Feeling Human Beings
By Rabbi Label Lam
HASHEM said to Moshe, "Say to Aaron, 'Stretch out your staff and strike the
dust of the land; it shall become lice throughout the land of Egypt.'"
Say to Aaron: This plague was not initiated by Moshe for the soil did not
deserve to be stricken by Moshe because it protected him when he killed the
Egyptian and hid him in the sand. Therefore it was stricken by Aaron. (Rashi)
What great deference is shown to the soil of Egypt!? Even while Egypt is
being disassembled plague after plague Moshe is disqualified from striking
the dust because it had saved him. What's going on here? Does the dust of
Egypt really care whether Moshe or Aaron hits it? What would be so terrible
if Moshe would be the one?
I recently heard the following remarkable story: Rabbi Yisaschar Frand was
approached after a lecture he gave somewhere in Connecticut, by a somewhat
elderly gentleman with a slight European accent wishing to register a
serious complaint. Politely but firmly the man insisted that he had a
problem with something that Rabbi Frand had written in one of his books on
Parshas "Lech Lecha" on the verse where Avraham is promised by HASHEM that
He will bless those who bless Avraham. Rabbi Frand asked to be reminded what
he had written. With almost perfect recall the man reminded the Rabbi.
There was a story told there with great attention to historical detail,
about a Jewish family during the 2nd World War that in desperation,
anticipating the brutal invasion of the Nazis, had to give up their precious
son to a gentile family. They understood there was a good chance they may
never return, and therefore they made an appeal to the host family that if
by any chance they did not come back they should contact family in Silver
Spring, Maryland. They were provided with all the necessary information
before the parents disappeared.
After the dust of war had begun to settle it became clear that the parents
were not coming back to pick up their child and it was a safe assumption
that they had perished. The host family then took the child to the local
priest and requested that he baptize the boy. The priest asked them why they
were baptizing a now older child. It is usually done earlier. The parents
gleefully related that it was a Jewish child that they were left to care for
and how the parents had entrusted them to send him to relatives America if
they failed to return. The priest listened to all they had to say and he
then refused to baptize the Jewish child. He insisted that if the parents
wanted him to be sent to his relatives that is what they are morally
obligated to do, and that is what they did. As it turns out that Polish
priest was later appointed to become Pope and so he stood on the world stage
for many decades, Pope John Paul. Rabbi Frand was highlighting that perhaps
the enormous honor that redounded to that priest was for doing the right
thing and refusing to baptize a Jewish child and insisting he be reunited
with his family's family.
Rabbi Frand asked the man what was wrong with the story or the message of
the story. At this the man became very emotional and he told Rabbi Frand, "I
am that boy! How could you cast my adopted parents in such a negative
light.?! They saved my life! They are like my real family! I send them
money! I visit them every year! How could you write about them that way?!"
Rabbi E.E. Dessler ztl.. explains that of course the dust of Egypt is
inanimate and void of feelings. Striking it would only have had a negative
effect on the character of Moshe. For him to do so would diminish his
sensitivity in the realm of gratitude. Now we can estimate "how much more
so" with feeling human beings.
DvarTorah, Copyright 2007 by Rabbi Label Lam and Torah.org.