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"Stand Up and Be Counted!"

01/02/2019 04:35:26 PM


Rabbi Reuben Israel Abraham, CDR, CHC, USN (ret)

Tragically we saw toward the end of the year 2018 the specter of anti-Semitism/anti-Judaism raising its ugly head once again, this time in Pittsburgh.  The reaction of the American Jewish community was swift and overwhelming.  But this was not always the case in this country.  Justice Felix Frankfurter recounted in his memoirs that when he found out the Franklin Delano Roosevelt was thinking of appointing him to the United States Supreme Court, the leaders of the American Jewish community sent a delegation to FDR pleading with him to not go through with the appointment.  Why?  Because, said the delegation, it would anger Hitler and make Jews "too visible" in this country.  Rabbi Avi Weiss recalls that when the Student Struggle of the Soviet Jewry movement got started, the leaders of the American Jewish community wanted no one to raise a voice about the Jews of the Soviet Union.  Why?  Because it would anger the leaders of the Soviet Union causing further oppression for Soviet Jewry.  Needless-to-say, in both of these cases the leaders of the American Jewish community were ignored.  What happened?  Well, what had been predicted would happen did not, in fact, ever happen. We see a similar  situation in this week's parashah.

Last week's parashah, Parashat Shemot, ended with Pharaoh responding to Moshe's command/demand from Hashem to free B'nei Yisrael from Egyptian bondage by withholding the straw with which they made the daily assignment of bricks.  The reaction from B'nei Yisrael is anything but positive for Moshe: "And they (B'nei Yisrael) met Moshe and Aharon [when they were] standing opposite them,...And they said to them,'May HaShem be revealed to you and may He punish [you], for that which you made our scent bad in the eyes of Pharaoh and in the eyes of his servants - to put a sword in their hand to kill us!'" What they were  telling  Moshe and Aharon is that they wanted them to remain quiet.  "Don't stir the pot!"  So what did Moshe and Aharon do?  Moshe protested to Hashem that his going to Pharaoh had increased the misery of the B'nei Yisrael.  He also claimed that because of this, the B'nei Yisrael would not listen to him.

This week's parashah, Parashat Va-Eira, shows us why we must always stand up and be counted. After Moshe's protest, HaShem says to him, "You shall speak all that I command you, and Aharon, your brother, shall speak with Pharaoh, so that he shall send away the B'nei Yisrael from his land."  What is interesting to note is the fact that before Hashem speaks these words, He gives an accounting of the entire lineage of Moshe and the geneology of the tribes of Re'uven, Shim'on, and Levi.  Why?  Because HaShem is reminding Moshe who he is and from whom he came.  Hashem is reminding Moshe that when addressing Pharaoh, he [Moshe] is not only representing himself and the B'nei Yisrael with him, but he is also representing the Patriarchs and the Matriarchs and all who followed them as well as all those who will come after him.  HaShem tells Moshe, "Ve-gam hakimoti et briti itam...." --- "And I also established my covenant with them...."  The "Brit," the covenant which Hashem established with the Patriarchs and the Matriarchs is eternal; it will never be abolished.  This covenant is what has sustained us up to the present day and will continue to do so for all eternity.  It is this covenant with HaShem that should cause all of us to "stand up and be counted" when were are confronted by those who want either our silence or, even worse, our demise.  May we, the B'Nei Yisrael always remain committed to our covenant with Hashem!  


Wed, August 21 2019 20 Av 5779