Family Corner: Parshat Va'eira

Wednesday, December 29, 2021
Posted by: Family Corner

Family Corner is a space to offer interactive and thoughtful ideas for family engagement with the Parshat Hashavua (weekly Torah reading).  

This week in the Parsha we encounter themes of listening, plagues, overcoming setbacks, freedom and prayer.

Parsha Summary

  • Despite God's message that they will be redeemed from slavery, the Israelites' spirits remain crushed. God instructs Moses and Aaron to deliver the Israelites from the land of Egypt. (6:2-13) 
  • The genealogy of Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and their descendants is recorded. (6:14-25) 
  • Moses and Aaron perform a miracle with a snake and relate to Pharaoh God's message to let the Israelites leave Egypt. (7:8-13) 
  • The first seven plagues occur. God hardens Pharaoh's heart, and Pharaoh rescinds each offer to let the Israelites go. (7:14-9:35) 

Torah Thought 

וְגַ֣ם  אֲנִ֣י שָׁמַ֗עְתִּי אֶֽת־נַאֲקַת֙ בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל אֲשֶׁ֥ר מִצְרַ֖יִם מַעֲבִדִ֣ים אֹתָ֑ם וָאֶזְכֹּ֖ר אֶת־בְּרִיתִֽי׃  

I have now heard the moaning of the Israelites because the Egyptians are holding them in bondage, and I have remembered My covenant. 

This verse ushers in the redemption from Egypt. Only after God hears the moaning of the Israelites does He set in motion the process of their freedom. (While similar indications that God has heard the cries of the Israelites serve to move the redemption narrative forward  see - Ex. 2:24, 3:7, 3:9, the verse we are studying is the formal beginning o of the process as is evident by God saying immediately after “Say, therefore, to the Israelite people: I am the LORD. I will free you from the labors of the Egyptians and deliver you from their bondage. I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and through extraordinary chastisements.”) 

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks reminds us that listening it the heart of all relationships. “Listening lies at the very heart of relationship. It means that we are open to the other, that we respect him or her, that their perceptions and feelings matter to us. We give them permission to be honest, even if this means making ourselves vulnerable in so doing. A good parent listens to their child. A good employer listens to his or her workers. A good company listens to its customers or clients. A good leader listens to those he or she leads. Listening does not mean agreeing but it does mean caring. Listening is the climate in which love and respect grow.” 

The importance of listening, of course, is highlighted in the prayer that Jew recite as a declaration of faith and the first steps in our relationship with God. “ Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one”.  

In a sense, Jewish history was set in motion by acts of listening – God listening to the cries of the Jewish people and the Jewish people listening to God at Sinai. 

In opposition to God and the Israelites listening we read:  

וַיֹּ֣אמֶר פַּרְעֹ֔ה מִ֤י יְהֹוָה֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר אֶשְׁמַ֣ע בְּקֹל֔וֹ לְשַׁלַּ֖ח אֶת־יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל לֹ֤א יָדַ֙עְתִּי֙ אֶת־יְהֹוָ֔ה וְגַ֥ם אֶת־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל לֹ֥א אֲשַׁלֵּֽחַ׃  

But Pharaoh said, “Who is the LORD that I should listen to Him and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, nor will I let Israel go.” 

Pharoah’s downfall begins with a lack of listening. 

 Listening is the first step in being an ally. The ability to really effect generate change begins by listening to the oppressed. It is the only way to truly be a partner. 

The an eternal message is that listening changes everything. 

Conversation Starters: 

  • Share moments from your life when you felt listened to and why it was important. 
  • Do you recall times when you were not heard? Why was that difficult / frustrating? 
  • How can we listen better? Here are some suggestions. 1. Listen w/o offering examples of your perceived similar pain. 2. Make a conscious decision to listen in order to learn. 3. Ask for clarification of what you do not understand.4. Don’t get defensive (take a moment before responding) 

Activities, Videos, Crafts and More!

Click here for a news report on the “Crisis In Egypt” 

  • Sing! Learn all about the 10 plagues with this song Let My People Go  sung by Marc Rossio The Marvelous Toy. 
  • Craft! While you listen to the song, use these printable Ten Plauges Finger Puppets to visualize them. 
  • Bake! Don’t let Pharoah's change of heart get you down, make these Hardened Heart Cookies instead! 

PJ Library Recommendation   

Beautiful Yetta: The Yiddish Chicken by Daniel Pinkwater
Ages: 3 to 4 Years, 4 to 5 Years
Synopsis: Yetta escapes from her cage and finds herself lost in the big city. Thanks to the kindness of strangers, and a few new friends, Yetta settles in and enjoys her new life. This book is a fun way to introduce Yiddish to young children and also includes wonderful messages and themes about accepting others. 

Devash (Published by Hadar): Devash is a weekly parashah magazine that makes learning Torah sweet. By engaging directly with texts and taking kids seriously as Jews, Devash helps children and grownups discover new ideas, values, and sweet morsels in the weekly Torah portion. Devash is designed for kids aged 7-11 to read independently, or together with families and teachers. 

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Category: Family Corner