Parshat Bo and the End of Entitlements


Living in the Great Neck area has introduced me to the notion of entitlement.

The other day I was waiting to make a left turn from Lakeville Road. to Marcus Avenue. The line of cars in front and was extensive, yet I patiently waited my turn along with everyone else. Suddenly, a driver from another lane circumvented about fifteen cars and placed himself in the middle of the busy intersection, well beyond the stop line. Before our light turned red, that insensitive driver made a left turn as the rest of us waited legally and courteously to proceed. Unfortunately, there are no photo cameras to catch such a driver in the act.

I witness such chutzpadik behavior daily: On the roads, in the supermarket and elsewhere. For too many of us, entitlement is a divine right, Waving the flag of entitlement seems to grant us an immunity from being decent, civil and even legal. What often compounds our frustration is the lack of remorse or pangs of conscience conveyed by the perpetrators. For me, this total lack of remorse is more egregious and indecent than the act itself.

Looking back at Pharaoh’s behavior amidst the plagues, we discover an entitled man, who lacks any sense of decency. He demonstrates no remorse about his ongoing cruelty and intransigence. Even for a leader endowed by his people with deity status, Pharaoh displays an exaggerated-and tragic-sense of entitlement, both toward b’nai yisrael and his own nation. His callous disregard for human suffering qualifies him as one of the most despicable leaders in history. Any sign of remorse from Pharaoh is self -serving; when his needs are satisfied, he reneges on his promises every time. To Pharaoh, capitulation is a perversion; a sign of weakness. Obduracy at all costs is preferable to ending the suffering of Egyptians and Jews, because doing the latter renders him as weak and human.

I try to envision a day when we, as a society, learn some sobering lessons from Pharaoh and his perverted sense of entitlement. Perhaps, when I can enjoy one week without the flags of entitlement waving in my face, that day may actually arrive.

Shabbat Shalom