This Shabbos we read Parshas Bo. In the Parsha we learn about the commandment that the Jews were given to slaughter a Paschal lamb before they left Egypt. The Jews were told to place the blood of the Paschal lamb on the doorposts of their homes, so that when the Almighty would kill the first born of Egypt, He would skip over those houses that had blood on their door posts. “And I will see the blood and I will skip over you” (Exodus 12:13). What is the connection between Hashem seeing the blood and skipping over the Jewish houses? Why would seeing the blood be the cause for Hashem to skip over the Jewish homes? Certainly He knows which homes are Jewish even without the blood! What was the message of having the blood there?
Our Sages tell us that a person should be “as brazen as a leopard”. Elsewhere they tell us that a brazen person, who has no shame, will go to Gehenom (purgatory), while a person who has shame, and doesn’t do things that are embarrassing, will end up in the Garden of Eden. What are we being told? Is it good to be brazen or to have shame?
The commentaries explain that under normal circumstances it is absolutely essential for a person to have a sense of shame. This prevents us from doing things that are wrong, that a healthy person is embarrassed to do. The great Sage Rav Yochanan Ben Zacai blessed his students on his deathbed that they should be as fearful of Heaven as they are of other people, for this will prevent them from sinning. However, there are circumstances that one must be ready to be embarrassed and not just do what others approve of. For example, you are invited to an affair where non-kosher food is being served. While you may try to minimize how much it is noticed, certainly people see the difference between someone only drinking soda or water and others whose plates are full of meat and gourmet dishes. It may be very embarrassing for you to stay firm and not partake of all the foods that everyone else is eating. Yet, this truly is the right thing to do. In these kind of situations, we are told that we absolutely must be as “brazen as a leopard” – not to give in just because we may be made fun of. Even if others may mock us, we must know that Hashem is the One who is watching us, and it is to Him that we must remain loyal.
Rabainu Bachayei explains that this was point of putting blood on the doorpost. The sheep was a deity in Egypt. Slaughtering it was already going against everything that the Egyptians stood for. Putting its blood out on display in public was absolutely a disgrace to the entire Egyptian people. Anyone who was ready to publicly display the blood on the doorpost, and was not scared of Pharaoh and of his armies, showed his trust in Hashem and was deserving of His protection.
This beautiful lesson applies to us in so many circumstances. So often we are faced with the challenge of being ridiculed by others for our observance and adherence to Jewish law? At those times if we can remember the bravery of Jews throughout the ages who refused to give into pressure, and remained loyal to Hashem despite pressure from others, we can hopefully overcome our challenges.