Judaism: The Man Who Cursed
Rabbi Dror BramaThe writer is former rosh kollel of Torah Mitzion in London.
In this week's Parsha, the Torah tells us about the tragic events following the incident of "The man who cursed":
"The son of an Israelite woman went out, and he was the son of an Egyptian man, among the children of Israel; they fought in the camp, the son of the Israelite woman and an Israelite man. The son of the Israelite woman pronounced the Name and cursed…(24:10)."
This story is the opening for the laws concerning blasphemy and it details the death sentence that was carried in these cases. The commentators on the story wonder why it was important to tell us the details of the incident. The Torah could teach us the laws of blasphemy without telling us the embarrassing incident, as it does with most of the other mitzvot, could it not?
Chazal, our Sages, add some interesting context to the story, to reveal a profound lesson.
The Midrash Raba says that this wasn't just a random individual. The Torah tells us his mother's name. She was not at fault in this tragedy but, instead, she was a victim herself. According to Chazal, she was raped by an Egyptian officer who was in charge of the Israelite slaves. When her husband identified the offender in Egypt, he confronted him and the officer started brutalizing him too.
This was the case that Moshe Rabbeinu encountered when he came out to his brothers and saw an Egyptian torturing an Israelite. As the Torah tells us in Exodus, Sefer Shemot, Moshe killed that Egyptian and buried him in the sands. Emphasizing the connection between these two stories, Chazal tell us that Moshe killed the Egyptian by mentioning the Holy Name.
The child that was born from that rape grew up without a father. In the Israeli camp, where every person had his place set by the family of his father, this troubled soul couldn't find his place in the society, got into fights and, eventually, in this last fight he couldn't take it anymore. He didn't just curse the person he was fighting with.
He went to the source of his problems, as he saw it. He used the same Name that killed his father, and injected all his rage into an act of blasphemy.
There is important lesson we can learn here. On the days between Pesach and Shavuot, between Holocaust Memorial Day, and holidays of redemption, we thank Hashem for so many things. We also know that some of us have lost their dear ones and that, as a nation, we carry memories of terrible losses and scars.
We attribute everything to Hashem- the redemption and the sufferings. This poor man wasn't the only person who lost his father. He was made an example of because his reaction was opposite to everything we stand for.
We believe that the way to deal with loss and tragedy is not by cursing but through actions to amend, improve our surroundings as much as we can. Whenever we meet a situation we cannot correct or modify, we need to turn the energies to improve ourselves and the world in things we can do.
We also learn that those who have a hard time finding their place in our camp are the most fragile. They are prone to the trap of adding a curse to their tragedy. We can only imagine what could have happened if instead of the fight, this poor man had gotten a hug.