The Rabbis claim that there were three advisors to Pharaoh when he had to take the decision whether to accept or not the request of Moses to let the people go. They were Jethro, Balaam and Job – familiar names to anyone who reads the Scriptures. Jethro advocated sparing the people. He spoke valiantly in favor of Moses’ request. He cared even at the risk of his own life. Later he is forced to flee because his advice is sneered upon. However he was found worthy to have a lot of wonderful descendants. Intense love does not measure, it just gives, Mother Teresa would say.
Balaam took the opposite stand. He even advocated the killing of all Jews. “Evil eye, arrogant spirit, and greedy soul” are his lot. There was no room in his world view for others. We find out later that he himself was killed.
Job remained silent. He was indifferent to the outcome of the Jews – this was not his problem and he did not want to get involved. A very minimalistic definition of good, because whether we want it or not, we belong to each other. In front of the pain of others we cannot opt for prudence. We must act. Elie Weisel is a concentration camp survivor. He rightly claims that when the well being of a community is at stake, neutrality becomes unacceptable. Later Job experienced immense suffering and the Jews claim that this was the result of this lack of concern. Christianity is always a cry against indifference.
The Midrash recounts another provocative story. When at the passage of the Red Sea, the children of Israel are saved at the last moment while their oppressors are drowned before their eyes, the angels themselves began to sing in heaven. However God interrupts this singing, saying “What has come over you? My creatures are drowning in the sea and you are singing? How can you praise me with your hymns at a time when human beings are dying?” Compassion is the heart of God.
No to indifference. Yes to compassion. On a very cold day in New York, a ten year old boy was standing outside a shoe store peering through the window, shivering with cold. His boots were all broken up. A lady approached the boy and asked, “My little fellow, why are you looking so earnestly in that window?” “I was asking God to give me a pair of shoes,” was the boy’s reply.
The lady took him by the hand and went into the store. They went together to the wash room and there she knelt down and washed the feet of the little boy. She bought half a dozen pair of socks and placed socks in his feet. Then she let the boy try various shoes until they found one that fitted him – the right size.
Tying up the remaining pairs of socks, the women gave the pair of shoes and the socks to the boy. She patted him on the head and said, “No doubt, my little fellow, you feel more comfortable now!”
As she turned to go, the astonished lad caught her by the hand, and looking up in her face, just blurted, “Are you God’s wife?”
Perhaps we need more ‘wives of God’ in life!
(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, provided that the content is unaltered from its original state, if this copyright notice is included.