Sunday, January 25, 2015

Keeping Silent Will Not Save You

More than once I've used my blog posts to be a flaming kiss-ass. I'm not proud to admit it, and it's not that I do it intentionally, but it happens. Inevitably my misuse of my G-d given talent backfires, because someone always calls me out on it.

"You should stick to blogs on branding," a commenter recently said, "because when you write about Obama [note: I work for the federal government and have a vested interest in not getting my ass handed to me on a silver platter] you always put your foot in your mouth."

Specifically objecting to a previous post imploring the President to fight radical Islamic terrorism. Where I said:

"Only you, only you can do this."

The comment: "No, only G-d can do this. With your words you blaspheme G-d. Change it, so you won't be punished."

Fine, but I'm still gonna write about the stuff I'm writing about, I thought.

Even though I'm afraid.

I am afraid, like many Jews are afraid.

The nail that sticks out gets hammered.

But when the U.N. convenes a summit on the problem of global anti-Semitism, you know you're past the threshold when we could afford the luxury of silence.

This past week's Torah reading, Shemot, talks to this exact issue. The Jews' slavery in Egypt began with anti-Semitism and progressed to forced labor; there was quite a bit of run-up.

There was opportunity to speak up to Pharoah, to intervene and influence history.

According to the ancient rabbis, Pharoah's advisers were rewarded or punished because of how they reacted to his declared intentions.

Rabbi Ephraim Buchwald explains:

"The Midrash states, that in the 130th year of Israel’s sojourn in Egypt, Pharaoh dreamed that, while sitting on the throne, he saw an old man before him holding a scale in his hands. On one side of the scale were all the elders, nobles and great men of Egypt, and on the other was a single sheep that outweighed all the great Egyptians. 
"Disturbed by the dream, Pharaoh awoke early in the morning and summoned all his advisors and wise men to help him interpret the dream. 
"Among those summoned were Balaam, the son of Beor, the great gentile prophet. Another was Jethro, the future father-in-law of Moses, and the third was Job, a man of great faith, who refused to curse G-d despite his profound losses and suffering. 
"The Midrash depicts Balaam as spewing venomous hate toward the Jewish people....
"Jethro spoke up, advising Pharaoh not to start with the Hebrews....he warned Pharaoh that any leader who had, in the past, confronted the Hebrews, had met a bitter end. 
It was up to Job to decide between the main royal advisors, but he chose instead to sit on the fence, saying simply that since all the inhabitants of the land were under Pharaoh’s sovereignty, it was up to the King to do as seems fit in his eyes....
Job is perhaps the saddest and most complex of the advisors. 
Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik in his essay “Kol Dodi Dofek” (The Voice of My Beloved Knocks) takes Job to task for being silent before Pharaoh and not speaking up on behalf of the wretched Hebrew slaves. 
To paraphrase Rabbi Soloveitchik: You, Job, refused to intervene publicly with Pharaoh because you were fearful lest you be accused of dual loyalty. 
And so it was for the “Jobs” throughout the generations... 
How sad it is to see how often history repeats itself. Jews today have their determined enemies and beloved friends. But, most of all, we have those who are too fearful to speak up on behalf of justice, truth, and morality. 
We are indeed “a nation apart,” who, as the Psalmist asserts (146:3), must not rely on the goodness of princes or mortals.

Speak up, speak up, speak up, speak up, speak up.


All opinions my own.