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The Gemara (Ber. 32a) quotes R' El'azar that when HaShem wanted to destroy Bnei Yisrael and Moshe intervened, it is comparable to a king who beat his son terribly, and the king's friend was at his side but was too afraid to say anything, until the king said, "If my friend weren't here I'd kill you," at which point the friend realized it was up to him and he stepped in and saved the son.

Am I just too Western to think that this story is in any way flattering to any of the parties involved? It just seems to me like the Gemara is comparing HaShem to a terribly disturbed king, and Moshe to a worthless onlooker who doesn't want to get involved even though he could save someone's life. Not to mention that it seems to paint Bnei Yisrael as hapless victims of the crazy king's wrath. I thought HaShem was merciful here because Moshe heroically stepped in to save Bnei Yisrael even though they didn't deserve it. This Gemara seems to convey a very different message!


This question is part of the Daf Yomi Challenge

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Does the mashal say that the king beat the son until he was about to die? If not, I don't see what your problem is; normal parents punish their children, and Mosheh only wanted to stop the punishment, but no permanent damage would have happened if he didn't –  b a Sep 3 '12 at 3:21
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The Mashal says that he beat him severely and the friend was too afraid to step in, and that the king said he would have killed him if the friend weren't there, at which point the friend "הצילו" - "saved him". –  Seth J Sep 3 '12 at 3:24
    
A mashal would be used to create an extreme presentation so we (as humans) understand the participants and relationships not in an absolute and parallel way but in a way that simplifies it for us. Simply by "equating" hashem to a human king we are doing a disservice. –  Danno Sep 3 '12 at 16:19
    
@Dan, my question is because I can see an atheist mocking Judaism by making this comparison. But here a Tanna is making the comparison! What's he trying to teach us? –  Seth J Sep 3 '12 at 17:58
    
if hkb"h can be ok with keeping "na'aseh" in bereishis and saying "let them say what they will" then the tanna can take the same approach. In the mashal case, the lashon adam often requires making things obvious and reduced. haters gonna hate no matter what. –  Danno Sep 3 '12 at 18:05
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