No One Is All Bad

December 21, 2010 | By

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Like any compelling story, the saga of the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt has bad guys–the Egyptians–and  good guys–Moses and, well, God.

Yet Rashi, a medieval commentator, makes a surprising comment about how we’re supposed to feel about the bad guys. Even though the Egyptians tossed Israelite babies into the Nile River, he writes, Jews should still not hate them as a people. After all, long before our enslavement, it was Egyptians who provided our ancestors hospitality in a time of need. When the land of Canaan was struck with famine, Jacob’s sons traveled down to Egypt and enjoyed the fertility of the land around that very same Nile.

You might think that the Egyptians would be fair game for our hatred–given all the suffering the people of Israel endured at their hands. But Rashi reminds us that no one is all bad. When it comes to judging others, we need to be fair and measured, and to take care not to vilify even those who seem like obvious villains.

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