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    Equal partners – Va’era

    Moses & Aaron, by Hans Sebald Beham, 16th century

    The readings at this time of the year constantly involve both brothers, Moses and Aaron.

    With rare exceptions the two of them have a good relationship. Neither is superior to the other; each has his own role, his own status, his own historical significance.

    The rabbis point out (Mechilta, Bo) that sometimes the Torah puts Moses’ name first and sometimes Aaron’s. Occasionally they rotate in tasks: some of the ten plagues are brought about by Aaron, some by Moses.

    Each, however, has his own expertise: Aaron is more of a diplomat, Moses is more of an orator. On the whole they are partners.

    Another example of the phenomenon of equal billing is the duty that a child has towards its parents – sometimes the Torah mentions the father first, sometimes the mother.

    Probably the same would be true of husband and wife – sometimes they are referred to as Avraham and Sarah, sometimes Sarah and Avraham.

    The old habit of calling a married woman something like Mrs John Smith, as if the wife has no individual personality, has long since gone.

    Amongst some groups it is still common – e.g. in wedding invitations – to refer to “Reb Avraham Cohen and his wife”, but in time this too will go. Both partners are essential to the relationship.

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