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Shabbat Parashat Va'eira 5773

Parashat Hashavua: A Balanced Approach

Harav Shaul Yisraeli based on Siach Shaul, pp. 202-203

“Hashem commanded [Moshe and Aharon] to Bnei Yisrael and to Paroh, King of Egypt” (Shemot 6:13). Rashi cites two explanations of what it means that they were commanded to Paroh: to show Paroh respect; to perform the actions before him. In fact, both explanations were fulfilled. On one hand, Moshe acted without fear and without unnecessary calculations, saying bluntly in Hashem’s name: “Send My nation!” It did not make a difference that there was no chance that Paroh would understand what Moshe was really asking because of his hardened heart or that the aristocracy of Egypt would initially scorn the message. On the other hand, Moshe and Aharon were careful to maintain an element of respect for the kingdom (see Rashi to Shemot 11:8).

The key to the matter may be contained within the two words that Yosef handed down to the elders of the next generation as a sign: “Pakod yifkod Hashem” (Hashem shall certainly remember). It seems like a straightforward message that anyone could have come up with. Where is the sign?           

It was actually very significant, at a time when Hashem’s name was disregarded, to speak about liberation whose only cause would be Hashem – without mentioning natural or political factors. There was no mention of finding lobbyists within the court or finding the right diplomatic approach; Hashem alone would do it. That is a unique sign of the nation being ready to be liberated in the historic manner known as “the Liberation of Israel.”

There were other approaches that others tried, which are not explicit in the Torah, but are hinted at. The Jewish “policemen” had developed an approach of accommodation with the kingdom, and they were afraid to state the goal of liberation. In the other direction, there were hotheaded youngsters who acted in desperation. The Sons of Ephrayim tried to escape on their own and were slaughtered after leaving, causing the nation to fear the worst when they left. These extreme reactions were spawned by a situation of desperation. Some thought that one could work with the conniving and hateful Egyptians and did not think there was a need for action. Others thought that there must be extreme action, without giving due respect to the authorities.

The truth is that the need to show honor to the kingdom was not because they earned that respect. Rather, it was the fact that the Egyptians were actually chosen by Hashem to provide Bnei Yisrael with the difficult experience they needed. Just as praise of Hashem emanates from the actions of the righteous, so does it emanate from the actions of the wicked (Shemot Rabba 7:4). This type of approach to respect for the kingdom is a sign of national understanding of the Divine Hand of Hashem, who would “certainly remember” them at the proper time and in the proper way.

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