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Thought for the Day: Real Yiras Shamayim

Here is the scene.  You are in ancient Egypt and are part of the enslaved and demoralized Israelite nation.  Even so, you are fiercely proud of your heritage and feel betrayed by the very government your illustrious uncle had helped establish (really had single-handedly built).  Now Paroh calls you in and tells you to kill all Jewish baby boys as they are born.  What do you do?  What do you say?  Our first inclination is we hope that we would have the courage to stand up to Paroh and say, "That is an evil act and I will not do it!  I am a G-d fearing Jew and I will never buckle under!"

What really happened?  Paroh called in Shifra and Pu'ah demanding to know why they had not followed his orders to kill all the male Israelite babies.  In fact, according to the Sporno, Paroh also wanted to know why they had lead him to believe that they would follow his orders and then failed (what?!?  they let him believe they would follow his heinous orders??)  Their answer, inscribed scribed forever in our Holy Torah and read aloud in public year after year: "Well... gosh, Paroh.  The Jewish women are like animals and the babies are born and vital before we get there.  It's really, really hard to do what you are asking."  (My free translation.)  Huh?  And what does the Torah haK'dosha say about this behavior?  It calls them "G-d Fearing" and records that they were rewarded to be the mothers of kings and priests.

So let's say that had done it your way.  Paroh would have summarily removed them from their positions, probably had them executed as examples, and then put in new midwives who would have done his will.  What Shifra and Pu'ah did was to shrewdly and brilliantly keep their positions and save babies.  The "stand up for your principles" approach is dramatic, but shows much more "yiras paroh" than "yiras shamayim"; because it means they wouldn't want to appear weak in front of Paroh.

There surely are times for "give my liberty or give me death", but the question you always have to ask is, "Am I doing this for HaShem or for myself?"  And by "have to ask" I don't mean "ask yourself", I mean "ask your rav".  Asking yourself is a great way to get the answer you want, asking your rav is the only way to get the answer that is right.


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