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Parshas Bo 1996 -- The Exodus from Egypt

Last week, we discussed how one should be respectful even to one's adversaries, instead of treacherously attempting to topple them.

Of the ten plagues, the Medrashim relate that three of them could not be initiated by Moshe but by his brother Aharon: Blood, Frogs and Lice. Moshe had been saved in the water as an infant. Therefore, it would not be fitting for Moshe to strike the water with his staff. Moshe had buried the Egyptian in the sand, preventing him temporarily from being caught. Therefore, it would be improper for him to hit the ground. As Rava would say: "Don't throw a stone into the well from which you drank..." (Rashi, from Medrash Rabba and Talmud, Baba Kama 92b).

One should forever be grateful for kindness received. Even simple pleasures sustained from inanimate objects should cause us to reflect upon the kindness of the Creator, Who produced such an overwhelming abundance of materials to fulfill our needs. This is the idea behind the blessings: "Anyone who enjoys this world without saying the proper blessing is considered a thief." (Talmud, Brochos; see the preface to V'sein Brocha (The Halachos of Brochos).

In the Talmudic quote cited above, "Don't throw a stone into the well from which you drank," the master Rabba provided the source:

Deut. 23:8
Don't mistreat an Egyptian,
because you were a stranger in his land.

In the Introduction to the Ikar Tosfos Yom Tov, it is stated: "If we are commanded to treat respectfully the Egyptian -- who enslaved and abused us -- how much more so any human being."

It seems to us, though, that the above comment (from Ikar Tosfos Yom Tov) is a different point. Rabba was only saying that one should remain grateful for a benefit received, even if hardships endured might seem to outweigh the benefit. Thus, the fact remains that the Egyptians afforded the Israelites opportunity to dwell among them; this is untainted by the awareness that eventually Egypt took advantage of Israel.

Rabba's point reminds us of the Mishnah in Ethics of the Fathers (6:3), that Dovid Hamelech called Achitofol his Teacher and Master, although he had only learned two things from him. Achitofol was a wicked man, who prompted Avshalom to rebel against his father, Dovid! Even so, the Mishnah records for all posterity that Dovid called Achitofol his teacher. A small benefit may produce untold effects, and remains unaffected by treacerous acts committed by the donor.

Indeed, the ethical-philosophical work, Tomar Devorah, maintains that the promised reward for good deeds remains unaffected by any crimes one may have performed. Good deeds and crimes are two separate accounts; in His patience, the account for crimes will not interfere with accrued profit for mitzvos.

Rav Menachem Kasher, the editor of Torah Shleima, quoted the Medrash. At the plague of Darkness, the Israelites could easily have taken advantage of their Egyptian oppressors. Many valuables were found lying about, but nothing was expropriated. The Egyptians became their friends when they realized that the Israelites had been treated unjustly and oppressed for no reason. They said, "There is no nation in the world as honest as Israel. Had they so desired, they could have taken everything from our homes."

Exodus 11:3
Hashem gave the people favor
in the eyes of the Egyptians;
the man Moshe was also very great
in the land of Egypt in the eyes of
Pharoah's servants and in the eyes of the people.

When they saw the great mercy of Moshe -- he always endeavored to spare them pain -- the Egyptians recognized his greatness.

This is the most important thing of all: the sanctification of G-d's name in the eyes of the nations of the world.


 
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