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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Bo

Stand Tall Against It All

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Ask most people in which parsha of Sefer Shmot (pointedly, known as "Exodus" in English!) does the actual Exodus appear, & they will probably be stumped. That is because the moment when we literally stepped out of Egypt is understated, to say the very least:

"And the Children of Israel, 600,000 males, not counting children, journeyed from Ramses to Sukkot" (12:37).

But this is not the only dramatic event in our Sedra of Bo which hardly draws any attention, & yet is a particularly powerful phenomenon. There is another happening that also seems to somehow slip "under the radar:"

"Hashem granted the people favor in the eyes of Egypt; moreover, the man Moshe was very great in the eyes of the servants of Paro & in the eyes of the people." (11:3)

This is truly an amazing, mystifying statement! Coming as it does after nine plagues, when the country has been decimated physically, financially & emotionally, you would have thought that the average Egyptian – not to mention those in a leadership position – would be incensed with Moshe, that they would blame him for all their problems & consider him Public Enemy #1. And yet, they actually respect him; they actually like him!

This is an even more striking phenomenon considering that in the very next pasuk, Moshe announces that the final, ultimate blow is at hand: Every first-born - who are the elite of Egypt - will die. In fact, "there will not be a single house in the country where there will not be a corpse," even if there is no firstborn to be found there! So how could these same people have a positive feeling about Moshe, the "public face" of the relentless onslaught of the 10 Plagues?

It would seem to be counter-intuitive, but Moshe was respected because, in the end, he represented Truth, & Justice. The Egyptians, deep down, knew that enslaving other people & cruelly denying them all human rights was wrong. They may have benefited from the work of the slaves, but they recognized that no person should have to endure such torture. Moshe, as the one who most prominently stood up for justice & freedom, may at first have been fought against, but ultimately he was admired for his idealism & integrity.

What a message this sends to us! Today, Israel is defamed & denigrated by so many, even dragged to bogus international courts to answer for our "crimes." But we have nothing to apologize for; we are the just, the moral party. We must stand tall & stare the world in the face, proud of our actions. Like Moshe, we shall ultimately be vindicated.
Rabbi Stewart Weiss
Was ordained at the Hebrew Theological College in Skokie, Illinois, and led congregations in Chicago and Dallas prior to making Aliyah in 1992. He directs the Jewish Outreach Center in Ra'anana, helping to facilitate the spiritual absorption of new olim.
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