This week's newspapers pose an enormous question: Can American democracy survive unregulated corporate money poured into elections? This week's Torah points toward an answer.
Last Sunday, Part 1 of my essay on "The Meaning of the 21st Century: Domination or Community?" sketched how the war in Afghanistan, our dysfunctional health un-care system, the disemployment crisis, and the stalemate over climate all were evidence that one necessary aspect of our lives -- Control -- has run amok, turning into Domination and leaving the other necessary life-aspect -- loving-kindness, interbeing -- choking to death.
Now we have just received a stunning kick in the teeth to Community and a great victory for Domination -- in the decision of the Supreme Court that corporations can pour as much money as they like into supporting the election of candidates for public office.
This enormously increases the power of our modern Pharaohs – the top-down pyramidal Global-Gobble corporations that have barely been under public control before, and now will be able to control the public in unprecedented ways.
This is not just an American issue. Big Oil and Big Coal corporations have made it extremely hard to deal with the dangers of global scorching. Now the powers of Big Coal and Big Oil have been multiplied. The web of life -– our most important community of all, in which the interplay of control-over and connectivity-with is crucial to the continuity of life -- is thus endangered by increasing the power of corporations to control the climate of our planet.
The snows of the Himalayas are melting under the pressure of global scorching, and with them will disappear the future drinking water of a billion Indians and Pakistanis. Can we save them? No. For Exxon Mobil says, "No problem," and now will be able to drown in its money any US candidate who says the burning of fossil fuels must be checked.
So the Supreme Court of the United States has just condemned a billion people to slow death by parching drought.
In last week's Torah we read how Pharaoh let all the waters of his kingdom become undrinkable in order to pursue his despotic course against his people. Now, like Pharaoh, in stubborn arrogance, the Court has transformed itself from an instrument of Justice into a make-believe and lethal "God." An idol.
In this week's Torah reading, when God sends Moses to face Pharaoh, God says, "Bo el Pharaoh." Most English translations say, "Go to Pharaoh." But "Bo" means "come," not "go."
"Come to Pharaoh!"
How could God be saying "Come!" unless God was already there? -- already within Pharaoh!
"Come toward Me."
And God's call to Moses continued: "Hikhbad'ti libo." That is usually translated, "I have made his [Pharaoh's] heart heavy, hard."
But the Hebrew root KVD can mean heavy, bearing gravitas, or glorious, or honorable, or radiant. When a leader is said to possess "gravitas," it means he is a "heavy dude," worthy of honor, radiating forth his own glory to faraway places.
So the phrase can be read as: "I, God, have put my radiance in his, Pharaoh's, heart."
In other words: "Come to Me -- the Me who lives hidden inside Pharaoh. Don't be afraid of Pharaoh: what looks like HIS radiance, HIS glory, HIS power, is really just a mask for MY radiance, MY glory, MY power."
From seeing God hidden within Pharaoh, Moses could learn both courage and compassion.
Courage as he realized that Pharaoh's seeming power was not his, but just a part of the enormous power of the flow of life, the Unity of universe. If Pharaoh tried to grasp that power as his own, the river and the locusts, the frogs and the first-borns, would overflow his rigid boundaries and sweep away his power. No one need fear it.
Compassion as Moses recalled that even within Pharaoh was the Tzelem Elohim, the spark of God. So he could resist the Pharaoh's tyranny while yet remembering the KaVoD -- honor -- due his spark of divinity.
Multiply courage by compassion, and what emerges is nonviolent resistance. "I will not obey my enemy, and I will not kill him either. I will pursue my own journey into loving life."
Pharaohs are pressing down their weight on America and on the web of planetary life. It is time for courageous nonviolent resistance to give new life to the loving-kindness that our Pharaohs are choking to death.
How, when, where? I welcome your thoughts – especially by posting a comment below.
With blessings of shalom, salaam, shantih – peace!