Benzi’s latest “Behind the Flames” column in the Shabbat publication Matzav HaRuach:
Pragmatism? Not with Moshe Rabbenu
“Benzi, why are you all so extremist? Why aren’t you willing to compromise on anything? Come on, temper your statements a bit and your demands, and maybe you can get more”. Comments and remarks like these, I hear almost every day.
So, one of the basic principles that Rabbi Kahane HY”D emphasized to his students, of whom I was privileged to be numbered, is that when it comes to Chilul Hashem and Kiddush Hashem, we are not allowed to compromise even on petty details.
The basis for this principle is hidden in our weekly parsha: In the parsha it is said that after the plague of darkness, one plague before the last one – that arrived after the previous 8 plagues, during which HaKadosh Baruch Hu hardened Pharaoh’s heart again and again, Pharaoh announces to Moshe that he’s willing to compromise: “Pharaoh summoned Moshe and said: ‘Go – serve the L-rd, only your flock and cattle shall remain behind, even your children may go with you.’” Pharaoh says to Moshe Rabbenu: You, the children of Israel, are free to go on your way. Leave Egypt. I have just one condition: The herds and the cattle you have – leave them here.
Simple logic says that you must be crazy to refuse an offer like that. An entire nation that has for hundreds of years been under terrible slavery and suffering, gets an offer they never dreamt they would get: To leave for their freedom. Every Jew alive at the time in Egypt would have said: Ah, Pharaoh wants us to leave the herds and the cattle? Let him take it all, just so he lets us go!
But Moshe Rabbenu, in a clearly non-pragmatic move, refuses Pharaoh’s offer, and not only does he refuse it, he even resolutely informs him: “… Even you will place into our hands feast-offerings and burnt-offerings, and we shall offer them to Hashem, our G-d. And our livestock, as well, will go with us – not a hoof will be left – for from it shall we take to serve Hashem, our G-d, and we will not know with what we are to serve Hashem until our arrival there.”
Who would have believed it? Not only does Moshe refuse Pharaoh’s generous offer, he even dares in front of him to update him that he himself must also give him herds and cattle from his own property (!).
What causes Moshe to behave in such a glaringly irresponsible way? How is it that he’s willing to bear the great suffering on his shoulders that will be caused to the Children of Israel by a prolonged stay in Egypt which is actually being decreed upon them?
The answer is in two words: Kiddush Hashem (sanctification of G-d’s name). The status of the exodus of the Children of Israel from Egypt is a mighty status of Kiddush Hashem that exposes the arm of Hashem’s sanctity in front of the gentiles and shows His courage. Kiddush Hashem is not done with tricks and compromises, but by guarding the entire truth – from beginning to end. And that’s also the principle that we strive to have guide us, the students of Moshe Rabbenu and Rabbi Kahane, in our actions for Am Israel, Eretz Israel and Torat Israel. Shabbat Shalom.
To report or donate: 074-7871390
Remarks: [email protected]