Thursday, June 16, 2016

Rabbi Binyamin Kahane "We Were Just Following Orders" -1995

Kahane on the Parsha
Rabbi Binyamin Kahane- Parshat Beha'alotcha


As national catastrophe hovers over us, many religious Jews are beginning to understand (better late than never) the fatal mistake they made all these years in not thinking big when it came to national politics. The most they ever desired was membership in the coalitions of various governments, Right, and Left. They never went for all the marbles -- that is, to grab hold of the reins of leadership and lead the Jewish people. Only now, as the country is disintegrating, are they finally realizing that they must step up and offer the people an entirely different path -- a Jewish path -- if Israel is to survive.

And so, the time has come to ask: What are the characteristics of a true Jewish leader???
The answer to this question is in our parsha, which discusses the very first Sanhedrin in Jewish history. Moses had reached his breaking point and told G-d, "I can't carry the burden of this people alone, for it is too heavy for me" (Numbers 11:14). Whereupon G-d told him to find 70 elders to help him. But whom to choose? How does one select 70 leaders? After all, there was no shortage of righteous and talented Jews around.

G-d, however, immediately singled out a specific group: the officers of the Children of Israel in Egypt. Who in the world were these officers and why did they deserve to lead the Jewish people? In Parshat Shemot, Pharaoh lays down a rather heavy edict on his Jewish slaves. They must produce a specific quota of bricks without even being given straw. The Jewish officers are ordered by the Egyptian taskmasters to see to it that the quota is met. If it isn't the officers will be blamed for the shortage and beaten. The officers, therefore, are in a dilemma: Either they beat their brothers mercilessly and save their own skin, or they disobey orders and suffer the consequences.

How would we expect them to behave? We are all too familiar with the claims of many soldiers and policemen in Israel today: "Nu, What can I do? I'm just a small screw in a big machine. I'm just following orders." We might expect the Jewish officers in Egypt to similarly rationalize, "Yes, we are with you. The edict is cruel. But, nu. what can we do? We are just following orders." But that is NOT what the Jewish officers say to their brothers in Egypt!!!
The officers recognize the cruelty of the decree and refuse to obey it! And they suffer the consequences: "The Jewish officers were beaten in place of the people as they were unwilling to turn them over to the taskmasters. They said, 'It is better that we be hit and not let the rest of the people falter'" (Tanchuma, Beha'alotcha 13).

THESE were the people chosen by G-d to lead the Jewish people. They weren't necessarily the most scholarly Jews. However, their hearts burned with Ahavat Yisrael. They did not merely pay lip service to the concept of Ahavat Yisrael. They were genuinely ready to suffer for their brothers.
Darka Shel Torah, 1995

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Rabbi Meir Kahane: His Life and Thought, 1976-1983” (volume 2), has been published. and now available in Israel. Can be bought from Yeshivat Haraayon Hayehudi (02-5823540) and from Pomeranz Books (02-6235559)

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