Self-Respect and Self-Image

Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, in his <i>sefer</i> <I>Growth Through Torah</i>, on <i>parshas Sh'mos</I>, speaks about self-respect and the lack thereof as a cause of subjugation by others. Rabbi Pliskin cites both the <i>Ohr Hachayim</i> and Rabbi Chayim Shmuelevitz.

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Moshe Burt,

לבן ריק
לבן ריק
צילום: ערוץ 7
Last week?s parshas hashavua marks two years since terrorists snuffed out the life of a young hesder yeshiva student from Yeshivat Hakotel, who was serving on his first miluim (reserve) duty, along the Jordanian border near Moshav Yardena. The young soldier was a medic. He and his wife had recently taken up residence in Ramat Beit Shemesh "A". During the Shiva period, a group of us from Ramat Beit Shemesh went to join the family in davening Shacharit and to pay our consolations to the family. Previous to learning in Yeshivat HaKotel, the young soldier also learned in Sha'alvim.

In these two years, we have seen Medinat Yisrael move from humiliation to humiliation, from absurdity to absurdity. From Cheney to Zinni Plans and on to Roadmaps, Security Fences and Unilateral Separation, Disengagement or whatever new "Dumb or Dumber" spin term Arik Sharon comes up with next.

Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, in his sefer Growth Through Torah, on parshas Sh'mos, speaks about self-respect and the lack thereof as a cause of subjugation by others. Rabbi Pliskin cites both the Ohr Hachayim and Rabbi Chayim Shmuelevitz.

The Ohr Hachayim explains that there were three stages to the enslavement of B'nai Yisrael: "First Yosef died, the B'nai Yisrael lost their power, then the brothers died. As long as even one brother was alive, the Egyptians still honored them. Even afterwards, as long as the members of that first generation were alive, the Egyptians considered them important and were not able to treat them as slaves."

Rabbi Chayim Shmuelevitz, the Mirrer Rosh Yeshiva, commented "that there are two aspects here. One is... the Egyptians. They were unable to treat the Jewish people as slaves as long as they (the Egyptians) considered them important. The other aspect is... the Jewish people themselves. As long as they were considered important and worthy of respect by themselves, the Egyptians were not able to treat them in an inferior manner. Only when they personally considered themselves in a lowly manner, could they be subjugated by others."

Rabbi Shmuelevitz racked up this lack of self-respect and self-esteem to the yeitzer hora ? the evil inclination. He continued, "First, the evil inclination tries to have a person feel inferior and guilty. Once a person feels a sense of guilt and worthlessness, then he is easy prey for being trapped by the evil inclination.... " (Growth Through Torah, Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, on parshas Sh'mos, pages 158-159)

We learn that even as early as the end of parshas Vayigash, B'nai Yisrael was losing its connection with Torah and Eretz Yisrael and sought to assimilate, to be as Egyptians.

I return again to part of a book review that I recently wrote on a book of short, almost Biblical stories. At the end of one story, the fictional character "Duaf'" concludes his account of the times of Yosef to the local scribe; "What Yosef did for Egypt is one of the great tales of this dynasty. Greater even than the victories over Nubia and the Assyrians. Yosef saved the empire from famine and starvation. There is no doubt that, together with his Majesty and the other Pharaohs, he will be remembered forever in the chronicles of Egypt."

I suggested in the close of the book review of The Megillah of Tabriz and other Almost Bible Stories that there is a moral to the story of "Duaf of Memphis", although it is not spelled out in the book. Jews should never think that by playing up to the Goyim, by attempting to emulate them, or by trying to be just like them, or by assimilating with them, that they will love us or be our friends. For we see all that Yosef did for Egypt and how quickly Pharaoh and the Egyptians didn't remember Yosef and enslaved the Jews.

Sadly, this moral has not been learned, internalized and intellectualized time and time again, including in our contemporary times.

As I recall back to the Six Day War, the entire world stood in awe of the tiny army of Israel after the mauling she gave the Arab nation when they rose up and tried to destroy her. But we became haughty, fat and complacent, and suffered losses from a surprise attack six years later, followed by collective trauma, countless political machinations and cheshbonot, addiction to billions of US aid dollars to fuel the self-interests and aggrandizement of the monopolists. We became wrought with increasing self-doubt and self-perceived weakness. Yosef Q. Israeli lost his faith in and connection with Hashem. Instead of "ein breira" ("there is no choice") and a love for Eretz Yisrael, Yiddishkeit and expressing "kol ha'aretz shelanu" ("all the land is ours") are branded extremist, racist, fascist.

And so, B'nai Yisrael have been gradually sold out and dumbed down by the government, on the strength of its perception of itself as mere grasshoppers who carry "a burden too great to bear," as "beggars who must keep quiet."

May it be God?s will that B'nai Yisrael come to our collective senses and finally see the imminent dangers, both within and without, and act to defeat them. May we not lose further valuable Jewish neshamot (souls) to the machinations and cheshbonot of the anti-Torah, politically self-interested. In the merit of our collective unity, emunah and actions, may we be zochim (worthy) to "compel" Hashem to do what he wants to do, to bring us Moshiach, the Geula Shlaima, and an end to low, dirty politics, political equivocation, perfidy and false cheshbonot - achshav, chik-chak, miyad, etmol!