Rabbi Milevsky's Thought of the Week: Shemot - 5772
VIEWED DIFFERENTLY WITH AGE
When I was a little boy I was once given a United States one-cent coin, commonly known as a penny. As a lover of Israel I was pleasantly surprised to see the Knesset building of Jerusalem featured on it. Yet I was disturbed that it was placed upside-down. Years later I was quite disappointed to learn that the image is actually the Lincoln Memorial located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
Sometimes the things we learn as children are viewed quite differently as we grow older. Other things remain the same. How to treat another human, especially a fellow Jew, is one thing that has never changed; the requirement to be a Mench!
As we begin the book of Shemot, the text that brings the laws of Torah to life, we must remember that Derech Eretz precedes Torah! To be the exemplary person who is truly a reflection of the Creator, we must make proper mannered behavior part of our religious life. Any Torah study not leading to character refinement lacks a crucial component.
The day after Moshe saved the life of a Jewish slave by killing the Egyptian taskmaster, he tried to intervene between two Jews who were fighting.
He asked the one in the wrong, "Why are you hitting your fellow Hebrew?" The man said, "Who made you ruler and judge over us? Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?" Then Moses was afraid and thought, "Indeed the matter is known."
Rashi quotes the Midrash: ‘Indeed the matter is known.’ Moshe had been questioning the matter of the exile: Why must the Hebrew nation suffer beneath the oppressive hands of the Egyptians? However, now that he heard that at the slightest provocation Jews would speak Lashon Hara (derogatory gossip) about one another and not treat each other with respect, the matter became known to him: This was why the Jews had to suffer!
Hopefully, we can learn from this that the key to our redemption is in our commitment to human dignity and Jewish unity.