The Odd Connection by Avi Roth


In Parashat Shemot, we are introduced to Moshe Rabbeinu. Later in Sefer Shemot, we see that Moshe is worthy of leading the Jewish people out of Egypt. One of Moshe’s greatest acts that displays his leadership abilities is when he saves a Jew from being beaten by an Egyptian. Moshe was careful to keep the situation under control, as the Pesukim relate, “VaYifen Koh VaChoh VaYar Ki Ein Ish VaYach Et HaMitzri VaYitmeneihu BaChol,” “And he looked this way and that way, and when he saw that there was no man, he smote the Egyptian, and hid him in the sand” (Shemot 2:12). The phrase “VaYar Ki Ein Ish” appears only one other time Tanach: when Yeshayahu is lamenting over the Jews’ sins, we are told, “VaYar Ki Ein Ish VaYishtomeim Ki Ein Mafgi’a VaTosha Lo Zero’o VeTzidkato Hi Semachat’hu,” “And He saw that there was no man and was astonished that there was no intercessor; therefore His own arm brought salvation unto Him; and His righteousness, it sustained Him” (Yeshayahu 59:16). It seems odd that the phrase which is used in the context of Moshe saving a life is also used in the context of Yeshayahu lamenting over the Jews’ sins. What is the connection between these two seemingly unrelated events?

Perhaps a parable might help us understand the connection between these two disparate events. We can compare Moshe’s and Yeshayahu’s situations to that of a bank teller. If a teller notices an error with someone’s money and nobody knows about it, he has two options: either he can leave his comfort zone, fix the problem, and save the person’s account which has been miscalculated, or he can do nothing and put the problem on the bank owner’s shoulders.

This idea can relate to Moshe, as he is the “teller” in his situation and only he sees the Jew being beaten. Heroically, he leaves his comfort zone to protect the Jew, despite the fact that his action is a heinous crime in Egypt. He could have easily done nothing and simply let the situation play out on its own.

The same applies to Yeshayahu during his life. The Jews, or “tellers,” didn’t help each other in times of need, so the “bank owners,” or leaders, were left on their own to fix the problems, but they too stood by idly. This idea explains the phrase “VaYishtomeim Ki Ein Mafgi’a,” “And he was astonished that there was no intercessor”. Nobody was willing to leave his comfort zone to do the right thing and fix the obvious problems, so it was up to Yeshayahu to attend to all the issues.

This has been a recurring problem throughout Jewish history. Many times, Jews have been tempted to follow idolatry or other sins and stay in their comfort zones. Before the generations immediately prior to destruction of the first Beit HaMikdash, no Jew would have even considered leaving Hashem to worship another god, since all the Jews felt and knew that they were responsible for helping each other during difficult times.

May the Jews of the past be an inspiration to us as Jews in modern times so that we will all have the willpower to abandon the short-term temptations of the Yeitzer HaRa and fight for our fellow Jews through all the challenges we face in our lives.

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