This week’s Parasha provides a very important lesson about showing respect when criticizing others — even evil and incorrigible individuals.
Moshe and Aaron first simply ask Pharaoh to let our people leave. This does not go particularly well. But before God punishes Egypt with the plagues, however, God first sends Moshe and Aaron to speak with Pharaoh privately, really privately. In Exodus 7:15, God tells Moshe and Aaron to go to Pharaoh early in the morning and meet him when Pharaoh is standing in the Nile. This was a very private time indeed. Rashi explains that Pharaoh needed to hide his bodily functions because Pharaoh wanted to protect his image as a god and gods should not need to relieve themselves. By approaching Pharaoh while he was taking care of his personal needs, Moshe and Aaron were saying that they were speaking for a real God (who does not need to be doing what Pharaoh was doing). They were also showing that while they could embarrass Pharaoh, they were speaking privately with him and warning him of the pain that would be visited upon Egypt if he did not relent. They gave Pharaoh the opportunity to do the correct thing without needing to appear weak. No, this private communication did not achieve the desired result, but it was another opportunity extended to Pharaoh that he foolishly rejected. There was no doubt that Moshe and Aaron could have a very clear conscience about what would befall Egypt.
God directs that the respect of private criticism be shown even to our greatest enemy. How much more so should we treat our friends and family with respect?
This Shabbat, Torah study is being incorporated into the regular Torah service with an interactive D’var Torah. We do this from time to time and it should be very interesting indeed.
P.S. Regular Shabbat Torah Study will resume with Shabbat Parshat Bo on January 4, 2014.