A Tale of Two Pharaohs, Ancient & Right Now

When an ancient story and a modern reality follow the same plot line about unchecked, unaccountable power, you  know you are in the presence of an archetypal insight into the patterns of society. When the ancient story ends in the self-destruction of that tyrannical power by its own over-reach, you know you are in the presence of a profound ethical question: How will we ourselves end the modern story?

Ancient Pharaoh, ca. 2500 BCE  [Translation slightly modified from Everett Fox, The Five Books of Moses (Schocken Books)]

"Moses and Aaron came to Pharaoh. They said to him: “Thus says YHWH [pronounced without vowels by just breathing, hence the “Breath of Life, the Hurricane of Change], ‘Send free My people, that they might serve Me. But if you refuse to send My people free, here! – Tomorrow I will bring the locust-horde within your territory. They will cover the face of the ground; they will consume all the trees that spring up for you from the field; they will fill the houses of all Egypt.”

"Pharaoh’s officials said to him: “How long shall this one be a snare to us? Send the people free, that they may serve YHWH [the Breath of Life, the Wind of Change]. Do you not yet know that Egypt is ruined?”

"But YHWH made Pharaoh’s heart strong-willed, and he did not send the Children of Israel free.


Modern Pharaoh, 2018 CE: [New York Times, Nov. 23, 2018]

WASHINGTON — A major scientific report issued by 13 federal agencies on Friday presents the starkest warnings to date of the consequences of climate change for the United States, predicting that if significant steps are not taken to rein in global warming, the damage will knock as much as 10 percent off the size of the American economy by century’s end.

... [UK Guardian, Nov. 26, 2018]:
“Trump on own administration's climate report: 'I don't believe it. I’ve seen it, I’ve read some of it, and it’s fine,’ he said outside the White House on Monday. “I don’t believe it.”

 The same story, merely separated by 4,500 years of human history.

The Torah reports that after each of the first several plagues, Pharaoh hardened his own heart in defiance of the deep natural process, the consequences of disaster brought on by his own stubbornness and cruelty.

Then after each of the later plagues, Torah says that YHWH, the deep process of the InterBreath of Life, made Pharaoh’s  heart stubborn. This is the process of addiction: First someone makes the choice of heroin or fentanyl, and after several such “choices” Reality takes over: Addiction reigns.In both the cases we are examining, the ruler’s addiction to his own power takes over and he ignores the ruin he is bringing on his own people. In both stories, his own officials, his “Administration,” warn him in despair. In both stories, he cannot waver: He is addicted. Power becomes tyranny, tyranny becomes cruelty.

 In the Torah story, the Resistance rises in courage, in clarity, and in  commitment. The Godwrestlers remember to wrestle History by hastily baking unleavened matzah-bread to mark the fierce urgency of Now  -- for there was no time to wait for the bread to rise. They rim their doorways in blood so that when they walk through them they are leaving a womb, birthing themseves anew. When they act, Nature itself responds, for all life is interconnected. The Bible's metaphor for the interconnection is "YyyyHhhhWwwwHhhh." (This Name can only be "pronounced" without vowels by simply breathing.)   So the Breath of Life Itself, the Hurricane of Change,  sweeps over the waters of the Red Sea. Pharaoh’s power is drowned in his own over-reach, and the People  move forward to create a new kind of community.

 In the story of Today, the question is still open. Will we let the Spirit move us to dissolve Trump’s unaccountable and destructive pharaonic power, to save our country and our planet from ruination, and to create a new kind of national and planetary community? ?

Some suggested answers to that crucial question are in the continuation of this Shalom Report, You can access the rest of this Report, comment on it, and share it with your friends by clicking on "Keep Reading" and then to "Comments" below.

The Shalom Center is committed to keep working to free our society and to heal the deep wounds of our country and our planet. We need your help. As the "civil" year ends, please help us make the next year far more civil and more compassionate by making a (tax-deductible) investnent in the physical and spiritual future of your grandchildren. All our grandchildren.   Please click on the maroon “Contribute” button on the left-hand margin of this page.

Thanks! ~ Through the grace of your gift, may the blessings of shalom, salaam, paz, peace come to you. Remember: Keep reading! --  Arthur


The most effective climate-crisis organization see that not just climate policy but major aspects of ur culture and society will need to change.Some of them seek to embody the changes in themselves. 350.org , for example, from the beginning saw a world-wide transnational movement as the only way to make transnational change.  You can see its transnational program here: https://350.org/

Two new movements, just aborning, invite us. One, stirred by the election victory of many new Members of the House of Representatives, challenged Speaker-in-waiting Pelosi with a mass sit-in at her office. It called for a Green New Deal aand for the creation of a new House Select Committee to -–

“Develop a detailed national, industrial, economic mobilization Plan for a Green New Deal for the transition of the United States economy to become carbon neutral and to significantly draw down and capture greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and oceans and to promote economic and environmental justice and equality.” That call to draw CO2 out of the air and oceans so as to restore a healthy climate is a new development, not heard before outside the esoteric ranks of some climate scientists.

 For the full text of the proposal, see https://www.scribd.com/document/394390447/Select-Committee-for-a-Green-New-Deal-Draft-Text

This effort will need strong public support for it to be adopted by the House and to have strong proponents of climate action appointed to it by Ms. Pelosi.

Meanwhile, arising in Britain in mass demonstrations, street blockages, etc., is a new network that sees itself as outside the system, committed to nonviolent civil resistance, called Extinction Rebellion.  It has already begun demonstrations in Washington, DC. For more information:

https://xrebellion.org/   and https://rebellion.earth/

Connecting with these groups are clusters within the religious and spiritual world that explicitly draw on that same Interbreath of Life/ Wind of Change/ Spirit of the World that animates the story of the ancient Pharaoh. The Shalom Center is committed to this path and to doing all we can to reenergize the yawning, sleepy giant of multireligious Amerca to address the greatest crisis in human history.

American religious communities have in the past taken and could in the future take a major role in bringing about social transformation for greater justice.

Some American religious communities have during the last several years become far more active in organizing against various aspects of white nationalism (hostility to immigrants and refugees; to minority races,  ethnic groups and religions;  to women and to GLBTQ communities).

But they have paid far less attention to the most dangerous of all governmental and corporate policies – those that attack Earth’s web of life through intensifying the climate crisis and the growing mass extinction of many species.

In some communities there have grown up assumptions and behaviors that isolate “social justice” and “ecological healing” from each other. We see that in reality in our generation social injustice and ecological destruction are intertwined.

At the “top,” the Hyperwealth of Corporate Carbon Pharaohs, itself amassed by providing needed energy in ways that poison someneighborhoods and endanger the Earth. The enormous profits from this enterprise are then invested in buying politicians, the media, and even some scientists to deny or obscure the danger. All this provides one of the clearest cases of social injustice.

At the “bottom,” eco-disasters strike first and worst against the poor and disempowered, whether by carbon-caused asthma in urban neighborhoods where coal power plants and oil refineries are emplaced, or by massive floods and droughts that bring famines on the poor, starvation on the hungry. So we see, and will integrate in our training, that in reality in our generation the goal must be “eco-social justice.”

Some in the climate-science community have begun to develop usable and researchable proposals for drawing down CO2 from the atmosphere and oceans, because even achieving a zero-emissions regimen will leave a huge CO2 deposit that will continue and worsen the destabilization of world climate. We believe faith-rooted climate organizers will need to examine these approaches from the vantage point of an ethical concern and to understand and encourage support for some of them. The Shalom Center has been in touch with these scientists and is working toward a way of integrating ethical and technological approaches.

We stand at what could be a turning point, if we act. Intense public attention has been awakened by the California wildfires and by the dire warnings of both the US National Climate Assessment and the UN-sponsored report by the world’s scientists, in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. And that newly awakened public now has a new focus and arena for national action -- a new swarm of climate-concerned Members of the US House of Representatives.  

“If we act”?  The Shalom Center will act. With your help, we will bring more of the Jewish and multireligious communities into this utterly sacred work.

Blessings to us all of Clarity, Courage, and Commitment!  --  Arthur

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