in every joke there is a bit of joking

Friday, 4 January, 2019 - 6:38 am

A well-known joke claims that in Israel, if you have connections you don’t need protektzia. My grandfather used to say that in every joke there is a bit of joking, but the rest is true. So, that is the truth: when you know someone and he feels he owes you something, he’ll help you, or at least not interfere with your needs.

These days there is a too-quick tendency to connect any help given by friends with bribery and corruption. In my opinion, not only is this not true and not proper to say, but it’s also not healthy for society and for the world’s existence. If someone helped you, it’s only right that you should help him. Chazal already said so in the midrash: “Don’t cast a rock into a water hole that you drank from.”

In this week’s parasha, Moshe Rabbeinu reaches the stage of the first plague, the plague of blood. After all the warnings and threats to Pharaoh, the moment comes when it is time to lift up the special staff and strike the Ye’or, the river. But then Hashem stops Moshe: “Hashem said to Moshe, say to Aharon…” Chazal said in the Midrash Rabbah: Rabbi Tanchum said: Why wasn’t the water struck by Moshe? The Kadosh Baruch Hu said to him: It is not right that the water that protected you when you were thrown into the Ye’or should be struck with a plague by you. Rather, they ot struck only by Aharon.”

How simple, and how beautiful.

When I was a child I used to wonder: Many Jewish babies were cast into the Ye’or and drowned to death in it. Hundreds, maybe thousands? The Ye’or indeed saved Moshe, but many others died in it. What merits does it have?

And the answer is that the Ye’or really deserved to be plagued. It had to also turn into blood, to punish the Egyptians who were being cruel to the beaten, bruised Jews. There is no argument as to that. But the actual striking will not be done by Moshe, because Mosh must feel beholden to the Ye’or.


Shabbat Shalom,


Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

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