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Nathan Beswick- Dvar Torah

Good morning family and friends.

My Torah portion is from the book of Exodus and it is called Bo, it is about the last three plagues, locusts, darkness and death of the first born. It also contains the rules of the holiday of Pesach.

What I would like to focus on this morning from my portion is the affects of Pharaoh’s decisions.

When leaders of a country make decisions that affect other groups of people, are all people in that country responsible. The Israelites were slaves in Egypt for 400 years, were all Egyptians responsible? Could they have done more to free the Israelites? Is this similar to what happened in Apartheid South Africa?

When the leader of a country makes decisions that negatively affect the whole country, is this ok? When Moses went to Pharaoh and said let my people go or else plagues will come down on your country, Pharaoh did not let the Israelites go and all the Egyptians suffered. Is that ok? Like for instance darkness, the Egyptians were in pitch black darkness, a darkness that could be touched and for 3 days they could not move. Was it fair that Pharaoh’s country suffered because of his selfishness?

I don’t think that a leader of a country or a government should discriminate or abuse human rights. We do not want a repeat of what happened in Egypt, the Holocaust or the Rwandan genocide, we must all respect each other and not discriminate against anyone no matter their skin colour, religion, beliefs, economic position or LGBTQIA+ status.

I am going to read you a poem written after the Holocaust by Pastor Martin Niemoller, a Lutheran minister who was best known for his opposition to the Nazis.

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

What upsets me is when people are discriminated against and stereotypes are used. My hope now that I have had my barmitzvah is that I will always be able to stand up for what is right and defend those who need it.

I encourage you all to remember the words from Wonder, the bestselling novel by RJ Palacio

When given the choice between being right and being kind, choose kind.

Shabbat shalom

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