The Pharaoh of Money
Saturday, January 4, 2014
15th Torah Portion, 3rd in Exodus – Bo
10:1-13:16 (106 verses)
God sends the plagues of locusts and darkness upon Egypt and forewarns Moses about the final plague, the death of every Egyptian first-born. Pharaoh still does not let the Israelites leave Egypt. God commands Moses and Aaron regarding the Passover festival. God enacts the final plague, striking down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt except those of the House of Israel. Pharaoh now allows the Israelites to leave. Speaking to Moses and Aaron, God repeats the commandments about Passover.
Power and energy can be a force for good, or, as in the case of our ancestors, a force for evil. The energy holding our ancestors enslaved in Egypt, is Pharaoh. Pharaoh’s name is spelled “peh,” “resh,” “ayin.” Changing the vowels, we read not Pharaoh, but parua – void. It also means “unrestrained” and “disorderly.” From that void, that chaos, that wildness, is the place from which God worked not only the plagues, but also the miracles of ending the enslavement in Egypt.
I would like to suggest we look in our wallets and purses and see the Pharaoh that has the power to enrich our lives and the lives of others or the power to enslave us. Money can be the parua, the “chaotic” energy that has our attention and is enslaving us.
Money directs and influences our very being. It does not matter whether you have a lot or a little. P.T. Barnum was correct when he said, “Money is a very excellent servant, but a terrible master.” Or, as the great playwright George Bernard Shaw astutely observed, “There are two tragedies in life. One is not to get your heart’s desire. The other is to get it.”
For many, that Pharaoh, that master is now influencing what we do on a daily basis. Our investments are earning less; our friend is out of work; we have to cut our business budget without hurting those who work with us; and we have to cut our personal budget without hurting our own family. How we do this has become the most profound question each one of us is asking.
Money is energy; if not, it is just a piece of paper. And if it does not have that kind of power, then just reach into your pockets right now and hand over to me all of those pieces of paper with a twenty on them. No? Well then, there is your truth. Those pieces of paper are not just paper. They are a powerful form of energy that influences your thoughts. That piece of paper is an expression of your power.
Power comes from energy. Energy follows belief. If your belief is that your money is going to provide you with some sort of satisfaction, then that energy becomes an expression of your power and your will.
Here is a belief many of us have: I am alone; therefore I need something to be with me to comfort me, to protect me, and to keep me safe. I spend money based on those beliefs. The more things I have the more comfortable and happy I will be and the less alone I will feel. Based on this belief (and fear) I purchase televisions, cars, pets, and a big home. These are choices based on fear and the energy of money. The goal of comfort is the most dangerous and expensive of stories you can create!
What if you enlarge your vision, rather than the diameter of our TV set? In reality, you are larger than this story, just as our ancestors had to come to believe that they were more than slaves. Their groaning and moaning for forty years in the wilderness was a product and a result of the story that they were still slaves. God, at Sinai, gave them an opportunity to think big, to dream a larger story. Their taskmasters had provided for them for four hundred years. Now, their economy shattered, and their slave comforts destroyed, they had to make lives for themselves. They failed—and they died because their story was too small. It was up to the next generation to gain a larger vision.
As we seek to enlarge our vision, we can look back again at our enslavement in Egypt. The next to the last plague is darkness. In the darkness, we dream. Our dreams help us to understand what we truly need and what we need to let go of. As we dream in that darkness, we need to make room in our consciousness to see that the way we have been spending our money has been based on stories that are based on fears. Those stories and those fears immobilize us and make us a target for stress and distress.
We must return to our own fundamental beliefs. Rachel Naomi Remen, author of much wisdom literature, offers this wisdom for you to consider, which I have paraphrased:
What is the star that guides your boat? For many, it is fear.
How often can you see the light from your star after it has grown dark? Most people are not sailing their boat by any guide. But if you look up in the darkness you just might notice that there is a star that will guide you.
Remember how God, Aaron and Moses destroyed Pharaoh and parua by replacing old fears with new values. You can from yourself from your parua. It took forty years for our ancestors to travel from chaos and darkness to the Promised Land. Let us hope it does not take us quite as long to find the guiding light that can bring us there as well.
My friends recall the meditation before the candle lighting that begins our Friday evening service:
For some, darkness is a place of fear and of the unknown.
For us, it is from darkness that the work of creation begins.
- 1.What and who can be trusted?
- 2.What will sustain me?
- 3.What do I really need in order to live?