December 25, 2010

Those Who Fear Hashem Resist Evil  by Rabbi Reuven Mann

In this week's parsha, Shemot, we read about the transformation of a group of seventy souls into an eternal nation which changed the course of history.  The birth and continued existence of this people is contrary to the laws of nature and can only be accounted for with reference to Divine providence.  Hashem brought this nation into being and has preserved it, to this very day in spite of the opposition of mankind.  This is clearly depicted in our parsha.  As soon as the Jews underwent a period of tremendous growth and expansion the fear and paranoia of Pharaoh was aroused.  He accused them of being a disloyal "fifth column" who would side with Egypt's enemies should war ever break out.  He resolved to crush their spirit by imposing excessive burdens on them.  When this failed to diminish their growth he resorted to an evil scheme.  The midwives were instructed to execute all male infants in the process of delivering them.  Had the plan succeeded it would have insured the destruction of the Jewish people before they ever got off the ground.

The plan did not work.  Not one child was killed as a result of Pharaoh's command.  The midwives refused to go along with it.  What motivated them to resist and risk the wrath of the mighty ruler?  One might, at first glance, ascribe their behavior to ordinary compassion for helpless, innocent babies.  However, the Torah makes it clear that such was not the case.  The pasuk says, "and the midwives feared G-d and did not do as Pharaoh had instructed."  It was only because of their fear of Hashem that the women were able to thwart the heinous plan of the king.  This episode is very inspiring and relevant to the human condition.  One of the most enduring themes of  history is that of man's inhumanity to man.  In our own time we have been witness to the worst expression of human evil and degradation;  the systematic extermination of 6 million innocents who were targeted for extermination.  Pharaoh failed because the fear of G-d was so powerful that it overcame the fear of man.  The Torah maintains that man has the ability and responsibility to resist evil.  Hitler succeeded because the fear of G-d was absent from the world in the dark days of the Holocaust.  There were no "midwives" who could summon the bravery to oppose his murderous designs.  Judaism maintains that evil succeeds not only because of the deeds of wicked people.  Of equal or even greater consequence is the cold indifference of the "bystanders."  The "good" people are responsible for their failure to oppose the wicked plans of powerful tyrants.  In acquiescing to evil they demonstrate that they are completely devoid of the true fear of Hashem which, alone, can give mankind the courage to triumph over its worst enemies.  "The fear of Hashem which is pure, endures forever."  May we merit to attain it.

Shabbat Shalom