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Beshalach: A Single Point of Merit

Miriam Aflalo

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

“When Pharaoh sent the people …” (Shemos 13:17)

It says in the Midrash: Whenever it uses the word “send,” it means to send with accompaniment. Pharaoh accompanied Bnei Yisrael when he sent them. What reward did he receive? That is says in the Torah “Don’t hate a Mitzri.”

The words of the Midrash need a lot of explanation. Did Pharaoh even want to send them out? It was only after he received ten plagues that he capitulated to set them free. So how can the Midrash tell us that for this accompaniment he got a reward forever? (Midrash Emunah, from a drashah of Rav Shach in Yeshivas Ponivezh, 29 Shvat, 5738)

I was at the Kosel, pouring out my heart in a private conversation with Hashem. The cooing of the doves seemed to accompany my tear-filled tefillah.

Suddenly, there was a hand on my shoulder and someone asked, “Excuse me, can you move? We want to put a note into the Wall.”

I moved over, and abruptly, the area was flooded with loud voices. I was accosted by raucous laughter and the popping of chewing gum. I felt like I’d been pushed off the top of a mountain, straight down into a carnival.

They took pictures, while laughing hysterically, and shrieked with excitement. Their mode of dress and hairstyles offended me; I was bristling from having my tefillah interrupted so rudely.

I left. I found a small corner where I’d be protected from all the frivolity, and I tried to weave again the delicate threads that shaped my davening. But I wasn’t successful. The cooing of the doves could still be heard and the huge stones stood opposite me, waiting eagerly, but I couldn’t return to my previous concentration.

I got angry at myself, and angry at them. Why did they come to the Kosel? Why didn’t they go to some amusement park? They could sit and laugh on the beach, for all I cared. Is there a lack of tourist spots at which one can take pictures while chewing gum?

Why don’t they respect the holiness of the site? Why don’t they have the most basic of sensitivities?

When I left the Kosel plaza, I saw them again. Their tour guide was announcing the time of their departure to Hod HaSharon. Oh, I thought. Hod HaSharon. I looked at them with curiosity. They came all the way from Hod HaSharon to the Kosel? A new thought crept into my angry heart. See, it said, they came from so far just to pray.

So what? I closed my heart to the thought. See how they look and how they behave; they didn’t come to daven, they came because it’s a tourist attraction.

No! No! the thought persisted. They came to daven. How impressive. In spite of the distance, physically and spiritually, they still have a spark of kedushah within. The came all the way from Hod HaSharon to the holiest site on earth.

But it was still hard for me to give in.

Although Pharoah was forced to send them against his will, he still accompanied them a bit on their way to freedom. And we don’t ignore this good action despite his other deeds. From here we learn how exact is the judgment of each person with every detail. Even if there is only one aspect of zchus, we don’t ignore this merit. The actual sending of Bnei Yisrael is credited to Pharoah’s name for eternity. (ibid.)

Sometimes, it seems to us that the world is safer if we view it in black and white. Pharoah is a rasha, and that’s it. The neighbors next door are ill-mannered people. Period. My boss is incorrigible. And even the bus driver who drives me in the morning is a negative type.

But the next-door neighbors sing so beautifully on Shabbos. Can this be a point of merit for them?

And my boss? He always gives generous bonuses before Yom Tov. And the bus driver always waits for the elderly to sit before he drives on.

So what? The childish voice within me wants to answer. So what’s the value of one action vis-à-vis all the negative ones?

It is incumbent upon each of us to judge a person according to all of his actions. And it’s possible, that once we ignore the minor negative points that bother us, we can influence the future of each person’s judgment. (ibid.)

I hope I can be successful in throwing away the childish superficiality from my life. And to find, in spite of everything, a small point of value in every person.

Do you hear that far away in Hod HaSharon? You have value and zchuyos in my heart.

And it was my zchus to recognize it.

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