There are many times in our day-to-day interactions that someone will point out to us that we have done something wrong. When this happens, our natural response might be to challenge the accuser and deny the accusation. We might even just change the subject of the conversation in order to avoid admitting guilt. I think that this response is a “survival instinct” that kicks in to help ourselves retain our dignity and self-worth.
In this week’s parsha, Moshe Rabbeinu found one Jew hitting another Jew. Moshe reprimanded the aggressor, to which he received this response (Shemos 2:14):
ב:יד וַיֹּאמֶר מִי שָׂמְךָ לְאִישׁ שַׂר וְשֹׁפֵט עָלֵינוּ…
And he said: ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge over us?
In the Tur’s commentary on the Torah, he reads the verse as follows:
Who made you into a man (איש) who has the right to give a reprimand. You are only a small boy! And even if you were a man, you are not a minister (שר), and you are definitely not a judge (שופט). And even if you are a judge, you are not our judge
When we read this commentary, we may laugh at ourselves, because many of us are guilty of using this safety mechanism as well.
The verse continues with the aggressor lashing out out at Moshe: “Are you going to punish us just as you punished the last guy?” The Jew is again using offense as the best defense, in order to avoid admitting guilt.
In today’s litigious generation, where society always looks for a scapegoat, people try to sue whoever they can to avoid being blamed for silly things that they do.
When Moshe Rabbeinu saw that a sample of klal yisroel was not willing to take the responsibility that was obviously theirs, he realized that it was not yet the time for the redemption to happen. I would like to suggest when Klal Yisroel is in exile and looking to be redeemed, the starting point is for them to realize that they are at fault for the position they are in. The geulah could happen only when the Jews were ready to look at themselves honestly in the mirror.
As we start our personal journey through these parshios, which are supposed to be introspective, we should take to heart this lesson and realize that we are indeed responsible for our situation and it is up to us to fix it.
When someone tells you “you should not be talking during davening” or “don’t cut the line”, instead of taking a defensive stance and responding “How dare you tell me that!, I know that you (fill in the blank with something wrong the accuser has done)!” say instead: “Thank you very much for helping me to realize my mistake!” That acknowledgement, to a certain degree, frees us from being attached to the sin that we did. This will get us ready to change our faulty behavior.