In last week’s Parsha (Shemos – 3:13) we have the unlikely scenario of Moshe Rabbenu asking his father in law, Yisro permission (as Rashi explains) to go to Egypt and fulfill the word of God. The obvious question is, why would Moshe do that? Why not go immediately to the task at hand? Is he not delaying the word of God thereby disobeying Him to a certain extent? The answer is given by the Alter of Slabodka, Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel (…not the late Rosh Yeshiva of the Mir but his ancestor, for whom he was named). It was precisely for this character trait that Moshe was selected to be the leader of his people. The chacter trait of Hakoras HaTov (expressing gratitude). Says, the Alter, without this trait, he would not have been worthy of being the leader the people of Israel.
We are told that Yisro was an idol worshipper. One of his many names was Putiel, which Rashi tells us indicated his ‘job’ (so to speak) was to fatten cattle for idol sacrifices. This name is mentioned in this week’s Parsha (Va’erah- 6:25) in the context of describing lineages. Putiel was not only Moshe’s father in law, he was also Elazar’s (Aaron’s son) father in law.
When I saw this Dvar Torah yesterday, it reminded me of a Siyum on Shas I attended last year. It was given by one of my Mechutanim – the father in law of one of my daughters. During his Drasha, he mentioned the old joke about people who prayed to God to save them from a rising flood. It goes something like this:
Some people found themselves on the top of a house during a flood. A series of 3 rescue attempts ensued. And with each attempt they rejected the help saying that they were waiting for salvation form the Lord. Of course they ended up drowning when the flood reached the roof they were on. When they approached God in the next word, they asked Him why He didn’t answer their prayers for salvation. He answered. I sent you help three times and you refused it!
My Mechutan compared that joke to God sending us Herzl to found modern Zionism. Herzl, he said, was sent by God to save the Jewish people – persecuted throughout the ages since the second Temple era – by giving them back their land. He followed that up by asking why is there no recognition in certain religious circles of that help? Yes, Herzl was not religious in the traditional sense of the word. But that does not absolve them of both recognizing him as God’s messenger and expressing Hakoras Hatov to both Herzl and God for sending him. We don’t know why God chose this secular Jew as His messenger. But we do know that it was God who sent him.
The Torah teaches that without acknowledging gratitude to those who have helped you – you are not worthy of leadership… even if the individual that helps you is an idol worshiper!
The attitude of the Charedi rabbinic leadership in Israel – not only does not express gratitude for what Herzl created, they condemn him as an evil man whose mission was to destroy the Torah. The same thing is true in how they treat his spiritual heirs, the current Israeli political leadership. Until relatively recently, this government funded their schools, and exempted all of them from the draft. They have also provided protection of their lives via the IDF. They have also provided the infrastructure that gives them modern conveniences they might otherwise not have. Roads, super-highways, bridges, tunnels, clean water, a sewer system, sidewalks, affordable health care, a 21st century communications network… I could go on. But you get the idea.
What was their response to all that? Aside from a few very positive statements from Gedolim like Rav Chaim Shumlevitz and Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel, there was – and is – mostly condemnation. They have taken all that Israel has done for them in the past for granted with the attitude of, “What have you done for me lately?!”
I understand that they now feel under siege. I completely disagree with their perspective on this. But I guess if you get used to being treated a certain way, it is not going to sit well with you if some of those expected things get taken away.
But that does not take away the responsibility of a leader in Klal Yisroel to express Hakaros HaTov for what they have always done for them. The fact is that for a great number of these leaders, there is no HaKoras HaTov. Instead they are fighting Israel as though they were living in 1492 Spain. One fellow, Moshe A., got himself arrested as a martyr for the cause. From the Jewish Press:
Moshe A. was following the command of Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach, leader of the Jerusalem Lithuanian Haredim, who declared the effort to recruit yeshiva students “gzeirat shmad,” tantamount to the medieval church’s attempts to convert Jews by force.
They called it a kidnapping by the government into a military prison! I do not believe that Rav Auerbach is in any way living up to his father’s legacy. I don’t know how Rav Shlomo Zalman, his father, would have reacted to the current situation. He probably would have been on board with opposing what the government is doing here. But one thing I am sure of. He would certainly not have reacted the way his son did.
Charedim: Heed the words of the Alter. Without Hakoras HaTov, there is no leadership in Israel. Be keenly aware that what is happening today is the opposite of that.
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About the Author: Harry Maryles runs the blog "Emes Ve-Emunah" which focuses on current events and issues that effect the Jewish world in general and Orthodoxy in particular. It discuses Hashkafa and news events of the day - from a Centrist perspctive and a philosphy of Torah U'Mada. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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