There is a tradition within Judaism that all actions in the world can be viewed through the lens of the Torah reading of the week. Based upon that premise, each of these columns is to help us understand the politics of the world through a biblical lens.
After the farcical hearings in the House of Representatives and weeks of Nancy Pelosi’s unilateral holding on to the articles of impeachment, the process of impeachment has finally started in the Senate. Although anyone who is sensible can look at these proceedings and see them as the political maneuverings that they are, the process puts the entire nation in jeopardy and on alert. The elected president is being put on trial as partisan politicians try to take him out of office. A nation already at odds with itself is going to be more divided as we wait for the Senate to determine how the trial will go. But there is a lesson of hope that can be found in this week’s Torah reading, if we take the time to look.
This week’s portion (entitled Shemot, meaning “Names”) is famous to most people because of films like “The Ten Commandments” and “Prince of Egypt.” It details the enslavement of the ancient Hebrews to Pharaoh and the Egyptians, the birth and ascension of Moses as a leader, the burning bush, and the beginnings of Moses’ leadership of the people. But hidden inside these stories are a few gleanings that can give all of us hope as the Senate is about to begin the impeachment trial.
While some leftists might try to compare President Trump to Pharaoh, the reality is that Pharaoh and his ministers are the embodiment of “the swamp” of ancient Egypt. They have no concern for the people of Egypt, being only concerned with their own personal power. Lies and false accusations are easily said by these ancient Egyptian leaders. Even the word “Pharaoh” itself tells us of their lack of truth or integrity. The Hebrew letters of the word can be transposed not to spell “Pharaoh,” but rather “Peh Ra,” meaning “evil tongue.” The Pharaoh that persecuted so many was consumed by an evil tongue, constantly willing to lie or say whatever was necessary to keep himself and his cohorts in power.
Whether we look at Representatives Schiff, Nadler, Pelosi, or any of the other Democrats who have been willing to lie in order to achieve their goals of retaining power as modern-day Pharaohs is unimportant. More important is the fact that in the same way that the ancient ruling class of Egypt was willing to do or say anything to retain power, so today is the modern Democratic leadership.
Each time in the Torah that Moses attempts to reform the Egyptian power structure, based on God’s instructions, these ancient Egyptian leaders attempt to make it even more difficult on him and the Hebrews. But this week’s reading ends with a promise of hope for both the ancients and modern Americans. “The Lord said to Moses, “You shall soon see what I will do to Pharaoh: he shall let them go because of a greater might” (Ex. 6:1). God is always on the side of freedom with responsibility, and the promise long ago holds true today as well.
We are already seeing over the last few weeks how the partisan efforts of closed-door testimonies in basement rooms have backfired on the Democratic leadership in the polls. Pelosi’s attempts of manipulation are backfiring against not only her own party, but are strengthening the support of all Americans who want to be rid of the political swamp that has controlled Washington for so long. More and more Americans are realizing the political games that are being played, and more and more disdain is being heaped upon the partisan attempt at ousting a duly elected president.
As we begin the impeachment process in earnest, the Torah gives us hope. In the same way that the ancient Pharaoh ultimately was used by God to show the people the corruption of Egypt, these modern pharaohs will also see a greater might as the trial moves forward: the might of the American people who no longer want the corruption that has become so obvious throughout these congressional hearings.
May we all soon see the evil mouths of corrupt politicians for what they are, and find ourselves blessed with leaders who take their responsibility of leadership as a blessing and privilege of service to the American people.
Rabbi Michael Barclay is the Spiritual Leader of Temple Ner Simcha in Westlake Village, CA., and the author of “Sacred Relationships: Biblical Wisdom for Deepening Our Lives Together.” He can be reached directly at [email protected]