It was fifty-nine years ago and I was in kindergarten. Usually I either walked home from school with the neighbor kids or, if the weather was bad, one of our mothers would pick us up. Sometimes, though, I’d find myself walking home alone and then I’d be afraid to pass the house at the other end of the block where Billy (not his real name) lived. For Billy was a four-year-old bully.
Looking back I’m sure he had some sort of problems that caused him to threaten older children as they walked by. At that time, however, I was not the least bit sympathetic since Billy didn’t just toss out threats. He also threw rocks and various other hard objects.
On an afternoon that I was by myself and building up my courage to pass by his home I spotted him. In his hands was a huge metal pole which he swung at me menacingly. I didn’t hesitate a second but took off running as fast as my little legs could take me. I entered my house sobbing and poured out my fears to my mother. She was sympathetic but puzzled that I hadn’t hit the bully when he tried to attack me.
You told me I couldn’t hit anyone younger than me I’d sniffled. She gave me permission to fight back in this case and assured me that most bullies were cowards inside. Just a few days later, when I was again alone, Billy blocked the sidewalk refusing to let me pass by. I took my mother’s advice and he creamed me. My dress was torn, my pretty pin bent, and if that wasn’t enough, a neighbor woman scolded me for standing up to Billy. I went home miserable and humiliated.
Next week when we sit down at our Seder table we’ll be remembering one of the biggest bullies in Jewish history, namely Pharoh, the ruler of Egypt. When Moses first stood up to him (see the fifth chapter of Exodus) it didn’t go well. Instead of sending G-d’s people out to serve Him in the Wilderness, Pharoh punished them and instructed their taskmaster to stop giving them straw with which to make bricks. The Children of Israel were beaten when they could no longer meet their daily production quota. They resented Moses for making the situation worse than ever. But that wasn’t the end of the story.
My story with Billy didn’t end with him creaming me, either. Apparently the neighbor woman spoke to his mother. She in turn called my mother to apologize. Not only that, she brought Billy over the next day to say he was sorry. He never bothered me again.
As we know G-d had the final word in Egypt and with the last of His ten plagues, the slaying of the first-born son, Pharoh, the ultimate bully, was brought to his knees. The Jews left Egypt and became a free nation with a mission to receive the Torah and settle the Land of Israel.
It’s never easy to stand up to a bully. The sooner one does, though, the sooner one is freed from his oppression.
|courtesy of clipart|