In this week’s Parashah, Bnei Yisrael unfortunately commit what may be the biggest Chilul Hashem of all time; the Eigel HaZahav incident. The Pesukim in the beginning of Shemot Perek 32 describe this scene: On the spot, Hashem tells Moshe that He should perhaps just destroy Bnei Yisrael and start a new nation through Moshe. Moshe responds, astonishingly, by telling Hashem that if He would do that, then He should leave Moshe out of His Torah. And as the Pasuk states, Moshe sees what the Bnei Yisrael did and smashes the Luchot – this ultimately saves the nation. Moshe has the courage to respond to Hashem and single-handedly saves the Jewish nation.
This episode is directly relatable to Purim. When Achashveirosh announces the massive party, Mordechai instructs the Jews not to go, as he understands the party to be a dangerous trap that Achashveirosh has set. Almost all of the Jews enjoy the party, though, and the Jews are subsequently almost completely wiped out by Haman’s plot. Mordechai serves as the rescuer of the Jewish people in this story, doing what Moshe had done, and risks his life and Esther’s life to save the Jewish people. Through significant actions, both Moshe and Mordechai save the Jews.
A Jew through one act can save many other Jews, and this is illustrated in a famous story about Rav Yechezkel Landau of Prague, the Noda BeYehudah , Rav Yechezkel Landau, was once returning from Shul when he noticed a young non-Jewish boy sitting on the curb, weeping terribly. Rav Yechezkel went over to the boy and inquired what had caused his sobbing. The boy replied that his mother had threatened to beat him if he would come home without enough money from selling bagels at the market that day. They boy hadn’t sold all of the bagels, and he lost whatever money he had earned. Rav Yechezkel, understanding the boy’s pain, proceeded to take the boy home, give him the amount of money his mother required and a hot meal, and send him on his way. Many years later, around Pesach time, Rav Yechezkel heard an unexpected knock at his door. He opened the door and the visitor asked if he could come in, saying that he had very valuable information for Rav Yechezkel. He told Rav Yechezkel that the gentile bakers were planning to poison the bread that the Jews would buy from them after Pesach. Rav Yechezkel was astonished and asked the man who he was and why he was sharing this information with him. “I am the little boy that you saved so many years ago”, he replied. “I want to repay you for saving me from my mother’s beating,” he said, and he then begged Rav Yechezkel not to reveal that he foiled their plan. Rav Yechezkel graciously agreed, and called a meeting of the Jews of Prague on Chol HaMoed. He told them that the day of Rosh Chodesh was miscalculated and that they would need to celebrate Pesach for another day. When the day after Pesach came and there were no Jews in the gentiles’ bakeries, the authorities came to Rav Yechezkel’s house. “Before you arrest me, let’s see if this bread is fit to eat,” said Rav Yechezkel. He fed the bread to a dog and the dog subsequently keeled over dead. Thus, Rav Yechezkel’s small action of helping the little boy ended up saving the Jews of Prague from an evil plot many years later.
We may not be numerous in the world, being only twelve million out of more than seven billion people. However, we must realize that our presence is pronounced and that each one of us is a representative of the Jewish nation. We must always be careful to create only Kiddushei Hashem and not Chilulei Hashem, as we will never know how impactful our actions may be.