt. The Israelites proliferate, which causes Pharaoh to fear them joining forces with others rebels in an uprising. By this point, the new Pharaoh no longer remembers how Joseph saved Egypt. To ease his apprehension, Pharaoh enslaves the Israelites. He demands the execution of an entire generation of Israelite boys. While the Egyptians carry out this order, one baby survives. Jochebed, the mother of Moses, sends her son down the Nile River in a basket. The princess allegedly encounters Moses, and she raises him as her own son. As Moses observes his subjects as prince of Egypt, he stumbles upon an Egyptian mercilessly beating an Israelite. Enraged, Moses murders the overseer, hoping nobody sees this ordeal. Unfortunately, Moses' sin spreads throughout Egypt. Moses escapes to Midian where he works as a shepherd. One day, Moses takes his flock into the mountains. He notices a bush engulfed in flames but hardly burning. Through this bush, God talks to Moses. God commands Moses to return to Egypt and liberate the Jewish people. Moses attempts to convince God he is not worthy of such a task, but God refuses to listen. At first, Moses retorts he is unworthy of such a divine task. He also fears the Israelites' and Pharaoh's inability to believe God sent him. Finally, Moses complains how he speaks poorly, but in all these cases God's fidelity will be with him. Aaron and Moses meet in the desert, and they begin their ordeal with Pharaoh. Instead of freeing the Israelites, Pharaoh makes the workload heavier. Here, the story of exodus breaks. Unfortunately, the Israelites are no more excited of their possible liberation than the straw they must gather which was once supplied by Pharaoh.

Moses attempts to flee from the politics of Egypt. He recognizes the Egyptian treatment of Israelites is corrupt, yet Moses refuses to reform the system, even when he is in power. Many of us try to run away from the pressures of daily life in a similar way. Some of us handle stress better than others, yet we eventually all hide an issue until it supersedes that control and insists to burst. God finds Moses regardless of his location. Then, God commands Moses to rise to the occasion of saving the Israelites Most of our problems do not receive special attention from God, but they similarly haunt us. Like Moses, we try to make excuses to avoid our stresses, but the reality of the situation hardly seems to fade. Eventually, we all must confront our anxieties. While we cower with the thought of an upcoming test, one can only throughly study to truly relieve him or herself. Whether the test goes well or not, it arrives. Likewise, a relationship that should not last forever never does, but the breakup lingers until one of the members ends the failing romantic affair. The relief that follows the solution greatly outweighs the preceding tension. Problems should not dwell within oneself, but they should be methodically resolved, creating a better situation.

In their attempts to follow God's orders, Aaron and Moses light the spark to a revolution. While problems can be fled and solved on a personal level, we also must apply the lessons taught by Moses to society. The issues of the world are not stories made up by newscasters. When many people die in a battle, those people are real. Living in one of the world's most well-endowed nations blinds a number of Americans to the troubles of the modern world. We hear about an earthquake in Haiti and forget about it two years later, yet those Haitians remain impoverished. Journalists exposed large companies of child abuse, but we continue to buy clothes from these cruel corporations. When we are informed of a problem distasteful to us, we should set out to cure it. In 2011, a group of Americans decided to take to the streets and call this country and its corporations out for their corruption. Whether the occupy movement or any other protest is right or wrong in their message, they should be applauded for their exercise of their beliefs. PHaraoh and the NYPD tried to shut down their opposing movement, but like the burning burn, these rebels' passions never fatigued. God believed in keeping promises, so the Israelites absolutely needed to be freed from bondage. When the stresses of our personal or societal lives become too heavy a burden to bear, escape is not an option. Even in the mountains of Midian, God can find us.