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"Then all these servants of yours will come down to me and bow to me, saying, 'Leave -- you and the entire people that follows you.' After that, I will leave." And he left Par'oh's presence in a burning anger (Shemos 17:8).

Rashi explains, according to the words of the Sages, that Moshe showed respect to the king by not saying that he, himself, would eventually come to him; which he did. Rather, Moshe only said that the servants would come and bow to him, out of respect for the King.

Indeed, at the beginning of his mission, Moshe was commanded by Hashem to be careful to honor the king and not to insult him verbally; as Rashi taught us earlier in chapter 6, phrase 13.

This is the way of the Torah: To be extremely cautious never to hurt anyone's feelings; even those of an enemy with whom we are forced to do battle. Certainly we must respect the sentiments of those with whom we are in constant contact such as our spouses, our children and our students.

A young man, Chaim Fuchs, told me two stories he heard this week from a speaker whose name he did not know. They demonstrate how careful one must be never to cause embarrassment to anyone.

A young man got married. Before the wedding ceremony, it is customary for the bride and groom to repent over their past sins and begin their new life together with a clean slate. Consequently, although it is a very happy occasion, it is not uncommon for the chosson and kallah to shed quite a few tears under the chuppah (the wedding canopy). However, this particular fellow cried uncontrollably, until even his Rosh Yeshiva told him that he was overdoing it. Trembling, the broken young groom explained to his Rabbi why he was so upset.

"When I was a young boy in cheder (elementary school)," he began, "a young student came to school with a brand new watch which his parents had bought him. He was the envy of the whole class, and everyone gathered around him to admire it. For quite a while, he was the center of attention.

"I was a mischievous young kid, and I decided I would pull a prank on my friend. When he was distracted for a moment, I quickly and gracefully removed the watch from his hand and put it in my pocket. I figured he would panic when he realized it was missing, and since he would most probably think he had lost it, I would enjoy the scene as he searched for it in vain for about half an hour, and then I would return it to him.

"What I didn't count on, was that he immediately approached the Rebby of our class and told him that someone had apparently stolen his watch. The Rebby was shocked that there was a ganav (thief) in his classroom and called everyone together and began reproaching us; demanding that the guilty one immediately confess, 'or else.' Knowing that I was merely a prankster and not a criminal, I was not about to make a public confession and be preached to. So I ignored the admonishments of the Rebby and said nothing.

"But the Rebby was not going to let this incident pass over. He warned that he was going to search every boy's pockets and briefcase until he found the watch. As the Rebby began the search, I knew that I must get rid of the evidence as quickly as possible. Having no other choice, I slipped the watch into someone else's briefcase. You can very well imagine what happened when the watch was found. The boy in whose briefcase it was discovered declared adamantly that he had no idea how it got there. However, the zealous Rebby lashed out with fire and brimstone against the unfortunate young lad who dared to deny his sin even when caught red handed with the goods. As things got out of hand, I found it more and more difficult to explain what had really transpired. However, I hoped that, at least now, things would quiet down.

"But even this was not enough for the Rebby who could not rest, knowing that one of his students had stolen and would not confess. He had the student expelled from the cheder. Everyone gossiped about him and other schools would not accept him. Eventually, his parents had to send him to a public school, where he became totally non-religious, and I heard that he recently married a gentile girl.

"That is why," concluded the distraught groom, "I am beside myself now. Here I am, under the chuppah, about to begin a wonderful life with my precious kallah, while not far from here, my childhood friend is living with a non-Jewish girl. And it is all because of me. How can I possibly correct what I have caused," he cried.

The second story is the reverse of this one. It describes a wise, sensitive Rebby who was careful to protect the honor of his students.

In a certain cheder, the mechanech (a special educator who visits all of the classes) made his rounds and suddenly realized that he was missing some money. He vaguely remembered that while in one of the classes he had bought a coffee and had left the change on the desk for a while, but he could not remember which. Finally, he recalled where he had been, and he asked the Rebby of that class to find the crook. The Rebby assured the mechanech that he would take care of things and get the money returned to him soon.

The Rebby then spoke to his students about the severity of what had transpired, but no one confessed to the crime. Finally, he told them all to stand with their faces towards the wall and their eyes closed. He then approached each boy and searched his pockets. Sure enough, he found the missing money in the possession of one of the students.

The Rebby then sent for the mechanech and returned his money to him. However, the mechanech was not satisfied. He wanted to know which boy had stolen it so that he could reprimand him properly. However, the Rebby declared that he had no idea who was the thief. To the mechanech's great surprise, the Rebby explained to him what he had done and added that he, himself, had also kept his eyes closed so that absolutely no one in the room, including the Rebby, knew who had taken the money! Years later, a young man came to visit this wise and compassionate Rebby. He reminded him of the incident and told him that he had been the thief. He added that, over the years, he had experienced several life crises, during which he had contemplated abandoning religion. However, he said, every time he remembered how his Rebby had protected his honor, he was so inspired that he decided to remain loyal to the Torah which had produced such a wonderful person.

Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Jerusalem, Israel