03 January 2014

Parshat Bo 5774

2 Shevat 5774
Erev Shabbat Kodesh

Parashat Bo – No concessions! - Rabbi Meir Kahane

G-d's name cannot be sanctified through concession or compromise. The essence of Kiddush Hashem is complete trust in G-d, without the least fear of mortal man. The moment a person is ready to concede, when crowning G-d Supreme King would require total submission by the non-Jew [in this case, Pharaoh], his concession robs G-d of complete sovereignty. And if his concession stems from any kind of fear, his sin is sevenfold.

After nine Plagues which brought wicked Pharaoh and his land to the brink of collapse, that evildoer finally broke down: “Pharaoh summoned Moses and said, 'Go – serve the L-rd, only your flocks and herds stay behind. Let your little ones also go with you'” (Ex. 10:24)

Should this not have been a source of great joy? Could Moses not agree? Israel had been slaves and foreigners for 210 years. Now the violent despot had capitulated, opening the prison gates. With the light of freedom shining on them, could it be that due to this one minor condition, “only your flocks and herds stay behind”, Moses would remain stubborn?Must freedom and tranquility be postponed for the sake of flocks and cattle? If this small concession is the price for going out from servitude to redemption, why not pay it? Yet Moses responded: “You yourself must give us sacrifices and burnt-offerings that we may sacrifice unto the L-rd our G-d. Our cattle also shall go with us. There shall not be a hoof left behind.” (Ex. 10:25-26). G-d's main purpose in redeeming Israel from Egypt was much more profound than just to redeem them from slavery. G-d wished to prove to Pharaoh, his kingdom and his world, all of whom arrogantly proclaim, “I do not know the L-rd” (Ex. 5:2), that there indeed exists a G-d in Israel, Whose kingdom rules over all, that indeed , all life is in His hands. The point of the Exodus was for G-d's name to be magnified and exalted. Kiddush Hashem! The Torah teaches us that when Kiddush Hashem is at stake, there are no concessions or compromises. In our own modest times, who is wise enough to grasp this?

Another halachic principle applying to Kiddush and Chilul Hashem is this: Kiddush Hashem must be performed triumphantly and shamelessly. Kiddush Hashem on a national level cannot possibly take place in secret. The very idea of sanctifying G-d's name is something that must be done before nations. When it is performed in secret out of fear, it turns into Chilul Hashem and is better off not being done at all. After Moses rejected Pharaoh's compromise, Egypt was struck by the terrible tenth Plague, the smiting of the firstborn. “There was a great cry in Egypt, for there was not a house where there was not one dead.” (Ex. 12:30). In panic, in the middle of the night, Pharaoh totally capitulated and called to Moses, “Rise up, get you forth from among my people, both you and the Children of Israel...Take both your flocks and your herds, as you have said” (Ibid., 31-32). Pharaoh wished Moses to leave right then, in the middle of the night! It was now clear that the oppressive foe had totally capitulated. This was unconditional victory. The men, women, children, sheep and cattle – all would leave. Ostensibly, Moses should have agreed and right then and there marched the myriads of Israel to freedom. Yet G-d's thinking is different from our own: “G-d said to Moses, 'Shall you take My children out at night? You shall not! Take them out openly, at midday!” (Shemot Rabbah, 18:10). Moses said to Pharaoh, “Are we thieves that we should leave by night? We shall leave triumphantly, for all of Egypt to see!” (Tanchuma, Bo, 7). Similarly, we find in Mechilta (Bo, Mesechta DePischa, 13): Moses said to him, 'We have been warned to leave only publicly: ”None of you shall exit the door of his house until morning”'(Ex. 12:22).

This principle is so important that R. Akiva rules (Pesachim 120b) that the Korban Pesach, the offering brought the day before Pesach – symbol of the redemption – may be eaten until morning, when Israel “made haste” (Ex. 12:11), to recall that the true redemption was precisely then, out in the open. This goes without saying, because Kiddush Hashem demands “openness”, without slyness or stealth. Compromise, secrecy and stealth are the complete opposite of Kiddush Hashem, whose whole purpose is to demonstrate to the world that “There is no wisdom nor counsel nor understanding against the L-rd” (Prov. 21:30). Our sages said (Sifri, Ha'azinu, 337): Because the Egyptians were saying ...”If we see them, we will not let them go”, G-d said, “ I shall take them out at midday, and let whoever has the power to protest it do so!” It also says, “on the day after the Pesach sacrifice, the Israelites left triumphantly in the sight of all the Egyptians” (Num. 33:3, Onkelos)

Should your evil impulse whisper that by virtue of Torah study and mitzvah performance we will be able to ignore the Chilul Hashem that daily visits the G-d of Israel and His land, be aware that it is not so.

Our times constitute the beginning of the redemption and the footsteps of the Messiah. G-d, in His kindness, in preparation for speedy redemption, presently demands of us Kiddush Hashem of the sort based in faith and trust in Him. Yet we, our children and our elders have sunk in the mire of exile, and have raised up on a miserable banner the fear and degradation of  “It is forbidden to provoke the nations”. This theme, whose sorrowful conception and birth are in the exile, constitute a humiliating affront to our people, and worse, a profanation of the great name of the Supreme King. Israel's defeat is, so to speak, G-d's defeat as well. Israel's fear of the non-Jew proves G-d's “weakness” and inability to vanquish His people's enemies. Thus, lack of bitachon [trust in G-d] on the part of the nation [of Israel] is a sin that cannot be atoned for.

As Rashi wrote (Ezek. 39:7), “Israel's lowliness is a Chilul Hashem, for men say that Israel are the L-rd's people, yet He cannot save them” (see Ezek. 36:20) Whenever a Jew is harmed, let alone murdered, whenever the Jewish people and the Land of Israel are cursed and reviled [...] this constitutes a terrible, unatonable Chilul Hashem. Every attempt, and certainly every act of abandoning parts of the Land of Israel to the nations is likewise a shocking Chilul Hashem. Yet since the issue is open, caustic and deliberate Chilul Hashem [...] and there is no government and no army and no governmental body – these being obligated by the Torah to go out and protest the profanation- or that such bodies do exist but they are unwilling to fulfill their obligation, then it is certainly the individual's duty [...] to blot out, devotedly and with protest, the Chilul Hashem.
[Source: Compiled by Tzipora Liron-Pinner from "The Jewish Idea" of Rav Meir Kahane HY"D]