Like sheep to the slaughter…

Categories: Bo, Parsha

So the Jewish people are in a pickle this week (Parshat Bo). Slavery is rough and the fire that is the plagues under the seat of the Egyptians is heating up. These are tense times indeed. And so, when finally the tenth plague arrives and the Egyptians are completely fed up, Moses instructs the Jews that everyone should take a sheep into their individual homes. Why? Because sheep were the deity of the Egyptians. And so, continued Moshe, whenever any of the Egyptians asked, “Excuse me, what is your intention with this sacred item, you know, the sheep, you’ve brought into your home?” your response should be, “Oh this old thing? We intend to slaughter it.” Sorry? What’s that? Adding insult to injury? Why the need to rub it in their faces? (We know that this is the Passover sacrifice that we commemorate every year at the Seder, but still. There could certainly be a less conspicuous way to start this off!)

To understand this, we need to understand the mental state of the Jewish people at this time. The Jewish people were slaves. They had the mindset of slaves. They were meek, totally downtrodden and hopeless; the idea of standing up for themselves was completely foreign. So what is one of the first things they are commanded as they begin their story as free people? Stand up for yourselves. Stand up for what’s right. Have some self confidence. Yes, you’re going out of Egypt and leaving this barbaric, archaic society behind, so stand up for what you believe in. Say it loud and say it proud and go out with your head held high. A story is told about one of the secretaries of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Krinsky, who had back pain and the Rebbe’s wife, the Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka, instructed him to see a doctor, which he did. The Rebbe asked him what the doctor’s advice was? Rabbi Krinsky responded that he had suggestions regarding his posture and that he should strive to sit up straight. The Rebbe told Rabbi Krinsky, “I always instruct my followers to stand up straight with their heads up.”

The lesson for us is an obvious one. When we see something that needs to be corrected, when we see an injustice, we need to be confident in how we respond. We need to be sure of ourselves and sometimes, even have some chutzpah in doing so. It was one of the first lessons the Jewish people needed in becoming a free folk, and we should carry that torch proudly today. Good Shabbos!

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