Monday, April 22, 2013

360 - Va'eira

This week's parsha describes the first seven of the ten makkos. Regarding the first three makkos the Torah tells us that they were brought about through Aharon hitting specific objects with his staff. The plagues of blood and frogs involved hitting the water and the plague of lice involved hitting the dirt. Chazal tell us that Moshe did not hit them himself because he felt indebted to the water for protecting him when, as a baby, he was placed in the Nile, and he felt indebted to the dirt for covering up the Egyptian whom he slew.

The obvious question is, since both water and dirt are inanimate objects that have no feelings at all, what difference would it make if Moshe would be the one to smite them? Rav Wolbe explains (Shiurei Chumash) that Moshe refrained from the action not because of the damage that would be done to the water and dirt, rather, because of the damage that would be done to Moshe's character traits. A refined person acts with a certain level of respect toward anything and everything, regardless of the nature of the entity involved. 

We find a similar idea with regard to the halacha of bizui ochlin - disgracing food. There are a number of different things that one may not do with food because such actions will result in the food becoming disgraced (see Orach Chaim 171). Although the food has no feelings, nevertheless, we must refrain from degrading the food because a person must act in a respectful manner. In a similar vein, Rav Wolbe related that when Rav Dessler would don his hat, he wouldn't grab it with one hand and place it on his head; he would respectfully pick it up with both of his hands! 

We might not be on the level of picking up our hat with both hands, but there are definitely things that we "kick around" that might deserve a little more respect. Moreover, if we are expected to act respectfully toward inanimate objects, how much more so must we be careful to act with respect to our family, friends, neighbors and colleagues! A lack of respect not only degrades them, it damages our character as well.

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