Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Bronx Zoo Cobra Meets the Exodus from Egypt

When Mia, the famous Bronx Zoo Cobra, slithered her way to temporary freedom in a corner of the reptile house, the irony was simply amazing. After all, a cobra adorned the headdress of the ancient Pharaoh’s, including, in all likelihood, the Pharaoh of the exodus story we will tell in a few days.

Snakes show up in yet another way in the story of the exodus: When Moses and Aaron came before Pharaoh, they demonstrated a sign of their Godly mission: Aaron threw his staff to the ground and it became a snake. Not to be outclassed, Pharaoh had his magicians create snakes. But the snake of Aaron and Moses was on top of the game, and swallowed the snakes of the magicians.

So, the snake was first a symbol of slavery, appearing on Pharaoh’s head. But then became a powerful symbol of freedom -- exhibit A in the demonstration of the power that would become fully manifested in the exodus of the Israelites.

Our contemporary Cobra too, became a symbol of freedom. Within hours of the her escape, Mia had a fan base rivaling any rock star. People began using social media to represent her and her (mostly fictional) exploits. The Bronx Zoo Cobra captured our imagination in her dash for freedom. We cheered her on, hoping she would find fulfillment (just not in our home).

The drive towards freedom and fulfillment is powerful. Yet, in our world, there are those who are not fully free. Our world has human slavery, totalitarian rulers, and prejudicial laws and systems that prevent people from living full lives. And Pesach, along with the snakes, both ancient and modern, reminds us that we need to use our power to work for freedom in our world.

Wishing you and yours a Happy and Inspiring Pesach,

The Notorious R.A.V.