ו׳ באדר ה׳תשע״ה (February 25, 2015) | Blog
The Jewish Inferiority Complex
A Jewish diamond merchant was heading to a lunch meeting with several non-Jewish clients. Nearing the restaurant, they passed several orthodox teenagers clad in baseball caps and jeans, clearly trying to blend in. One of the clients turned to the Jewish merchant and said, “It’s a shame that these boys aren’t proud of who they are. One of the reasons our firm does business with you is because we see that you’re a proud Jew. You turn down meetings that would interfere with your Sabbath and holidays, you dress as a proud Jew, and the modest dignity with which you treat women is uncommon in the business world. You’ve shown us that a person who’s deeply committed to Judaism will demonstrate integrity in business too.”
It’s An Old Story
The Jewish inferiority complex is nothing new.
In this week’s parsha, we read about the last of the ten plagues, the death of the first-born Egyptians. While Hashem went from house to house killing the Egyptian first-borns, the Jews were commanded to stay at home and eat a festive meal with the korban Pesach (to celebrate their imminent freedom).
Interestingly, Chazal tell us that if a first-born Jew was in the home of an Egyptian during the time of the plague, he would be spared. And if an Egyptian first-born was in the home of a Jew, he would still be slain.
One must wonder, why would any Jew be in the home of the wicked Egyptians at this pivotal, unprecedented moment, when the rest of the Jewish people were at home, excitedly preparing to throw off the shackles of slavery and finally leave Egypt?! And why would a Jew invite an Egyptian into his home, a home clearly marked “Jewish” by the blood on the doorposts, during such an auspicious time?
Clearly, those Jews felt inferior. They didn’t believe they deserved Hashem’s gift of freedom. They didn’t feel right simply marching out of Egypt with pride; they felt the need for Egyptian validation and acceptance.
Fortunately, Hashem had compassion for these Jews as well.
By demonstrating our pride and strength, we earn the respect and admiration of those around us.
This, too, is seen in our parsha, when Hashem commands the Jews to borrow utensils from their Egyptian friends. Since when did the Jews have Egyptian friends?! Once the Egyptians saw the strong Hand of Hashem, they actually began to respect and befriend the Jews.
As Jews, we should not feel inferior or superior to anyone. We need only be aware of, and act upon, our unique role as Hashem’s chosen people. When our clothes, music and way of speaking are noticeably different, it calls for respect.
Likewise, we should to be proud of Hashem’s gift to us, the Land of Israel, without waiting for the rest of the world’s approval.
 See Rashi to Shemos 12:13.
 See Chizkuni to Shemos 11:2.
 Based on the Rebbe’s talk, Shabbos parshas Bo, 5736 (1976).