The Facebook phenomenon never ceases to humor me. I often call it the Shep Nachas site, as so many of my friends are posting about their children’s various successful accomplishments, deep insights, or laughable foibles. In November of election years it becomes the site where people are given a much broader voice to air their political opinions than they might otherwise have. And, more recently, I have watched it also because a strange “virtual” support group for people who have suffered losses, injuries, or illnesses. It is in so many ways a “real” community, and in so many ways anything but a “real” community.
Sometimes I wonder too if Facebook had existed in biblical times what it would have looked like. Would Egypt have been spared the Plagues we read about in this week’s Torah portion, Parashat Va-era, if after the first plague (blood) Facebook would have lit up with Egyptian complaints? Or, similarly, would Moses have Tweeted the Exodus (#letmypeoplego, “We’re marching now!”)? Are Facebook and other social media sites today similar or greater than the bully pulpit of yesteryear?
In our Torah portion this week, at Moses’ request, God assigns Aaron to accompany Moses before Pharaoh because Moses was “aral s’fatayim-of sealed (actually, “uncircumcised”) lips” (Ex. 6:12 and Ex. 6:30). From this notion comes the midrash with which many of us are familiar that, protected by an angel, the child Moses put a burning-hot coal in his mouth rather than a piece of gold, lest Pharaoh think that Moses were after his throne. Or, perhaps Moses did not feel that he had the right to speak before Pharaoh, or the oratorical skills, or that for a variety of other reasons it should have been someone else’s role. Whatever the reason, God responds to Moses, “Behold, I have made you as a god before Pharaoh and Aaron, your brother, as your prophet” (Ex. 7:1). Through this interesting statement, we understand that God chooses not to speak aloud in this world; rather, He speaks exclusively through His chosen messengers. As such, Aaron became Moses’ spokesperson to the Egyptian monarch and pleaded our ancestors’ case before Pharaoh.
Because of the various 21st century social media outlets, each of us today has a much stronger voice than we might otherwise possess. Though we may at times perceive of ourselves in “real” life to be like Moses, “of sealed lips,” in reality, each of us is much more like Aaron: a prophet for what is right, for what is just, for what is holy. In this week of Parashat Va-era, may we use that God-given voice to pursue justice and to urge our friends, family, communities and politicians–to live lives of true meaning and purpose. May we be the disciples of Aaron who, as Pirke Avot teaches us, should be “lovers of peace and pursuers of peace.”
Rebecca, Caleb and Ayal join me in wishing you Shabbat shalom um’vorach.
– Rabbi Aaron L. Starr