By: William Jackson
The Holocaust Memorial Museum, in Yad Vashem Israel, currently recognizes 24,811 saviors (1). These are people who rescued Jews from the horror which was the Holocaust. These “Righteous Gentiles” often did these heroic deeds at the risk of themselves and their family’s. The heroes range from Corrie ten Boom who paid a dear price in saving others to the obscure like Major Karl Plagge a German Army officer who used his position to protect some 1,240 Jews. We know that those that showed favor towards the Jews were not limited to just those whose courage surfaced during World War II.
As we look in Tanakh (the Old Testament), we see several non-Jewish figures that helped to perpetuate Israel’s story in the right direction. Some of these “Righteous Gentiles” would save people who would later become significant in Torah. We will look at 10 of these “Righteous Gentiles” between today and Tuesday (May 12, 2015). Lets start at the beginning.
1. Mamre the earliest recorded Hebrew Allie (2)
Around 2084 BCE Abram established his residence in Canaan (modern day Israel). He chose a spot near a man called Mamre (Genesis 13:18). After Abram settled into his new digs his nephew Lot becomes tied up in a hostage situation. Lot’s captors belonged to Kedorlaomer, the King of Elam. Elam is the precursor to modern day Iran (things don’t change). In the same verse that we hear about Lot’s demise, Mamre and his relatives (Eshcol and Aner) are mentioned as Abram’s Allies (Genesis 14:13). Abram, known for his empathy for others, goes to rescue Lot in a commando style raid with only 318 men (read Genesis 14:14-16). The mission was a success and Lot was saved. Since Mamre and his alliance with Abram was introduced directly before this raid does this mean Mamre helped? If we skip forward to verse 24 we see Abram having his allies compensated after the raid. The area Abram lived in was prone to conflict. As we read Genesis 14:1-12 we get a depiction of how hostile the Siddim Valley (Dead Sea) really was. Having worthy alliances was essential to self preservation in this part of the middle east.
2. A King blessing the Father of the Jewish Nation (3)
After Abram returned from his rescue mission, the King of Shalem (Peace), Melchizedek, brought him bread, wine, and a blessing. Melchizedek was Elohim’s (G-d’s) high priest and he not only blessed Abram but gave all credit to HaShem for the victory, (Genesis 14: 17-20). If we skip forward and read the first part of Psalm 110 we see King David painting these events in a poetry picture. We also see in verse 4 that this blessing made Abram a Kohen (priest).
3. Fighting against Civil Authority for the Jews
Many of the righteous Gers commemorated at the Holocaust Memorial Museum did so by saving young Jewish children (Irena Sendler, Kate Lipner, Lois Gunden…etc). These brave soles often did this at the risk of their very own lives. Now lets meet Shiphrah and Puah, the two woman who share this same form of bravery, but did it almost 4 millenniums earlier. These Egyptian mid-wives were ordered by Pharaoh to kill the Hebrew baby boys. More fearful of YHVH then Pharaoh these women allowed the male infants to live. When confronted by Pharaoh they explained “…the Hebrew women aren’t like the Egyptian women — they go into labor and give birth before the midwife arrives.” (Exodus 1:19). There is some debate about the nationality of these woman. One source says “Shiphrah and Puah were non-Jewish midwives, who were said to be pious women and true converts ” (4) . Regardless of their origins, HaShem rewarded these women for saving these Hebrew boys (Exodus 1:20-21).
4. Foster care for an Israelite Prophet
The midwives not following Pharaoh’s orders caused Pharaoh to take drastic measures. To exterminate the Hebrew boys, he ordered them to be thrown into the river (Exodus 1:22). So as we know, a Levi woman has a child and desperate due to Pharaoh’s orders puts the baby in a papyrus basket, coated in clay and tar (Exodus 2:1-3). She then sets sail to this vessel down the Nile. Contrary to Pharaoh’s psychopathic tendencies his daughter finds this Hebrew baby and brings him up as her own (Exodus 2:5-10). This was of course Moses. Because of these twists and turns, Moses was brought up in Pharaoh’s palace which might have given Moses some beneficial skills when dealing with another Pharaoh latter on. Due to the compassionate heart of a Princess Israel’s greatest Prophet was saved (Deuteronomy 34:10).
5. The Foreign Priest that helped organize Israel
Moses, later in life, spends 40 years in Madyan (5). Here he marries the daughter of a Midian Priest. The priest’s name was Jethro. In about 1446 BCE Moses gets the call up from Adonai to led His people out of Egypt (Exodus 3:2-10). Moses then goes on a journey marked with challenges and miracles which brings him and the Israelites to the far side of the Red Sea (Exodus 4:18-17:16). Here his father-in-law Jethro visits him and hears all the magnificent things YHVH did for the Israelites. This prompted Jethro to honor YHVH with a burnt offering and sacrifices(Exodus 18:12). The next day Jethro shifts gears and intercedes with Moses on his organizational skills (Exodus 18:17-19). He teaches Moses methods of managing the Israelites (Exodus 18:19-26). Some pieces of the valuable advice Jethro gives are (6);
a. Bring the peoples cases before YHVH.
b. Teach the people the Law of YHVH.
c. Show them how to live their lives
d. Put honest YHVH fearing men over the Israelites in leadership positions.
And as abruptly as Jethro enters the picture, he leaves to return to his people leaving behind his lasting wisdom.
This Tuesday we will finish our top ten list of Righteous Gentiles in the Tanakh. We will meet two woman, an assassin and a protector. We will meet a conniving group that would receive an honored alliance with Israel and a loyal family HaShem would use as an example to the Jews. And finally we will meet a man who ended Jewish oppression.