In this week’s Parsha, Parshas Vayeira, as well as in last week’s Parsha, and next week’s Parsha, we find Moshe, the messenger of HaShem, addressing Pharaoh with great deference. One such example we have is when Moshe informs Pharaoh in the name of HaShem, “Let us go for a three day retreat in the desert to serve our G-D lest we will be struck with plague and war.” Moshe’s intent was to say that if you do not allow us to go on this retreat, you will be struck with plague and war. However, out of deference, rather than say explicitly that you will be struck he said that we will be struck.
This is Moshe’s conduct with Pharaoh throughout the entire year of plagues. How do we understand this? Pharaoh is a monster who has ordered the death of Jewish babies. He has enslaved HaShem’s people in the most degrading ways. His sins to humanity will earn him a special place among those who are punished by HaShem’s wrath. And yet Moshe shows respect to him? Our Sages deal with this question and explain that this show of respect is due to Pharaoh because he is the king. Royalty deserves honor.
But why?! While he may be a king with royal blood, he is nonetheless a
tyrant. Does that not count for anything?
Before we address this question let us diverge a moment.
How can Man have a relationship with the Creator of the universe? HaShem has no body, He occupies no space, He occupies no time. He is the absolute definition of abstract. How can we relate to the abstract in a meaningful way?
For this purpose HaShem set up society in a way that we find parallels to HaShem. For example, Man is born totally helpless with no chance of survival without the constant care of his parents for the first many years of life. There is no animal that is so helpless. Why? So that as man matures he will recognize how much he owes his parents. Once he comes to that recognition he will have the ability to project that relationship of gratitude and trust towards HaShem.
In the same vein, HaShem created the institution of Royalty to provide Man with the experience of recognizing authority. Without such experience Man will find it difficult to project that Awe and Fear that is due to HaShem.
Let us return to our quandary. Perhaps Moshe shows Pharaoh such deference because that will serve as the model to his people for recognizing authority. Even when the authority seems so undeserving of our respect we must nevertheless submit our deference to him. This allows us to project truly deserving respect and awe to HaShem even when we do not understand why He does certain things. Even though we know HaShem does everything for our best, nevertheless, it is a great challenge to hold on to our awe of Him when we feel wronged. This was the lesson Moshe taught his people. It was a lesson for us to learn as we were on the cusp of establishing a relationship that would endure thousands of years. Many of those years were filled with challenging times when we could have abandoned our relationship due to the hardship to which we were subjected. But we knew that authority deserves our allegiance irrespective of how we feel about it. If we are able to maintain our allegiance to Him in times of hardship we will merit to rejoice with Him in times of salvation.
Was there anything more challenging than the Holocaust? And yet a mere generation later we have our Land and have become a major positive influence in the world.
How fortunate we are to have the ability to hold on to HaShem even when we do not quite understand why.
Have a wonderful Shabbos.