Itching For A Good Fight
“There are evils…that men inflict upon one another, such as tyrannical domination of some of them over others.” (The Guide For The Perplexed 3:2)
Maimonides rose to his position as leader of the Jewish community of Egypt by battling Yahya Abu Zikri, who called himself Sar Shalom – The Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:5) – he regarded himself as the precursor of the Messiah or as the Messiah himself. His story is told in The Scroll of Zuta the Wicked as a parody of the Purim story. “Moses ben Maimon restored the law to its former state, removed the image from the temple and brought the beginning of salvation.”
I cannot begin to imagine that the Rambam was pleased with the book atop the Fostat Times bestseller list. However, he clearly understood that his victory over Zuta afforded him the prestige necessary to assume leadership of the Egyptian Jewish community.
It is often the battle against evil that affords us the opportunity to define our beliefs and values. Numerous secular Israelis only begin to identify with Israel when they have to fight for her survival. In this week’s portion, Moses attempts to convince Chovav to join the Children of Israel as they prepared to cross into Canaan. The word Tov – Good – is repeatedly used in the story, but Moses failed. The people quickly sink in the muck of their complaints and God must appoint 70 Sages to support Moshe as leader. The fight against evil led to a new era in a way that a passionate cry to follow a vision for good could not.
Must we wait for our enemies in order to fight for our survival? Why do we respond to a call for action against a problem or threat more readily than we do to a good cause?
I still believe in the power of good to inspire and raise us. The Foundation Stone is not intended to battle ignorance. It is intended to nurture knowledge and passion. We are not fighting those who would observe the Mitzvot as a matter of habit, but to touch those who are searching for a better understanding of the inherent good and power of Torah.
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