Otzoros Dovid - Parshas Shemos

Why was Iyov punished for keeping quiet, and Yisro rewarded for fleeing?

(1,10) “Come, let us deal wisely with them, lest they increase and it will be that if a war befalls us that they will also join our enemies and fight against us, and go out from the land.”

The gemora in Sotah 11a writes that R. Chiya bar Abba said in the name of R. Simai: Three men were involved in that counsel (in giving counsel to Pharaoh how to deal wisely with the Children of Yisrael) - Bila’am, Iyov and Yisro. Bila’am who advised [that all Yisrael should be killed] was killed, Iyov who kept quiet was sentenced to suffer afflictions, and Yisro who fled merited that his descendants sat in the [Sanhedrin in the] Hewn Chamber (which was in the Beis Hamikdash).

But why was Iyov punished for keeping quiet? Surely if he had protested against Pharaoh his words would have fallen on deaf ears, and the proof for this is that Yisro fled and did not protest because he knew that they would not listen to him. So what act of wickedness was Iyov accused of that required his punishment? And why was he punished with afflictions and not some other punishment?

Also, why was Yisro rewarded with having some of his descendants sit in the Hewn Chamber - how was this a fitting, measure-for-measure reward for his actions? And why did the gemora not say that Yisro  merited to become the father-in-law of Moshe Rabbeinu, which was a much greater merit than the merit of having descendants who sat in the Hewn Chamber?

It seems to me that we can explain this gemora according to the sefer Chafetz Chaim on the laws of loshon hora (speaking evil) (7:59), that one who sits in a group who are involved in speaking loshon hora is obligated to reprove them for this sin. And if he knows that his reproof will not help he is obligated to leave the group, because by doing so he shows them that he is not pleased with their speech. But if he sits there and keeps quiet he is supporting the ones who are sinning because it looks like he agrees with their words.

This was the accusation against Iyov - why did he not leave? By sitting there and keeping quiet he appeared as if he supported the sinners, and thus he was considered to be a collaborator in the counsel of “come, let us deal wisely with them”, in the affliction of Yisrael. Therefore he was punished measure-for-measure with hard and bitter afflictions.

Yisro on the other hand fled because he did not wish to be a partner in the decree to afflict Yisrael. And the reason why he was rewarded specifically with having descendants who sat in the Hewn Chamber can be explained from the teaching of the Midrash (Shemos Rabbah 1:8), that when the Egyptians said to Pharaoh: Let us deal with this nation, he said to them: Fools! Until now we are eating from them (we are alive because of them), so how can [you suggest that] we deal with them now? If not for Yosef we would not be alive! Since he did not listen to them they deposed him from his throne for three months, until he said to them: Everything that you want to do, I am with you, and they returned him to the throne. Therefore it says “a new king”.

We see from this that Pharaoh initially opposed the decree against Yisrael because there was instilled in him gratefulness to Yisrael, because he understood that until now “we are eating from them” and he understood that “if not for Yosef we would not be alive”. But when he eventually agreed to the decree he marred the feelings of gratefulness that were instilled in him, and from then on he was ready to afflict Yisrael with the worst of afflictions.

But Yisro held firmly to his feelings of gratefulness towards Yisrael, and therefore he was not able to be a partner in the evil decree. And since he possessed the character trait of gratefulness to his fellow man to a very large degree, this led him to be grateful also to Hashem. Because Chazal teach that anyone who is ungrateful to his fellow man will eventually be ungrateful to Hashem, and so conversely if a person is grateful to his fellow man he will eventually be grateful to Hashem. Thus, through this trait of gratefulness he came to recognize Hashem and cling to Him until he merited to have descendants who sat in the Hewn Chamber - descendants who became great in the wisdom of the Torah and sat in the Hewn Chamber which is the place of the Divine Presence, and thus who drew very close to Hashem. And all this he merited from the power of gratefulness which he acquired when he fled from Pharaoh.

And now we understand why the gemora does not mention that he merited to become the father-in-law of Moshe, because the gemora wanted to teach that he merited to have descendants who sat in the Hewn Chamber because his feelings of gratefulness which caused him to flee were transmitted to his offspring, and thus they came to serve Hashem to a very great degree.

And therefore we find in the teachings of Chazal that they were very stringent in the matter of being grateful, and they teach that a person must be grateful for every good that he receives. Even when someone intends to harm to a person but in the end the person benefits, he is obligated to be grateful to him. Like we find in the Midrash (Shemos Rabbah 1:32) which brings a parable about someone who was bitten by an arod (a poisonous reptile) and so he ran to put his feet in water (so that he would not die from the bite), and he saw a young child drowning in the river and saved him. The child said to him: If not for you I would have died! He replied: It was not me who saved you it but the arod who bit me - it saved you! So too the daughters of Yisro said to Moshe: Thank you for saving us from the shepherds! Moshe replied: The Egyptian whom I killed, he saved you. This is why they said to their father: An Egyptian man saved us”.

We see from this that the child in the parable has to be grateful to the arod which caused him to be saved because he bit the man. Even though the arod had evil intentions - to kill the man and not to save the child, nevertheless, since the arod ultimately benefited the child he is obligated to be grateful to him.

And the reason for this is like we explained, because a person who possesses the trait of being grateful to creatures who benefited him is able to ponder the kindness of Hashem and to see the goodness which Hashem does with His creations, and through this he will come to serve Hashem with alacrity. As the Ramchal writes in the sefer Mesillas Yesharim (Chapter 8):

“And indeed, the thing which is able to increase his ability to serve Hashem with alacrity is contemplation of the abundant goodness that Hashem does with a person all the time, and the great wonders that He does with him from the time of his birth until his last day. Because the more he contemplates and thinks about these things, the more he will to recognize his great obligation to the G-d Who does good to him.

And these are the means by which he will not be lazy and weaken his service. Because behold, since he cannot repay Hashem’s goodness, at the very least he should thank Him and fulfill His commandments. And behold, there is no one in any situation, whether poor or rich, whether healthy or sick, who does not see many wonders and goodness in his situation. Because a wealthy and healthy person is already obligated to Hashem for his wealth and his health, and a poor person is obligated to Him because even in his poverty He supplies him with a livelihood in a miraculous way and does not allow him die from starvation. And a sick person is obligated to Hashem for keeping him going through a difficult illness or injury, and for not letting him die. And so on and so forth, so that there is no one who should not recognize that he is obligated to His creator.

And through contemplating these goodnesses that he receives from Hashem, he will surely be aroused to be alacritous in his service to Him as I wrote above. All the more so if he reflects that every goodness is in the hands of Hashem, and everything that he needs comes from Hashem and no one else. Thus he will certainly will not be lax in serving Him, and will not miss anything that he is obligated to do for Him.”

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