In a Place where there is No Man (or Woman) Be a Man (or a Woman)!

In Parshat Shmot (Shmot 2:11-12) we read: “It was in those days when Moshe was grown that he began to go out to his brothers and he saw their burden. He saw an Egyptian beating one of his Israeli brothers. He looked all around and when he saw that no man was there, he killed the Egyptian and hid his body in the sand.”


The Netziv in his commentary HaEmek Davar points out that it doesn’t say that “he didn’t see a man”, rather it says “he saw that no man was there.” He did see men, but there was nobody to turn to during this difficult time. There was nobody who would step up and save the man who was being beaten. Everyone around him was an enemy. Therefore Moshe took it upon himself to save the man who was being beaten by killing the Egyptian.


In Pirkei Avot, Chapter 2, Mishna 6 we learn: In a place where there are no men, endeavor to be a man.


This can be interpreted to mean that when nobody is available to care for the needs of the community then those who are capable must step up to the plate and take that responsibility upon themselves.


We have seen this very clearly this past week in Jerusalem. The snowstorms that we endured were much more difficult than anyone had predicted. Thousands of cars were stuck on the roads, women in labor needed to get to the hospitals to give birth, people were running out of food, diapers and formula.


Everyone who was available pitched in to help. Volunteers with 4x4s helped rescue those who had been stuck in their cars for hours. Ambulances picked up women in labor and took them to the hospital. Formula and diapers were dropped off at the homes of mothers who couldn’t get out.


One supermarket that didn’t have electricity told the shoppers to take what they need and come back after the storm to pay when the cash registers would be working. When the shoppers returned in order to pay what they owed, the owner told them that they can keep the money and to look at the groceries as a gift.


A couple that got married the night of the storm went to try to find a hotel room in Jerusalem since there was no way to leave the city as they had originally planned. Upon finding all of the hotel rooms booked they weren’t sure what to do. One of the guests from the hotel saw that they were just married and offered them their room.


We see that in these situations ordinary men and women stepped up to do the right thing just as Moshe had done.