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Who Are the True Heavyweights?

Va'eira (Exodus 6:2-9:35 )

by Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis

Who are the true heavyweights within our society?

In Parshat Vaeira we are told about the phenomenon of the hardening of the heart of Pharaoh, "kaved lev par'oh", "kaved" meaning "heavy" or "hard." That's what happened to Pharaoh's heart.

The Maggid of Mezritch presents a fascinating explanation here. He reminds us that the term "kaved" doesn't only mean "heavy" or "hardened." It also means "a liver." And that's because the organ of the liver in the body is hard, because it has so much blood within it.

Now, actually, liver is one of two foods that we eat which become harder when boiled. All other foods when boiled become softer. The egg is the other food. And that's why we have a hard boiled egg at a time of mourning. It's a symbol of resilience.

When the heat is on in life, we gather together our inner resources of strength in order to toughen ourselves, to be able to cope. The egg, becoming harder while being boiled, therefore, is a symbol of that resilience. And so too with regard to liver. It becomes harder when boiled.

What happened with Pharaoh was that, having seen the suffering of his very subjects, people within his realm, he should have had a soft hard. He should have felt for them, he should have made life easier for them. But instead, he toughend his resolve to deal with them in a cruel way.

Now, actually, there is a third Hebrew word which comes from the same root - it is "kavod", which means honor. And that's because honor is something of substance, which provides a weighty element for an important person, similar to kaved which is heavy in the liver, which is also kaved.

In Pirkei Avot we are told, "Eizehu mechubad?" "Who is a truly honorable person?" And the answer is, "hamechabed et habriyot" - it is "somebody who gives honor to others."

So, who are the true heavyweights within our society? Unlike King Pharaoh, who presumed that he was the ultimate weighty individual of importance and significance, our true heavyweights are those who give honor to others, who see respect in the life of other people, who provide them with lives of dignity. Through public service, they are there for our society. They are the weighty individuals in our midst.

Shabbat Shalom.

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