|The sinking of the Titanic on her maiden voyage was a great nautical catastrophe but the real tragedy is that it could have been avoided. Many mistakes were made but one of the most foolish was that the ship’s radio operators received 21 warnings of ice, all of which were ignored. The Titanic serves a metaphor for Pharaoh, the most famous person in Jewish history who didn’t pay attention to warnings.
Then G-d said to Moses…Aaron, your brother, will be your speaker. (7:1)
The common word for speaker is not used, rather the word with the same root as prophet is used. Rashi, noting the inconsistency writes, “Wherever you find the term prophecy, it refers to a person who publicizes and lets the nation hear words of caution.” Most people associate prophet with some fictional, mystical person who predicts the future but few realize that the main function of a prophet is to let people know they are capable of change—and that they need to. Aaron’s task was to tell Pharaoh what would happen if he would not consent to liberating the Jewish people and Pharaoh, like the Titanic, suffered consequences by ignoring undeniably accurate messages. We, too, have incidents in life that either we know or are told that we need to change but we, like Pharaoh and the Titanic, don’t do what we need to. Here are a few examples.
Marriage: Constant bickering, lack of intimacy, inability to solve conflicts, and no attempt to change any of the above are sure signs of relationship disaster and personal misery. Business: When a corporation stops paying attention to market demands and customer needs, its collapse is inevitable. Companies like Kodak, Schwinn, Blockbuster or General Motors giants in their industries, but they failed to react or even pay attention to the messages that they needed to change course. That failure caused them to hit the icebergs of bankruptcy, which could have been avoided if they had woken up and smelled the proverbial coffee. We may not have prophets to inform us of impending disaster the way Pharaoh did, but obvious signals of imminent collapse serve the same function. Nonetheless, even blatant reality doesn’t guarantee that people will be inspired to change.
Although prophecy ceased thousands of years ago, the idea of a man or woman delivering an instructional message serves as a model from which we can learn. In marriage or business, you don’t need Divine inspiration to know that certain indicators must be taken seriously. We can be our own prophets if we are willing to confront reality. If so, why do so many people delude themselves and avoid it? Why is a diabetic (who has been warned by her doctor) willing to risk a losing a limb by not changing the way she eats? Why didn’t Kodak embrace digital technology rather than ignoring the obvious reality that film would one day be obsolete? Why did Schwinn ignore BMX and other styles of bikes that were quickly replacing their old heavy and harder to maneuver bicycles?
Familiarity and comfort block reality and most of us are guilty of this self-inflicted affliction. For Pharaoh, he hardened his own heart through years of the delusional thinking that persecuting Jews was better Egypt than being beneficent. A warning was given before each plague, but each time it fell on deaf ears. Egypt suffered greatly by failing to heed warnings and so do we when we remain in our parochial midframe, disregarding what people tell us and what we really know the truth to be.The prophet’s job in the Biblical period was to let the people know they have become so comfortable that they have lost their way. Although prophesy no longer exists, reality does. People find it easier to say “it’s complicated” than to look for a solution. Rather than get a job, go back to school, stop being argumentative or deal with weakness of character, people say, “you just don’t understand; it’s complicated.” No one seems to understand but them.
Pharaoh heard the message but didn’t take action. We all possess an inner prophet and suffer when we ignore it. We might not run into icebergs but we will deny ourselves the happiness and peace of mind we all desire. What has your inner prophet told you lately? Did you heed its message?
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